Update: We have had a huge response to this article, including many emails from people asking for clarification on Highway Code rules regarding cyclists, and we have answered the most commonly asked questions in a separate article which you will find at the link below.
The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday laid documents before Parliament outlining proposed changes to the Highway Code aimed at protecting cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Among the forthcoming changes are new guidance on safely overtaking cyclists, encouraging vehicle occupants to use the Dutch Reach technique to avoid dooring riders, and giving cyclists and pedestrians priority at junctions without traffic signals.
The new rules, which also include establishing a hierarchy of road users aimed at making the roads safer for the most vulnerable, are due to officially become part of the Highway Code next month.
They were approved by the Department for Transport (DfT) following the review of a consultation which closed earlier this year.
The rules were yesterday laid before the House of Commons and House of Lords as a Statutory Instrument so they can be scrutinised by MPs and peers, and all being well will become law and officially be added to the Highway Code after 40 parliamentary days.
Full details of all the proposed amendments can be found in this document published by the DfT, including a series of new rules prefixed with the letter H which outline the hierarchy of road users and which are shown at the end of this article.
We also show the new wordings (with revisions in italics) of the relevant parts of Rule 163, which governs overtaking, and Rule 239, which introduces the Dutch Reach technique.
Cycling UK has campaigned for the changes for a decade and Duncan Dollimore, the charity’s head of campaigns, said: “These amendments bring not just much needed clarity on key areas of reducing danger on our roads, such as safe overtaking distances of people walking, cycling or horse riding, but also through the new ‘hierarchy of road users’,” which he said “challenges the current mindset that ‘might is right’ on our roads.
“It enshrines in law the need for those who present the most risk on our roads to look out for those who are the most vulnerable. This can only make the roads safer for everyone.”
“Over 16,000 people backed the amendments Cycling UK called for when the government consulted on improving the Highway Code for vulnerable road users in 2020,” he added.
“Today we’re seeing many of these a step closer to becoming a reality, and we commend the Department for Transport for listening and making these important changes.”
Hierarchy of Road Users
The ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ is a concept that places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk. The following H rules clarify this concept.
It is important that ALL road users are aware of The Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.
Everyone suffers when road collisions occur, whether they are physically injured or not. But those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, vans/minibuses, cars/taxis and motorcycles.
Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse drawn vehicles likewise have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.
None of this detracts from the responsibility of ALL road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety.
Always remember that the people you encounter may have impaired sight, hearing or mobility and that this may not be obvious.
Rule for drivers, motorcyclists, horse drawn vehicles, horse riders and cyclists
At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.
You MUST give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing (see Rule 195).
Pedestrians have priority when on a zebra crossing, on a parallel crossing or at light controlled crossings when they have a green signal.
You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing.
Horse riders should also give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.
Cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks and to horse riders on bridleways.
Only pedestrians may use the pavement. Pedestrians include wheelchair and mobility scooter users.
Pedestrians may use any part of the road and use cycle tracks as well as the pavement, unless there are signs prohibiting pedestrians.
Rule for drivers and motorcyclists
You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle. This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them.
Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist, horse rider or horse drawn vehicle going straight ahead to stop or swerve.
You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are:
• approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
• moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
• travelling around a roundabout.
Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should …
• stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left. Cyclists may pass slower moving or stationary traffic on their right or left and should proceed with caution as the driver may not be able to see you. Be careful about doing so, particularly on the approach to junctions, and especially when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles.
• give motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215).
As a guide:
─ leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
─ pass horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allow at least 2 metres of space
─ allow at least 2 metres of space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road (for example, where there is no pavement)
─ take extra care and give more space when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather (including high winds) and at night
─ you should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
• you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic by looking all around and using your mirrors
• where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motorcyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.