Changes to the Highway Code in January 2022

The Highway Code has been updated and important changes were introduced from Saturday 29 January 2022. The changes are the result of a public consultation and they apply to England, Scotland and Wales.

The Introduction to the updated Highway Code states that it is designed to improve road safety for the most vulnerable road users, being pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

All road users are to be considerate towards one another.

There are eight particular changes to the Highway Code that you need to be aware of:

1. Hierarchy of road users

There is a new “hierarchy of road users”. This puts the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, at the top of the hierarchy.

2. People crossing the road at junctions

When people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other road users should give way to them because they have priority.

Drivers and cyclists must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing.

3. Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

Cyclists and horse-riders should respect the safety of pedestrians in shared spaces but pedestrians should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.

Cyclists are asked to take care when passing other users, for example, by not passing them too closely or too quickly, slowing down and giving warning of their approach (for example, by ringing their bell), and not passing a horse on the horse’s left. 

4. Positioning in the road when cycling

There is updated guidance about the positioning of cyclists in the road.

Cyclists may ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower moving traffic, and at the approach to junctions or where a road narrows.

Cyclists should keep at least 0.5 metres from the kerb edge when riding on busy roads.

People cycling in groups should be considerate towards the needs of other road users and allow motorists to overtake them when it is safe to do so.

Cyclists in groups can ride two-abreast.

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

It is permissible to cross a double-white line, if necessary, in order to overtake a cyclist or horse rider if they are travelling at 10mph or less.

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

Cyclists may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on the right or left but should proceed with caution.

6. People cycling at junctions

When turning into or out of a side road, cyclists should give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross.

There are new special cycle facilities at some junctions, including small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic.

There is also new guidance for cyclists where there are no special facilities for them at junctions. The Code recommends that cyclists should behave like other traffic where there are no separate cycling facilities, including positioning themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel safe to do so.

The Code includes advice for cyclists using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right in two stages.

The Code clarifies that cyclists going straight ahead at a junction have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless indicated otherwise.

7. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

Motorists and motorcyclists should give priority to cyclists riding on roundabouts. They should not, for example, attempt to overtake a cyclist within that person’s lane.

Motorists should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or people driving a horse-drawn carriage, who are continuing around the roundabout in the left hand lane.

8. Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The Code recommends the use of a new technique when a person is leaving a vehicle.

Drivers and passengers should open the door using their hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. For example, a driver should open their door using their left hand. This makes them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them. This will help to avoid collisions with cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, who may be approaching from behind the vehicle.

The Code now also includes guidance about using an electric vehicle charge point.

The updated Highway Code will be published in April 2022 but is currently available online.