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War of Words- Changes to the Highway Code

Changes to the Highway Code have dominated the headlines this weekend with many taking to social media to mock the new changes to the Highway Code.

Boris Johnson said when the policy was announced that it would help ‘unleash our nation of cyclists’, whilst Nicholas Lyes, head of highways policy at the RAC referred to the changes as “a significant departure from exactly what has gone before”.

Clearly the changes have unleashed a backlash but not one which Boris Johnson or others making the rule changes anticipated.

One meme trending suggested “to keep away from cyclists and pedestrians, vehicles should fly”, whilst another stated “I went for a drive in my car. Was held up for 500 miles at 10mph by these guys cycling in the middle of the road while singing a song” and another asked “do I still need to look both ways?”

Lawyer Nick Freeman known as Mr Loophole has argued that the new rules lack “common sense” and rather than avoiding accidents may actually cause accidents, making pedestrians and cyclists more vulnerable to motorists leading to more road accidents.

The Alliance of British Drivers and others concerned with road safety have criticised the rule changes as likely to result in an increase in road rage incidents and confusion amongst road users.

Confusion will inevitably lead to road collisions.

Whilst the Government is to fund a new £500,000 Think! Campaign to raise awareness of the changes to the Highway Code across various media channels, many motoring groups are launching campaigns to attack the rules that allow cyclists to ride in the middle of lanes.

Under the new rules bike riders are told to ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slower moving traffic and when approaching junctions to make themselves more visible.

New Hierarchy of Road Users

There is now a new “hierarchy of road users, the idea being to keep the most vulnerable safe. The bigger and heavier the vehicle you drive the more responsibility you have to reduce risk.

The hierarchy is as follows:-

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars
  6. Vans and minibuses
  7. Large passenger vehicles and HGVs

The Highway Code update provides that: ‘The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly”.

Commenting on the changes, Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Brake welcomes the changes to the Highway Code which come into effect this Saturday (29 January 2022). The introduction of a road user hierarchy is so important for road safety. It means it is clear that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they pose to more vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders”.

Priority for Pedestrians

Before the new rules came into place drivers had priority at junctions unless the road user was half-way across the road and cyclists, drivers and horse riders only had to stop at zebra and parallel crossings if a pedestrian was already walking across.

The Highway Code update gives them even more rights at junctions with drivers now having to give way to a pedestrian waiting to cross the road when they are turning into a junction.

All road users – drivers, cyclists and horse riders also have to give way to pedestrians waiting at zebra crossings and cyclists and pedestrians waiting at parallel crossings.

Priority for cyclists

The Highway Code says cyclists can ride in the centre of their lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings.

When travelling along more congested roads with faster moving vehicles, cyclists should keep at least 1.5 metres away from the kerb edge – and can ride even closer to the middle of a lane

Drivers must leave at least 1.5 metres of space when overtaking a cyclist at speeds up to 30mph. Driver’s must allow even more space at speeds in excess of 30mph where it is ‘safer to do so’.

Cyclists can pass you on the left as well as the right when you are in a jam, although the Highway Code does urge caution to cyclists when passing (particularly on the left where drivers might not be expecting them to be) on the approach to junctions and especially when passing lorries and large vehicles that may not have seen them and are a major injury risk.

The Dutch Reach

You would be forgiven to think this is a new dance move!

The Dutch Reach method is where a person opens their car door with the hand furthest away from the door. This forces them to turn their head and look backwards which may mean that they spot a cyclist or motorcyclist preventing a collision. For example, using their left hand to open a door on their right-hand side.

These are just some of the 50 rules that have been added or updated in the Highway Code.

On my walk this morning it was clearly visible many are still unaware of the changes.

If you have been involved in a road traffic accident and suffered an injury due to someone’s else negligence, you may be entitled to compensation to get your life back on track. For a free consultation with our specialist personal injury solicitors please call us today on 0808 271 9413 or request a call back online.