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The Highway Code: 8 changes you must know from Saturday, January 29 as new rules come into force for drivers, cyclists and horse riders



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The Highway Code is changing.

To improve the safety of people walking, cycling or riding a horse there are fresh rules for all road users - but here are eight of the biggest changes coming into force today.

The Highway Code has been updated to improve road safety
The Highway Code has been updated to improve road safety

1. Hierarchy of road users

Among the most important changes to the Highway Code is the introduction of a new ‘hierarchy of road users’.

A number of updates and new rules are connected to the introduction of a hierarchy - which places a greater responsibility on those on the road who have the potential to cause the most harm with drivers of heavy good vehicles, cars and motorcycles leading the list here.

Cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders are among those being defined as the most vulnerable and children, older adults or disabled people described as those more 'at risk' of serious injury.

But what it doesn't do, say those behind the update, is remove the need for everyone to continue to behave responsibly however they travel.

The new Highway Code rules comes into force from Saturday, January 29
The new Highway Code rules comes into force from Saturday, January 29

2. People crossing the road at junctions

When people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction it will now be expected that other traffic should give way.

While those who have started crossing - ahead of traffic wanting to turn into a road - will also have priority and the moving traffic will be expected to slow down until pedestrians have made it safely to the other side.

The code will also be updated to make it clear that those driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must also give way to people on a zebra crossing.

Cyclists must be more careful of pedestrians they might ride up behind
Cyclists must be more careful of pedestrians they might ride up behind

3. Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

New guidelines are being issued about routes and spaces that are shared by people on foot, on a bike and/or riding a horse.

People cycling and riding must respect the safety of people walking in these spaces while people walking have a responsibility to ensure the path they take does not obstruct or endanger those using other means to travel.

Those who are riding a bike are being asked to not pass close to someone walking along or race up behind them at a high speed. The request for cyclists is to slow down and let people know they are there - either with perhaps a bell or by calling out. There are also further instructions to never pass a rider and their horse on its left side.

Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast, say the new rules, if it is safe to do so
Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast, say the new rules, if it is safe to do so

4. Positioning in the road when cycling

The new Highway Code includes fresh advice for people cycling and about how they should position themselves on a road.

New rules permit them to ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads or in slower moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or where a road narrows. Riders must also keep at least half a metre from the kerb edge - further when it is safer to do so - and when riding on busy roads with vehicles which are faster than them.

Those cycling in larger groups are also being reminded about being considerate to other road users, but can now ride two abreast of it is safer to do so or when riding with children or less experienced cyclists, while cyclists will also need to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake by moving into single file or by stopping when they can.

Anyone cycling past a parked car should leave a door's width - or one metre - to avoid being hit by the vehicle's door if it were to open while also watching out for people who may inadvertently walk into their path.

There is new guidance for those on horseback
There is new guidance for those on horseback

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

Rule 129 says you may cross a double-white line if necessary and as long as the road is clear, to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse, if they are travelling at 10 mph or less.

There is also an updated guide on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving and those using a motorcycle when overtaking other road users who are felt to be more vulnerable.

These include leaving at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at 30mph and giving more space if overtaking at higher speeds. Drivers overtaking people on horseback at under 10mph must leave at least two metres, or over six feet of space, and two metres should also be left when driving past people walking in the road.

And the message is clear - if these clearance distances can't be met or it is unsafe to do so road users must wait and not overtake.

A 'hierarchy of road users' is being established
A 'hierarchy of road users' is being established

6. People cycling at junctions

The Highway Code is being updated to clarify that when turning into or out of a side road people on bicycles should give way to people walking or waiting to cross.

The updates also clarify that people cycling have priority when going straight ahead at junctions over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road - unless any road signs or markings say otherwise. But people cycling are also being reminded that they must watch out for drivers intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.

There's more clarification for everyone using roundabouts
There's more clarification for everyone using roundabouts

7. At roundabouts

The Highway Code has been refreshed to clarify that people driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts.

The new guidance will say drivers and motorcyclists must not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person's lane, allow people cycling to move across their path as they go around the roundabout and guidance has also been added to explain that people driving need to take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they are not cutting across cyclists or riders who may already be going around the roundabout.

There are rules and guidelines for electric car users too
There are rules and guidelines for electric car users too

8. Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

This month's update to the Highway Code includes information for drivers on a new technique they should adopt when leaving their vehicles called the 'Dutch Reach'.

People getting out of a vehicle should now open the door using the hand that is on the opposite side to the door they are opening - for example using their left hand to open the door on their right hand side - as this movement will make them turn their head and force them to look over their shoulder, in turn making them less likely to open the door on people cycling past or on those using the pavement.

And for the very first time the code has some new advice for those who use electric vehicle charging points.

These include driving as close to the charger as possible and avoid creating a trip hazard with trailing cables, that they should display a warning sign if they can and that they must return cables neatly so as not to create a danger to others.



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