Image showing bicycle handlebars on parked on the side of a road, with reference to the changes to the UK Highway Code

Your Priority is Changing

Your priority is changing as the government is introducing changes to Highway Code on 29 January 2022. The ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ is the biggest and, for many, the most welcome change to the code in many years.

by Emma Johnson

I am pleased because I hope this will increase respect for all road users whether they are walking, on cycles, riding a horse or indeed in a car or HGV.

This is not about who pays road tax, after all, none of us do neither is it about who is insured. I believe the changes are about all of us understanding that we have to take responsibility for our choices and actions. As a point of interest, for the doubters, I pay a tax on the emissions for the car I use, and I am also insured to ride my bike on the road!

Of course, within the change, there is the assumption that people will take due regard for their own safety.

We all Need to Understand How Priorities Are Changing

The changes place road users in priority order of the level of harm they can cause. The more the harm, the greater the responsibility the road user will bear.

Although every road user should behave with responsibility without laws or rules evidence shows this is not the case. Pedestrians, particularly children, older users and the disabled are clearly at most risk from all road users.  And obviously, HGVs and large passenger vehicles are the most dangerous to other road users.

We’re at a Junction of Change

The new rules give priority to pedestrians and cyclists at junctions. Motorists who are turning into a junction will now have to give way to pedestrians who are attempting to cross the road. At zebra crossings and similar, cars will have to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the road.

No More Cutting Across

Drivers and motorcyclists can not cut across cyclists or horseriders when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This works in the same way as if it was another vehicle. In fact, HGVs have to give priority to cars from January.

When pedestrians and cyclists share cyclists must use the side intended for them. However, if there is no clear separation on a track, the pedestrian is the priority.

Sharing Fairly

In addition, cyclists must give way to pedestrians on shared cycle tracks and bridleways. Pedestrians also have the right to use any part of the road and cycle tracks as well as the pavement unless prohibited with clear signage.

Cyclists must allow enough room on shared tracks, be aware of potential risks and slow down or stop if necessary. They should also call out or ring a bell when passing a pedestrian, keeping in mind that a person may be deaf, blind, or partially sighted.

Down the Middle

A big change for cyclists is that they should cycle in the middle of the road to make them more visible. They should pull to the left where safe for vehicles to overtake, keeping at least half a metre away from the kerb.

Cyclists should take into account their experience, skill and the situation at the time when choosing a road over cycle tracks and paths.  It is not a legal requirement for cyclists to use paths.

The Power to Fine

Along with changes to the Highway Code other changes mean that motorists will need to avoid the yellow boxes as councils will have the power to apply a £70 fine.  Illegal turns and driving in cycle lanes will also incur the same fine.

Cyclists must also be courteous, and consider other road users when riding in groups. It is often safer to ride two abreast, however it may safer to ride single file to allow a vehicle to overtake. Cyclists should also keep their distance from vehicles in front of them.

Careful Parking

A ‘parking on pavements’ ban is already in place London and this will extend throughout England. Again, park and you might be paying a £70 fine.

Just like motorists have to give cyclists distance when overtaking, cyclists must give at least 1m distance when passing parked cars. Cyclists, again like motorists, must take care to avoid obstructions like drains and potholes. They also need to position themselves and warn motorists of their plan to safely avoid the obstruction.

And finally

There are concerns that not enough people know about or understand the changes to the Highway Code.  In fact, there are concerns that the government are not planning to communicate the changes until they come into force.  Some of the wording is also still being finalised.

Whatever happens, if there is more respect between road users the better!

To find out more visit the GOVERNMENT website here for a summary of the changes