The Department for Transport explains new 2022 Highway Code rules, and information on when they will enforce them.
What are the new rules?
The Highway Code is set to undergo a renewal in the New Year. This will give overtaking- or undertaking- cyclists who are continuing straight on a junction, right of way over drivers who are turning into junctions.
The Highway Code revisions also include a new Hierarchy of Road Users. This applies automatic culpability for drivers who are in accidents with more vulnerable road users (cyclists or pedestrians). Another change states drivers should stop and give way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road before turning out or into junctions.
Lastly, another major change will establish guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders.
A statutory instrument presented before Parliament means the updated Highway Code will come into effect on 29 January 2022. At the moment, there’s no official plan to communicate the changes until they actually come into force.
However, the DfT is pressing on with a programme which started in 2020. It invited cycling lobby groups to suggest new rules, and a subsequent 12-week public consultation on their proposals. “The majority of respondents to the consultation were in favour of all the changes proposed, believing that they would improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders,” the DfT asserts.
What are the 2022 Highway Code changes as proposed?
New Hierarchy of Road Users:
Drivers that can cause the most harm in a collision bear the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger to others. This principle applies most noticeably to drivers of HGVs, LGVs, cars/taxis and motorcycles. Likewise, cyclists and horse riders have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.
New priority for pedestrians at junctions:
At a junction, drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing. They should also give way to those waiting to cross a road from which or into which you are turning. You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing or a parallel crossing. Currently, you only have to give way if they’re already on the crossing.
New priority for cyclists when cars are turning:
You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning out of or into a junction, or changing direction or lane. This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road. You shouldn’t turn at a junction if it would cause the other road user going straight to stop or swerve. Instead, you should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary.
The proposed alterations to The Highway Code will come into fruition at the very end of January 2022. However, this is only if affirmed by Parliament. The suggested changes to The Highway Code are advisory only and not underpinned by law.
The new rule to give priority to cyclists going straight ahead does not seek to change the law. Rather, it ensures a more mutually considerate and respectful culture of safe and effective road use. Consequently, this would benefit all users. You should not cut across a cyclist, in the same way you would not cut across another motorist.
Failure to comply with the ‘advisory rules’ of the Code will not, in itself, cause prosecution for the person. Nevertheless, The Highway Code may affiliate with evidence in any court proceedings (under the Traffic Acts) to establish liability. This includes the rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’.
Ultimately, enforcement of the law is a matter for the police to decide on the evidence of each individual case. They will then decide whether a person has commit an offence and the appropriate action to take.
These new rules apply to all road users. For example, motorists should give way to cyclists and cyclists should give way to pedestrians. It endures that it is illegal to ride a privately owned scooter on public land.
How does the new rules impact road users?
“This simple change clarifies the rules at junctions, and is a major step towards embedding a custom that could make a huge difference to cyclist and pedestrian safety. It would also give highway designers the confidence to design better cycling and walking infrastructure such as cycle lanes and cycle paths that go across the mouths of side-roads, making them simpler, safer and more efficient for everyone.” Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK Head of Campaigns
“Vulnerable road users deserve the highest protection from motorised vehicles but simply changing a book no one reads is unlikely to deliver the impact hoped for. In our view investment in segregated facilities remains the best way to encourage people to consider active travel as a real alternative.” Neil Greig, Policy Director, IAM RoadSmart.