Being ‘ambushed by cake’ aside, one of the hot topics for the twitterdom this week is the NEW HIGHWAY CODE. ‘Cyclists in the middle of the road’, ‘they should pay road tax’, ‘lycra wearing *****’, etc’. But, let’s dig past the keyboard-burning outrage and see what’s really new and how it affects us cyclists and other road users alike.
The main thrust of the changes helps increase the safety of the most vulnerable who frequent our roads. The new ‘hierarchy of road users’ helps set this out implicitly. The Department for Transport said the code’s new hierarchy will ensure “road users who can do the greatest harm”, such as those in cars, vans and lorries, “have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others”. We love it – as cyclists we look out for our pedestrian friends (even when they have their AirPods in), cars be careful of us cyclists and pedestrians, large vehicles be wary of everyone. We all share the same space after all. We’ve shared with you the stats on accidents in the past during the ‘Be Brake Ready’ campaign with City of London a few years ago, so this all makes a lot of sense to us.
On the same theme and possibly the most ‘hot topic’ for the keyboard warriors, is the new priority of pedestrians at road junctions. This means that drivers turning into or out of a junction must give way to a person crossing or waiting to cross the road. Some suggest this may cause a lot of rear-enders as a car waits to turn into or exit a road. It’ll certainly force all vehicles (including cyclists) to be extra cautious when approaching a turn to make sure all is clear that’s for sure.
Something I think we’ve all experienced as cyclists, to our peril, is being overtaken by a vehicle that then turns left across our path. Many drivers do the right thing and wait behind the cyclist to make their turn, but now the new rules make sure all vehicles know it. “You should not 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”.
“Cycling in the middle of the road” raged twitter, but actually, it’s really about cycling in the middle of the lane when for safety reasons it’s a good idea: i.e. visibility, when approaching junctions, or narrowing roads where an overtake would be dangerous. It’s known as the ‘primary position’ which you can read about here: https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/road-positioning-cycling-explained
One of our favourite additions for motorists to the new highway code is teaching the ‘Dutch Reach’ (link to our article). This is the idea of using the hand farthest from the door to open it, encouraging you to turn as you do so, thus increasing your field of view and helping you to spot any cyclists or motorcyclists that might be poleaxed if you were to open the door without looking. This technique works really well and is such a simple change with big benefits, so get in the habit!
Other additions to the code are formalising what is pretty much already in place as best practice. The gaps drivers should leave when overtaking a cyclist, cyclists are not obliged to use cycle lanes (although the ‘use em or lose em’ factor to us says cycle lanes are great!!). Riding two abreast (which was in the code before) is now re-written to “You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders.”
If you have any thoughts of opinions please feel free to share them with us on our Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/havebike
In conclusion, we think there are a lot of beneficial tweaks to the code, and we think it bodes well for facilitating a new more active transport-focused future in our towns and city. What do you think of the new rules? Let us know in the comments or on socials.
A breakdown of all the additions can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-highway-code-8-changes-you-need-to-know-from-29-january-2022