Highway code changes - 29 January 2022

How will the Highway code changes affect your day to day life?

Several changes are being implemented to the highway code this Saturday 29 January 2022, but what are they and how will they affect you? In this article, we will take a look at some of the major changes so that you know what to be aware of.

With great power comes great responsibility

No, we aren’t referring to Spiderman here. It will be stated in the highway code under the new H1 Rule that “vehicles which can cause the greatest harm to have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger”.

This means that the bigger and heavier your vehicle is, the more responsibility you will have to be aware of others on the road. From lorries down to pedestrians crossing the road.

No more junk at junctions

The changes in the Highway Code include giving way to those at a higher risk at junctions. For example, if you are in your car and want to turn left onto a side road, but you can see a pedestrian waiting to cross that side road, it is your responsibility to give way until that pedestrian has safely crossed the road.

As well as looking out for pedestrians, you must not cut across cyclists that are going straight on when you are turning in or out of a junction or changing lanes and directions.

It isn’t just cars that have to give more consideration to those below, but cyclists, horse riders, and horse-drawn vehicles must also take responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.

Shared safety 

There will be new guidance about spaces and routes that are shared by cyclists, walkers, and horse riders. People riding a horse or cycling must respect the safety of walkers in these spaces. This does not mean that people walking should do what they want without consideration, they must also take care not to endanger or obstruct riders and cyclists.

Cyclists are being asked not to pass people walking or horse riding at a high speed or in close proximity, especially from behind. They must also slow down and make the people aware of their presence (e.g ringing their bell) whilst also being aware that the people may be deaf or blind.

They must also not attempt to pass a horse on its left-hand side.

Stuck in the middle with cyclists

Have you ever complained about cyclists being in the middle of the road? Cyclists are being told they should ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions. They should also keep at least 0.5 metres (1.5 ft) away from the kerb when riding on busy roads with vehicles that move faster than they do.

This is to increase their visibility to other road users. However, cyclists should still be aware of other road users and must move over to the left allowing faster-moving vehicles to overtake if it is safe to do so.

Passing correctly shouldn’t result in somebody’s passing

By this we mean overtaking should only be done safely and the new changes to ‘safe passing distances’ highlight this. When overtaking a cyclist at speeds of up to 30mph you should give 1.5 metres (about 5 ft) of space, and even more space at higher speeds. Horses require a bit more space and you should leave at least 2 metres (6.5 ft) when passing any horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles.

The same when passing people who are walking on the road (if there is no pavement), you must give 2 meters of space and keep at a low speed. If you do not have the space to pass any of the above, then you must wait behind them until it is safe to do so.

Cyclists are also permitted to pass slower-moving vehicles or static traffic on both the left or right, although they should do so with caution as the drivers might not be able to see them. This is very important when approaching junctions or passing larger vehicles.

More wheels, more problems

If you like to cycle in groups, then this part is for you. You can ride 2 abreast and it can be safer to do so, especially when you’re in larger groups or with children/less experienced riders. However, you must be aware of people driving behind you and you should allow them to overtake by moving into a single file or stopping when it is safe. You are not permitted to ride 3 or 4 abreast and ignore vehicles behind you. It Is a 2-way street and everybody should work together to make our roads safer. 

Let’s go around again

Updates in the highway code now clarify that drivers and motorcyclists must give priority to cyclists on roundabouts. Drivers/motorcyclists shouldn’t attempt to overtake cyclists in their lane and should allow them to cross their path as they travel around the roundabout.  

Perform a Dutch Reach

Not something you would ever want to hear during a driving lesson right? Well, it isn’t as dodgy as it sounds and it actually has the intention of reducing cyclists crashing into car doors.

We are now being strongly advised to exit our vehicles by using our hand furthest away from the door handle to open the door(also known as a ‘Dutch Reach’). So if you are in the driver’s seat (right-hand side of the vehicle) you are encouraged to use your left hand to reach across your body and open the door. This has the intention of making you turn your body and head so that you have greater visibility of cyclists and other road users coming up the side of your vehicle.

These are just a few of the main ones that we think may affect you during everyday life on the roads but it is your responsibility to keep up to date with the highway code. The full version is free to read online and the fact that it is updated regularly means that it is essential reading for everybody, not just learner drivers. Many of the rules are legal requirements and if you disobey them, you are essentially committing a criminal offence.

Remember these rules are supposed to be for the benefit of everyone so use a bit of common sense, look out for each other and stay safe out there.

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