The Highway Code is being revised to include clarity on which road users have priority. The Department for Transport says the new Hierarchy of Road Users will improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
So how do the Highway Code changes affect car drivers and motorcyclists?
The Highway Code changes at a glance:
- Drivers should not cut across cyclists or horse riders going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane.
- Drivers at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that they’re turning into.
- Drivers should stop and give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing.
- Drivers of large passenger vehicles and HGVs now have ‘the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger posed to other road users’.
- ‘Dutch Reach’ technique ensures car drivers look more carefully before they open their door.
- Cyclists should give way to pedestrians using shared-use cycle tracks.
Three new rules have been added to The Highway Code:
H1: Hierarchy of road users
Road users who can potentially do the greatest harm bear the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others, in particular children, older adults and disabled pedestrians are "the most likely to be injured in the event of a collision".
The hierarchy of road users is:
- Horse riders
- Cars and taxis
- Vans and minibuses
- Buses and HGVs
In the above hierarchy, cars and motorcycles are responsible for minimising the danger to horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians, and horse riders and cyclists have to do the same for pedestrians.
H2: Pedestrian priorities
Drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.
You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing (before 29 January you only have to give way if they’re already on the crossing), and to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing.
H3: Cyclist priorities
Motorised vehicles shouldn't cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane.
This applies whether the road users higher up the hierarchy are in a cycle lane, on a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road – you should give way to them. Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist, horse rider or horse-drawn vehicle going straight ahead to stop or swerve.
Drivers are meant to stop and wait for a safe gap when cyclists are: approaching, passing or moving away from a junction; moving past or waiting alongside still or slow-moving traffic; or travelling on a roundabout.
Other Highway Code revisions:
If you're a considerate driver/rider, there's a good chance that you're probably already obeying the new rules shown above, but this final one is likely to be new to you.
When you're parked, the Highway Code now suggests you (and your road-facing passengers, presumably) should open your door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you’re opening, also known as the Dutch Reach technique.
This means you would use your left hand to open a door on your right side; doing so makes you turn your head farther to the right and gives you better visibility of what's coming up behind you.