2022 Highway Code Changes: what do they mean?
The Highway Code is a guide to the rules and expectations of road use in the United Kingdom – first published in 1931 and regularly updated since. The Code comprises of a combination of mandatory legal rules, and guidance to advise the correct and safe manner in which to use highways in the UK.
After wider consultation in 2020, a new significant update to the code came into effect on January 29th 2022 – one which has provoked much discussion from different parties about what it means for road users. Stomor have put together a quick guide for our clients to outline the changes, and what they may mean for future planning developments.
Change 1: Hierarchy of road users
The “hierarchy of road users” orders the different forms of road user in order of those who are most at risk in case of an accident. This is a new addition to the 2022 Highway Code – designed to protect the most vulnerable road users. Those most at risk of injury in road traffic accidents are pedestrians, followed by cyclists, horse-riders, and motorcyclists, before cars and other motorised vehicles follow in order of weight/size. There is no specific rule for the hierarchy of road users – however it is important for ALL road users to be considering it when using the highways network, either to protect others or to protect themselves.
Change 2: Crossing at junctions
The rules involving crossing at priority junctions have changed: if a pedestrian is crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic must now give way. If people have started crossing, and traffic wishes to turn into the road, the traffic must give way to the pedestrians. Additionally, people in all forms of vehicle must give way to those on a zebra crossing. These changes work alongside the hierarchy of road users: helping to protect those most vulnerable to road traffic incidents on the roads.
Change 3: Shared pedestrian/cycle/horse spaces
Spaces shared between pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders have new guidance on how users should share the space with one another. Those cycling or riding a horse must respect the safety of those walking, however this does not mean that those walking have no responsibility to avoid obstructing or endangering them. Additionally, there are extra provisions for those who cycle in these spaces, asking that they do not pass others closely or at high-speed, always make their presence known (e.g. use a bell) when approaching, remember that those around them may be partially sighted, blind, or hearing impaired, and that they should not pass horses to the horse’s left. All of these changes are issued with the safety of cyclists and those they share spaces with in mind.
Change 4: Position in the road when cycling
There is new guidance on where in the road cyclists should cycle when a cycle lane is unavailable – suggesting that lone cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slow moving traffic, or when approaching junctions. Additionally, it is advised that they keep a minimum of 0.5m from the kerb on busy roads where other vehicles are faster than them. Those riding in groups are advised to show extra consideration to the needs of other road users, and to ride two abreast to encourage safer driving by vehicles who may overtake – especially when riding in large groups or with less experienced cyclists. When passing parked vehicles, cyclists should give a door’s width to avoid being hit by car doors, and they should remain alert of the potential for pedestrians to be behind a parked vehicle.
Change 5: Overtaking when driving or cycling
Guidance on overtaking vulnerable road users when in a motorised vehicle has been updated also, accommodating different speeds and distances for different road users:
- When passing cyclists on the road, 1.5m should be given by motorists when travelling under 30 miles per hour, while extra consideration should be given if travelling at higher speeds.
- When passing horses, 2.0m should be given by motorists, and a maximum speed of 10mph should be observed.
- When passing people walking in the road, 2.0m should be given by motorists, and a low speed maintained.
If it is unsafe, and the motorist is unable to give these accommodations, they should not pass until they are able to.
Cyclists are now able to pass on the left or right of vehicles which are slow-moving or stationary, however this should be done with caution when approaching junctions, and consideration should always be given to blind spots when around heavy vehicles.
Change 6: Cycling at junctions
When turning at a side road, cyclists should now give priority to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross the road. Some junctions will now include cycle-height traffic signals, which will give unique commands allowing cyclists to depart at different points to the vehicle traffic. When no specific facilities are in place, cyclists should approach junctions as if they were any other vehicle – including being central to their lane to increase their visibility and prevent a dangerous overtake. Additionally, cyclists now have priority when going straight ahead at a junction, and vehicles from side roads must wait for them to pass – unless signs signal otherwise. However, caution should still be taken when cycling straight ahead to avoid collisions.
Change 7: Cycling or horse-riding at roundabouts
People driving or riding a motorcycle should now give priority to cyclists at roundabouts. They should not attempt to overtake cyclists within their lane, and should give adequate space to cyclists to enable them to cross lanes through the roundabout. Those in vehicles should also be conscious of the fact cyclists and horse-riders can stay in the left-hand lane of the roundabout for their entire length – and should avoid cutting across them to reach their exit.
Change 8: Parking, charging, or leaving a vehicle
When leaving a vehicle adjacent to a road, a technique nicknamed the “Dutch Reach” should be used. This involves turning the left side of the body towards the door, allowing the driver/pedestrian to look 180 degrees behind the vehicle and assess when there’s a safe window to exit the vehicle without causing injury to themselves or pedestrians/cyclists.
Additionally, there is now guidance on using electric charge points – advising that users should park close to a charge point and attempt to minimise trailing cables, display a warning sign if possible, and return all cables etc to the charge point neatly in order to avoid danger to other highway users.
The changes listed above are not the only changes made to the Code, a variety of smaller alterations have been made throughout the document. However, it is clear that the general trend of the changes is to prioritise safety for the more vulnerable users of the highway network – be it pedestrians, cyclists, or horse riders. Starting with the new “hierarchy of users” and continuing throughout the changes, an onus is placed on the need to protect those more likely to be injured or vulnerable in the case of a road traffic accident. While this often comes with a need for caution from motorists, the changes do not represent a significant alteration in how motorists are expected to behave on highways – rather a reiteration and emphasis on the need for safety from those who are less likely to be injured on British highways.
What does it mean for planning?:
In general, very few direct changes will need to be made to planning procedure to accommodate these highway code changes – however the changes to motorist behaviour may need to be considered in years to come. In addition, the changes introduce some new potential highway features – such as cyclist signals at junctions – which can be noted for their potential to provide new efficient services in developments where sustainable transport is being prioritised.