The Highway Code: Key changes you need to know
The changes follow a public consultation on a review of The Highway Code to improve road safety for people walking, cycling and riding horses. It ran from July to October 2020, and received more than 20,000 responses from the public, businesses and other organisations. Most people who responded were in favour of all the changes.
The changes were made to The Highway Code on Saturday 29 January 2022.
Here are the key changes that you need to know about:
1. Hierarchy of road users
The ‘hierarchy of road users’ is a concept that places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk.
2. People crossing the road at junctions
The updated code clarifies that:
- when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
- if people have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
- people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing
A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing, but includes a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.
3. Positioning in the road when cycling
There is updated guidance for people cycling about positioning themselves which includes:
- riding in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings
- keeping at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than them
People cycling in groups
The updated code explains that people cycling in groups:
- should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
- can ride 2 abreast – and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders
People cycling are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.
People cycling passing parked vehicles
The updated code explains that people cycling should:
- take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door’s width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened
- watch out for people walking into their path
4. Overtaking when driving or cycling
You may cross a double-white line if necessary (provided the road is clear) to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less (Rule 129).
There is updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving or riding a motorcycle when overtaking vulnerable road users, including:
- leaving at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
- passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space
- allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keeping to a low speed when passing people walking in the road (for example, where there’s no pavement)
Wait behind them and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
People cycling passing slower-moving or stationary traffic
The updated code confirms that people cycling may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.
They should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important:
- on the approach to junctions
- when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles
5. People cycling at junctions
The code has been updated to clarify that when turning into or out of a side road, people cycling should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.
There is new advice about new special cycle facilities at some junctions.
Some junctions now include small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic. People cycling are encouraged to use these facilities where they make their journey safer and easier.
There is also new guidance for people cycling at junctions with no separate facilities.
The code recommends that people cycling should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle where there are no separate cyclist facilities. This includes positioning themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel able to do this safely. This is to:
- make them as visible as possible
- avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous
People cycling turning right
The code now includes advice for people cycling using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right in 2 stages. These are:
- stage 1 – when the traffic lights turn green, go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the road, and then stop and wait
- stage 2 – when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the people cycling) turn green, complete the manoeuvre
People cycling have priority when going straight ahead at junctions
The code clarifies that when people cycling are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.
People cycling are asked to watch out for people driving intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.
6. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts
The code has been updated to clarify that people driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. The new guidance will say people driving and or riding a motorcycle should:
- not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
- allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout
The code already explained that people cycling, riding a horse and driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.
Guidance has been added to explain that people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across people cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.
Find out about all the changes
In total, 10 sections of The Highway Code have been updated, with 50 rules being added or updated.
You can find a summary of all the changes in The Highway Code updates list on GOV.UK.
Stay up to date
The Highway Code is essential reading for everyone. It’s updated regularly, so it’s important that everyone reads it – not just learner drivers.
Many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you’re committing a criminal offence.
If you do not follow the other rules in the code, it can be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.
- read the full updated version of The Highway Code, free of charge, on GOV.UK now