A Better Code for the Road


Published: May 10, 2022

I’m a dandy highwayman who you’re too scared to mention… The ‘highwaymen (and women)’ of today are a much more caring lot than in Dick Turpin’s day... and probably don’t turn up to work in Adam Ant-esque make-up and black cloaks either (more likely a high vis vest). Instead those involved in highways nowadays have been putting a lot of effort into making our roads safer, including preparing updates to the Highway Code.

Maybe you have seen coverage in the news recently about this? The Highway Code is updated every year, but this year has seen the spotlight fall on some key revisions as the focus moves onto giving the most protection to those who need it most. This has led to celebration in some quarters and, admittedly, wariness in others. (Those with, shall we say, a ‘less courteous’ driving style may find the changes more of a challenge than other drivers will).

 For us at Brightwayz it is important to look at the potential benefits and impacts on those wanting to travel in active ways. After all, that’s what we are here for! There are 50 amendments in total, but we are going to focus on some key changes that will have a positive impact on pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

Hierarchy of Road Users

This is a major addition to the Highway Code and sets out who has priority when using the road – with pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders taking precedence over motorised vehicles ranked beneath these in terms of size.
This is formalising a common-sense idea that ‘those that can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others’.

So for example car drivers have a greater responsibility than cyclists who have a greater responsibility than pedestrians especially those walking who are very young, old or disabled.

It does also point out that “the hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly”. Meaning everyone still needs to take care of their own safety as well as being aware of other road users.

Hierarchy of road users.

Pedestrian Priority at Junctions

Pedestrians are given priority when crossing near to junctions. This quite a major update, pushing for all road users (including cyclists) to be more vigilant when turning into side roads, as any pedestrian looking to cross now has priority over vehicles. 

They did before, but only if they were actually on the road; now they have priority before stepping out.

Highway code.

Cyclists’ position

The rule regarding cyclists’ riding position has been clarified. This is not a new rule, but a clarification of something that has been in the Code for a while and for years has been taught in cycle training sessions as ‘taking primary’. It suggests that cyclists should take a priority position by riding in the middle of the lane (note: not the same as the middle of the road) to maximise visibility in situations such as the following:

"On quiet roads or streets. (However if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely).

"In slower-moving traffic. (However when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake).

"At the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you."

Highway code for cyclists.

Distance Rules

Cyclists are now more protected by formal distance rules. Drivers have to allow cyclists 1.5m when overtaking up to 30 mph. 

Distance to bicycle.

Roundabout Priority

Drivers are now told to prioritise cyclists on roundabouts by allowing them adequate space, not overtaking them within their lane, allowing them to move across lanes as necessary to reach their exit. They also need to be aware that some cyclists (and horse riders) may stay in the left-hand lane when going round the roundabout regardless of the exit they are taking, as this is sometimes the safest option.

Riding Two Abreast

Even though there has always been an understanding in the old Highway Code that cyclists could ride 2 abreast where space allowed, the update makes this explicit: “You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders.”

Dutch Reach

Encouragement for drivers to “Dutch Reach” when opening their doors. This involves using the hand furthest from the door to open it, while the other hand supports the edge of the door. This ensures the driver is looking over their shoulder, which will help them to see cyclists, motorcyclists and other vulnerable users that may be approaching close to their vehicle.

Why not take a look at our adaptation of the Hokey Kokey - the ’Looky Looky’ to help get this message about the Dutch Reach across in a memorable way? https://www.brightwayz.co.uk/dutch-reach-song-do-t...

Find Out Full Details

There are more updates on the Highway Code, which came into force on 29 January. To see the full Highway Code and explore the changes, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-highway-cod...

So now they have managed to ‘stand and deliver’ the new Highway Code we just now all need to be ‘Goody Two Shoes’ ie behave like ‘Prince Charming’ - follow the rules and be nice to each other. Stay safe everyone (and our apologies to anyone under the age of 40 who doesn’t get the last bit).

#HighwayCode #DutchReach

Image credits: Gov.UK

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