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Updated: 3 Feb 2022

The Highway Code changes for 2022: are you aware of the new rules?

Changes to the Highway Code will mean drivers need to give way to pedestrians at a junction, while cyclists must give way to people using a shared-use cycle track

An update to The Highway Code has introduced a hierarchy of road users, which creates 'clearer and stronger priorities' for pedestrians.

The Department for Transport claims that the changes, which are split into three main rules, ultimately aim to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. The changes are due to come into force on 29 January.

Below, we run through the major changes laid out in the updated The Highway Code, plus we have details on smaller additions that might affect your journey from A to B.

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At a glance: How has The Highway Code changed?

  • Drivers of large passenger vehicles and HGVs now have 'the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger posed to other road users'
  • Drivers at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that they're turning into
  • Drivers should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing
  • Cyclists should give way to pedestrians that are using shared-use cycle tracks
  • Drivers should notcut across cyclists going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane
  • New 'Dutch Reach' technique tells road users how to open the door of their vehicle while looking over their shoulder

Three new rules added to The Highway Code

Rule H1: hierarchy of road users

The first (and most significant) rule in the refreshed The Highway Code sets out the hierarchy of road users. Road users who can do the greatest harm (those driving large vehicles) have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to other road users.

Pedestrians (children, older adults and disabled people in particular) are identified as 'the most likely to be injured in the event of a collision'.

Here's a look at what the hierarchy of road users looks like:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

As you can see, cyclists and horse riders will also have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians. Even so, the updated The Highway Code emphasises that pedestrians themselves still need to consider the safety of other road users.

The Department for Transport says this system will pave the way for a 'more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use'.

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Rule H2: clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians

This rule is aimed at drivers, motorists, horse riders and cyclists. The Highway Code now states clearly that, at a junction, you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that you're turning into. Previously, vehicles had priority at a junction.

Drivers should also give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing (a combined pedestrian and cycle crossing).

Meanwhile, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared-use cycle tracks, and are reminded that only pedestrians (including those using wheelchairs and mobility scooters) can use the pavement.

Pedestrians are allowed to use cycle tracks unless there's a road sign nearby that says doing so is prohibited.

Rule H3: drivers to give priority to cyclists in certain situations

The updated The Highway Code urges drivers and motorcyclists not to cut across cyclists when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This rule applies whether the cyclist ahead is using a cycle lane, a cycle track or simply riding on the road ahead.

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
  • Travelling on a roundabout

Are these rules legally enforceable?

These updates are aimed to keep road users as safe as possible, but not everything in The Highway Code is legally enforceable.

While some of the rules are legal requirements (and you're committing a criminal offence if you disobey them), many simply serve as guidance.

If you scroll through The Highway Code, you'll see some rules include 'must' or 'must not' - these rules are supported by existing laws. For example:

  • You must give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing

Those that include 'should' or 'should not' are only guidance and not supported by existing laws, but may be used in evidence to establish liability. For example:

  • You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing

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What else is changing?

Rules H1, H2 and H3 aside, there are some other changes to The Highway Code in 2022, including EV owners being reminded that the charging cables for their cars can present a trip hazard for pedestrians.

The Dutch Reach

The 'Waiting and parking' section of The Highway Code has also been updated to describe the 'Dutch Reach'.

This suggests you should open your door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you're opening. So, you would use your left hand to open a door on your right side - this naturally makes you turn your head to look over your shoulder.

Our video shows the Dutch Reach in action: