By Sam Whalley
Imagine if there were no rules on the road; it would be utter chaos. Cars would be travelling at ridiculous speeds, pedestrians would have next to no chance of crossing the road safely, and there’d be a whole host of serious accidents. That’s why we have the Highway Code. The Highway Code is a set of mandatory rules and guidelines that apply to all road users in the United Kingdom. The aim of them is to improve everyone’s safety.
It’s not just something you have to study to get your driving licence – it’s evolving information that you must always be aware of.
The latest changes were made this year, and this guide will tell you why they were made, what’s changed, and how it affects you as a cyclist.
Why was the Highway Code changed?
Cars, buses or coaches, light goods vehicles, and heavy goods vehicles account for almost 80% of reported road casualties in the UK in 2021.
And with pedal cycle traffic having increased by 62% between 2004 and 2021, the number of reported casualties sustained by them in road collisions from 2016 to 2021 also surpassed 100,000.
This all fed into the decision to update the Highway Code with rules that would help protect the most vulnerable road users.
What rules were introduced?
- The hierarchy of road users: Road users at the most risk in the event of an accident sit at the top of the hierarchy. For example, HGV drivers bear the greatest responsibility to keep others safe, while pedestrians have the least.
- Pedestrians have priority: Under the new rules, road users must give way to pedestrians waiting to cross at a junction. Previously, this was only the case if they had started crossing. Now, though, you must let them cross before turning into the road.
- Stick to the middle: Cyclists typically hug the edge of the road but now they are advised to position themselves in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic, and when approaching junctions. They can also ride two abreast. If things are busier, they should be no closer than 0.5 metres to the kerb.
- Cycling in shared spaces: In areas that can also be used for walking and horse riding, cyclists are asked not to pass closely or at high speed. They should make their presence known with a bell or another method and never pass a horse on its left.
- Protection at roundabouts: Motorists have been told not to overtake cyclists in their lane on roundabouts. They must also allow them to move across their path as they navigate the section of road.
How is the Highway Code enforced?
The Highway Code can be used to establish liability in the event of an incident, which is particularly important if a road traffic accident claim is made.
Criminal charges could even be brought if you are involved in an accident and are found to be at fault for it.
It is therefore paramount to ensure you stay clued up on the Highway Code and any updates made. By keeping abreast of any developments, you can do your part to help keep yourself and other road users safe.