Personal injury

The Highway Code changes on 29 January 2022. Here's what you need to know.

On 29 January 2022 the Highway Code is changing. This will have significant benefits for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Here we explain what those changes are and the impact they're likely to have.

27 January 2022

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The Highway Code Changes 2022

Many of us decide to make resolutions in the New Year, but is making sure you're up to date with the Highway Code one of them? Well, it might need to be, as on 29 January 2022 the Highway Code will change and this won't just impact motorists, but also vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. Here's what you need to know.

What's new in the Highway Code?

There are several changes being made to the Highway Code, the most significant being Rule H1, H2 and H3, which include the introduction of a new 'Hierarchy of Road Users' and giving greater priority to the most vulnerable road users.

Rule H1 - Hierarchy of Road Users

Known as Rule H1, the new 'Hierarchy of Road Users' ranks road users in order of vulnerability, giving those most vulnerable with the highest priority, and vehicles that can cause the greatest harm, the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce any risks or dangers to those more vulnerable road users.

The hierarchy is in order of priority road users:

1. Pedestrians

2. Cyclists

3. Horse riders (including any horse drawn vehicles)

4. Motorcyclists

5. Cars and taxis

6. Vans and minibuses

7. Large passenger and heavy goods vehicles

Rule H2 - Priority for pedestrians

This rule applies to all road users other than pedestrians and confirms that if you're at a junction and turning into a road, you should give way to any pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross that road.

For example, if a motorist was at a junction turning left onto a road where a pedestrian was waiting to cross, previously, the motorist would have priority and the pedestrian would have to wait. However, following the changes, in the same scenario, the motorist will have to give way to the pedestrian, allowing them to cross the road.

This is also the same for pedestrians waiting to cross at a zebra crossing. Previously, motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists would only have to give way if a pedestrian was already crossing the road but following the changes, a pedestrian waiting to cross the road has priority.

Rule H3 - Priority for cyclists

This rule applies to motorists and motorcyclists and confirms that when you're changing lanes or turning into or out of a junction, you shouldn't cut across cyclists and horse riders (including any horse drawn vehicles) who are going ahead.

Whether cyclists are using the cycle lane or using the road, motorists will need to give way to them. When turning onto a junction, motorists must take care not to make any manoeuvres which may cause cyclists or horse riders to stop or swerve and instead, are advised to either stop or wait for a safe gap.

Who needs to be aware of the changes to the Highway Code?

Everyone needs to be aware of the changes to the Highway Code as it impacts all road users. There are a number of other Highway Code rules which are changing full details of which can be found on the Government website. Those with the most impact include:

All traffic must stop for pedestrians waiting to cross

As mentioned above in Rule H2, all drivers must now stop at junctions or on zebra crossings when pedestrians are waiting to cross, rather than if they're already in the process of crossing the road.

Vehicles indicating to turn must give way to cyclists

When a vehicle is indicating to turn either left or right, it must give way to cyclists coming from behind or going straight on.

Cyclists can ride wherever they feel safest

Another significant change to the Highway Code for cyclists is Rule 72 which focuses on safe road positioning. It confirms that when riding on a road, cyclists should ride where they feel the most safe and where they ride is their call. However, it recommends two basic positionings that cyclists can adopt.

The first suggests that when on quiet roads or in slower moving traffic, cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane they're in, so they're more visible to other road users. If a faster vehicle comes up behind, the cyclist should move over to the left if safe to do so to allow them to overtake. Where it would be unsafe for a driver to overtake, they should also cycle in the centre of their lane when approaching junctions or road narrowings.

The second relates to cycling busy roads with faster moving vehicles, and suggests that cyclists should allow them to overtake when it's safe to do so but should keep 0.5m away from the edge of the curb.

Cyclists should be treated as if they were another motor vehicle

Drivers and motorcyclists must wait for cyclists to pass in the same way they would for other motor vehicles on the road. Motorists should therefore pull up behind them rather than pulling up alongside them.

Pedestrians and cyclists also have a responsibility

With the new Hierarchy of Road Users giving pedestrians the highest priority on our roads, closely followed by cyclists, it's important that all other road users should respect their safety, but they do still have a responsibility.

For example, Rule 62 states that cyclists should respect the safety of pedestrians, but pedestrians also have a responsibility to take care and should not obstruct or cause any unnecessary risk of danger. The same also applies where pedestrian routes are shared with cyclists and horse riders.

Introduction of 'the Dutch reach'

The 'Dutch reach' is a term used for using the hand furthest away to open the car door. For example, a driver of a vehicle should open their car door with their left hand rather than their right. By doing this, their body will turn, allowing them to see over their shoulder which will eliminate their blind spot and reduce the danger for cyclists overtaking.

Prosecutions by local authorities

The new rules mean that local authorities are able to prosecute when poor driving decisions are made, such as driving in box junctions or failing to give way.

Why is the Highway Code changing?

There are two main reasons why the Department of Transport are making these changes. Firstly, to support the Government's plans to encourage more people to walk and cycle to boost health and reduce carbon emissions. Secondly, they want to create a more respectful and considerate culture of safe road use which will benefit all road users.

According to Government statistics, from 2018-2020 there was a total of 33,1370 road incidents resulting in injury. Of those incidents, the percentage of those involving cyclists has risen year on year, from 13.98% in 2018 and 14.07% in 2019 to 17.43% in 2020.

There was also a rise in those involving pedestrians from 17.19% in 2018 to 17.34% in 2019. This did drop in 2020 to 15.19%, which was possibly as a result of less people leaving their homes due to the pandemic.

During this period, there were 1,507 fatalities of cyclists and pedestrians, which again has grown year on year, from 1.36% in 2018 and 1.43% in 2019 to 1.54% in 2020. Therefore, new changes to the Highway Code will hopefully reduce the number of incidents causing injury and death to vulnerable road users.

Richard Gaffney, principal lawyer and cycling injury expert, says: “These changes to the Highway Code have long been campaigned for and will hopefully add a welcome layer of protection to more vulnerable road users and in particular cyclists and pedestrians”.

Brake comments as new Highway Code changes come into force

A charity well-known for providing support for those bereaved or seriously injured in road collisions, in addition to campaigning for safer streets and the rights for road victims, is BRAKE.

Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Brake welcomes the changes to the Highway Code which come into effect on 29 January 2022. The introduction of a road user hierarchy is so important for road safety. It means it is clear that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they pose to more vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

“The focus on better protecting vulnerable road users in the new Highway Code follows the Government’s announcement of £338m in July 2021 for building segregated cycle lanes and walking schemes. As part of the hierarchy approach, it’s vital that funds continue to be released for safe space for walking and cycling, with 20mph speed limits in areas where people live and work.

“It’s vital that Government works hard to promote the Highway Code changes, to help all road users understand the new rules and our shared responsibility to reduce deaths and serious injuries.

“We urge all road users, particularly drivers, to look at the updated Highway Code, learn about the changes, and do their bit to put safety first.”

Raising awareness of the changes to the Highway Code

There is a concern that if road users are not well informed about these changes before they’re implemented, there could be an increase in road traffic collisions causing injury to cyclists or other vulnerable road users. Therefore, education is key and the more people aware of these new changes, the safer the roads will be for everyone.

If you've been injured on the road, simply contact us today, and one of our experts will be in touch.

*The details contained in this article were correct at the time of publication.

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