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Highway Code changes offer vulnerable more protection

Road Safety

Deniz Huseyin
17 January 2022

Changes to the Highway Code, which will include placing pedestrians at the top of a new “road user hierarchy”,  will come into force on 29 January. The revamped guide includes eight new rules as well as 49 updates to existing rules.

The new hierarchy means those who pose the greatest risk to others have a higher level of responsibility. This means someone cycling will have greater responsibility to look out for pedestrians, while someone driving will have greater responsibility to look out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.

The new code states that drivers:

  • Should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which their vehicle is turning.
  • Should not cut across cyclists or horse riders going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, to prevent ‘left hook’ collisions.
  • Should open car doors using the ‘Dutch reach’ method, with the hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. This makes drivers turn their heads to look over their shoulders and reduces the likelihood of ‘dooring’ a passing cyclist 
  • Should 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.

The Highway Code can be used in court to establish liability in the event of an accident under the Road Traffic Act. This includes rules which say ‘should/should not or do/ do not.’

 The DfT will run a campaign in early February to make the public aware of changes to the Highway Code, a DfT spokesperson told LTT. “This will be led by our well-established THINK! campaign, alerting road users to the changes through media and social channels. A behaviour change campaign is then planned for later in the year, to align with seasonal increases in active travel, to help embed the changes and encourage understanding and uptake of the new guidance.”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, told LTT: “Most people won’t have read the Highway Code since their driving test, and are unlikely to do so again any time soon. With some fundamental changes being introduced, it’s essential these are initially communicated clearly and accurately. 

“But we can’t stop there – for meaningful change there needs to be a long-term well-funded public awareness campaign that is supported by bodies like the police and DVSA.”

The DfT launched a review of the Highway Code in October 2018, and published a summary of the consultation proposala in December 2021.


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