The Highway Code is designed to keep all road users safe, including motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and even horseback riders. The government is continually updating the rules to improve road safety across the board. It’s important to stay up to date with changes to the Highway Code but we’re the first to admit it’s not always easy.

While updates are welcomed by groups like the RAC and Cycling UK, there are concerns that changes to the Highway Code aren’t publicised enough! RAC spokesman Simon Williams warns just one third of British motorists find the latest changes straightforward and easy to understand.

Cycling UK campaign manager Duncan Dollimor agrees. “The Highway Code changes are positive for all road users, but particularly for vulnerable road users including cyclists,” he says. “Sadly, these changes will be of limited benefit if the public aren’t aware of them.”

That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand the new rules. Ready to get stuck in? Read on for our complete guide to changes to the Highway Code in 2022 and what they mean for you. 

Establishing a “hierarchy of road users”

One of the key changes to the code is establishing a hierarchy designed to protect the most vulnerable road users. In the past, all road users were responsible for their own safety, as well as the safety of others. New changes to the Highway Code give priority to pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other at-risk road users. The goal is to drill in the idea that those who pose the greatest risk to others (such as car and truck drivers) have a bigger responsibility to protect vulnerable road users (such as cyclists and pedestrians). For clarity, the hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars and taxis
  6. Vans and minibuses
  7. HGVs

“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,” read the new changes to the Highway Code. “This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, vans/minibuses, cars/taxis and motorcycles.”

Give way to pedestrians at junctions

New changes to the Highway Code give pedestrians priority at junctions. Previously, motorists were required to give way to pedestrians already crossing roads. Under the new rules, motorists must give way to pedestrians waiting to cross junctions.

The new changes to the Highway Code state, “At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.”

Motorists must also give way at Parallel Zebra Crossings, a new type of crossing designed for pedestrians and cyclists.

Max visibility for cyclists

To improve visibility, cyclists should ride in the middle of their lane, not to the side as many road users believe is best practice. This rule applies in slow-moving traffic, as well as on quiet roads and when approaching junctions. In fast-moving traffic cyclists should maintain a distance of at least 0.5 metres from the shoulder. Once again, this is designed to improve visibility and keep cyclists safe.

The 1.5-metre overtaking rule

When overtaking cyclists, motorists should give at least 1.5 metres of distance. The minimum distance increases to two metres when overtaking horseback riders. Both scenarios require more distance if overtaking at speeds of more than 30mph.

Low-speed overtaking

Horses are easily spooked by vehicles. The latest changes to the Highway Code factor this in and require all motorists to overtake horses and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds of no faster than 10 mph.

Group cycling

Cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast, though they’re responsible for being aware of traffic and transitioning into single file if necessary.

Priority for cyclists on roundabouts

Roundabouts are designed to improve the flow of traffic, but they can be dangerous for cyclists. Under the new Highway Code rules, cyclists have right of way on roundabouts. Motorists and other high-risk road users should allow cyclists to safely move through the roundabout without being cut off. 

Responsible passing for cyclists

Pedestrians are considered the most vulnerable road users and motorists aren’t the only risk. Cyclists injure hundreds of pedestrians every year. The new changes to the Highway Code ask cyclists to slow down in areas used by pedestrians, such as mixed use paths. Passing should be at low speeds, especially when approaching from behind. Of course, pedestrians also have a responsibility to be aware of cyclists and avoid obstructing their paths.

Stricter mobile phone rules

Rules about mobile phone use while driving are already strict. In 2022, they’re tighter than ever and it’s now an offence to select songs on a playlist or take a photo while behind the wheel, even if you’re at a red light. Fines can be as high as £200. You also risk losing up to six points from your license.

As a road user, it’s your responsibility to brush up on the latest changes to the Highway Code and keep everyone, including yourself, as safe as possible. Cars with built-in safety and driver assist features make it easier than ever to stay safe on the road. From lane assistance and blind spot warning technology to emergency brake assist (EBA) and reverse collision avoidance, modern cars are packed with state-of-the-art safety features.

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