When was the last time you read up on the Highway Code? Probably when you were revising for your theory test, right? If so, now would be the time to revisit it. The Government have decided that the current code isn’t doing a good enough job at protecting the most vulnerable road users, so, what are the updates? Who has priority these days? This is what some of the new code updates have install.
What are the latest changes to the code?
We hope you’re ready for the biggest shake-up to Highway Code that you’ve ever seen. There have been some mild changes to it over the years but none quite like this. None that allow pedestrians and cyclists to have greater priority over vehicles.
The changes are all about us humans learning how to share. By the sounds of it, we need to focus on sharing the space on our roads so the Department for Transport calls for a hierarchy of road users to let us know where we all stand. Pedestrians at the top, followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, and motorists. Sharing is caring after all, but it's obvious from our roads, that some of us aren’t too keen on the idea.
These are some of the main changes to the code that we think you should get to grips with.
Hierarchy of road users
Here it is. The main focus of the Highway Code 2022. Let’s face it, we all want to be a priority, but in this case, it's pedestrians who are at the top of the list. So, when you’re next at a junction, be prepared to give way to any pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road which you're turning into.
The whole point of this is to protect those who are most at risk if a road accident was to happen. This applies to everyone on the road, including cyclists and horse riders.
What does this mean for you? It means keep your eyes peeled, as there’s so much pressure now more than ever to be a responsible driver and reduce the harm that you might cause. Fingers crossed this will reduce the injuries.
Pedestrians crossing at junctions
This has got to be one of the biggest changes of the Highway Code and to say it has caused quite a bit of a stir would be an understatement. The code has clarified that when people are crossing or waiting at a junction, traffic should give way. If you can see that people have already started crossing and you want to turn down the road, the people crossing in front of you have priority. End of story. We could debate this one until we're blue in the face, but the rules are rules.
The same goes for zebra crossings too and parallels for that matter. Whether you're driving, riding a motorcycle, or cycling, this update applies to us all. If you’ve forgotten what a parallel crossing is, it’s similar to a zebra crossing, but it just has a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.
You’re probably doing this already, but now we have it in writing, it makes it even more real. The next time you try overtaking a cyclist or a horse rider, if you have a double white line, you can cross it if necessary, as long the road is clear to overtake and that they are travelling at 10mph or less.
Stick to this guide for overtaking and you’ll be sorted:
- Remember to leave at least a 1.5-metre gap, which is around 5 feet, when you’re overtaking people cycling at speeds of 30mph, and give even more space if overtaking at a higher speed.
- If you’re passing horse riders, a speed of 10mph and a 2-metre gap would be appropriate.
- When passing pedestrians walking in the road, for example, if there is no pavement, people may be forced to use the road, allowing around 2-metres to pass safely.
We know that’s a lot to take in. The best thing to do is to judge whether or not it's safe enough for you to pass. If it's not, just wait behind them and don’t overtake if you can meet these clearances, it's not worth it.
The codes rules have been updated to clarify that cyclists who are looking to turn in or out of the road, should give way to people on foot. If there is a specific lane on the road for cyclists, they should use this and move separately from or before other traffic, if not, then they should ride in the centre of the lane. It makes it easier and safer for everyone, don’t you think?
What if cyclists are turning right? If you’re at a junction where signs and markings are indicating right, as a cyclist you should:
- Go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol, stop and wait.
- When the lights on the far side of the junction (the ones facing the people cycling) turn green, it's go, go go and you can complete your manoeuvre.
Being a cyclist, you can only imagine what’s growing through their mind, that they need to get to where they're going and get there safely. Either way, from now on, the code clarifies that people cycling who are going straight ahead at a junction, have priority over traffic waiting to turn unless the road markings say otherwise.
Cyclists will do their bit and make sure that they’re seen as much as possible and will be watching out for people driving who may intend on crossing their path. As drivers, we must make sure that we don’t cut across cyclists when they’re going ahead or turning in or out of a junction. The aim of the game is for cyclists to keep cars behind them as much as they can and if we follow the code, we can all get on with our journeys just fine.