Highway Code Changes – What should you know?

Highway Code Changes – What should you know?

In August 2021, we published our ‘Highway Code Changes are set to Prioritise Walkers and Cyclists’ blog, which set out the proposed changes to the Highway Code from the Department for Transport. These changes were taken to parliament in December 2021 and, if consented, are expected to come into place on January 29th 2022.

It is understood that a number of the changes proposed are in response to the LTN1/20 “Cycle Infrastructure Design” document published by the government in July 2020. This document contains guidance to local authorities and highways engineers on designing high-quality, safe cycle schemes and infrastructure. Our blog LTN1/20 – The New Cycling Infrastructure Standardsprovides more context on this guidance, however, importantly the document places particular focus on the fact that cycle routes must be direct, safe and perceived to be safe.

An article from the Telegraph reported that polling from the AA found two thirds of motorists were unaware of the new highway code rules. Others have raised concerns over the safety of the changes, with a worry that pedestrians may assume it is safe to cross without fully checking or that it will be dangerous if drivers are given no formal update or training.

The most significant changes are provided below:

1: A new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ will come into force:

1 – Pedestrians

2 – Cyclists

3 – Horse Riders

4 – Motorcyclists

5 – Cars/Taxis

6 – Vans/Minibuses

7 – Large passenger vehicles or courier vehicles like buses and HGVs

This hierarchy gives those that can do the most harm the “greatest responsibility” to look after vulnerable road users.

2: Priority Changes

New rule H2 states that “At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.” Cyclists will also have to give way on shared use cycle tracks.

Vehicles indicating to turn must give way to cyclists approaching from behind and going straight ahead. Rule H3 states that “you could not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle”.

3: Cyclist Safety

Vehicles must leave a gap of at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph or more space at higher speeds.

Additionally, cyclists can adopt the middle of the road when approaching junctions – i.e they will take priority.

Summary of Highway Code Changes

The hierarchy of road users and changes to pedestrian and cycling priority will be the fundamental changes to the highway code if consented by parliament this month. The changes are quite radical, and it may take a while for all users of the highway network to become familiar with the new practice.  We will be monitoring through our own project work how the new rules and design guidance  influences the way different road users use the highway network. However, as fines or points on your licence can be issued for breaking the highway code, it is suggested to read the entire set of changes, which can be found here:

Table of changes to The Highway Code (publishing.service.gov.uk)


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