Highway Code Changes: Myth Busting

You’re bound to have seen news articles and reports about the recent changes to the Highway Code, and what they mean for road users. Unfortunately, it’s also likely that you’ve seen some articles deliberately misleading and spreading fake news about these changes.

So, we’ve put together this guide, with a little help from Cycling UK and Living Streets, to help you understand what the changes actually mean and how they should help to make our roads safer for everyone!

You can check out this short video from Cycling UK to understand the four key amendments to the highway code: hierarchy of road users, passing cyclists, junction priority and the Dutch reach.

Just like everywhere else, you’ll be expected to provide priority to pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users at junctions across Thorpe Park. This should make the park a safer and more attractive environment for everyone!

Busting the myths

You may have heard that cyclists will now be riding in the middle of the road, all the time. Not to worry, this isn’t the case! The new highway code simply advises cyclists to ride in the middle of their lane in certain situations. For example, when approaching junctions and on narrow sections of road. This was already best practice in the cycling world anyway!

Something else you may have heard is that you’ll be fined for opening your car door with the wrong hand. This is also incorrect! The new highway code advises that drivers (or passengers) open their car door using the Dutch Reach method. This involves reaching across to open the door with the hand furthest from the door, naturally turning your body towards the window and allowing you to see any approaching cyclists (or pedestrians… or cars!).

Again, the Dutch Reach technique has been around for quite a while now, these changes simply formalise the recommendation. It’s a simple change of habit that will help you open your car door safely.

Some Other Changes

There have been a number of other changes to the Highway Code, which you can find full details of in this article on the gov.uk website. We’ve summarised some of these changes below:

1. Hierarchy of road users

The new hierarchy of road users places those most at risk in the event of a collision at the top. Below is a graphic from Dave Walker, the Cycling Cartoonist, which illustrates this new hierarchy.

2. People crossing at junctions

The updated code clarifies that:

  • when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
  • if people have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority, and the traffic should give way
  • people driving, riding and motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing

Here’s a graphic from Living Streets which highlights these changes.

3. Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

People cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in shared spaces, but those people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.

Cyclists are asked to:

  • not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
  • slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)
  • remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted
  • not pass a horse on the horse‚Äôs left

4. Positioning in the road when cycling

This one we touched on above, with cyclists advised to ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings.

In addition to this, the updated code explains that people cycling in groups:

  • should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
  • can ride 2 abreast

People cycling are also asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.

Below is another graphic from the Cycling Cartoonist, to demonstrate why cycling 2 abreast is often safer than single file.

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

There is updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving or riding a motorcycle when overtaking vulnerable road users, including:

  • leaving at least 1.5 meters when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving more space when travelling at higher speeds
  • passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least 2 meters of space
  • allowing at least 2 meters of space and keeping to a low speed when passing people walking in the road

These new guidelines are designed to tackle dangerous overtaking and ‘close passes’, by ensuring a minimum safe distance. Check out this next graphic from the Cycle Cartoonist, showing why it’s important to keep a safe distance.

Please note this post is not designed to be a comprehensive list of the changes to the Highway Code and should not replace your reading of the new code. You can find further information and order your copy at gov.uk.

Feb 2022