How do changes to the Highway Code affect bikers?
Written by Jayne Orme, Associate & Personal Injury Solicitor
An update to The Highway Code was introduced last year and impacts all road users. In total, there were 50 rules that were either added or updated. There’s a lot to get through, and as a biker, you may still be feeling uncertain on which changes relate to you. To help, here we’ve summarised the changes most relevant to motorcyclists, but you can also access a list of all the latest Highway Code updates here.
The Hierarchy of Road Users
One of the main updates to the Highway Code was the introduction of what is known as the ‘hierarchy of road users.’ This concept recognises that some road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians can be particularly vulnerable and therefore puts a greater responsibility on those who are likely to cause most harm in the event of a collision.
- Rule H1 – The update goes on to clarify that all road users have a duty to act responsibly and pay attention to the safety of others, but that “those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision, bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.”
- Rule H2 – This update states that drivers, motorcyclists, horse drawn vehicles, horse riders and cyclists should all give way to pedestrians who are crossing the road or waiting to cross the road into which or from which you are turning. The updated guidance also covers giving way at pedestrian crossings.
- Rule H3 – This rule states that drivers and motorcyclists “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, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.”
Crossing at Junctions
This update confirms that traffic, including motorcyclists, should give way when pedestrians are waiting to cross at a junction or are already crossing. It also clarifies that “people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing.”
(Further information can be found in The Highway Code, Rule H2, Rule 8, Rule 19, Rule 170, Rule 195, Rule 206).
Cyclist Road Position
This update covers road position for cyclists. It states that cyclists should position themselves in the middle of their lane “on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings” and gives further guidance for cycling on busy roads with fast-moving vehicles. Further updates are given on cycling in groups and passing parked vehicles. (The Highway Code, Rules 67 & 213)
Overtaking Vulnerable Road Users
The guidance has been updated on safe passing distances when overtaking vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, cyclists, horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians.
Drivers and motorcyclists should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds. They should keep under 10mph and allow at least 2 metres when overtaking horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles. They should also keep to a low speed and allow at least 2 metres of space when passing a pedestrian in the road.
(The Highway Code Rule 67, Rule 76, Rule 163, Rule 212, Rule 215)
An update to The Highway Code clarifies that drivers and motorcyclists should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts.
While existing guidance stated that cyclists, horse riders and those riding a horse-drawn vehicle can stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout, if they intend to continue across or around the roundabout, an addition to the code explains that “people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across people cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.” (Further information can be found in The Highway Code, Rule 79, Rule 167, Rule 186).
The Dutch Reach
The Code now recommends an approach known as the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening a vehicle door. This means that drivers (and passengers) should use the hand furthest from the door to open it, forcing them to turn and check for bikers, cyclists and pedestrians, before exiting the vehicle.
It is hoped that the update will reduce the frequency of car dooring accidents, where a motorcyclist or cyclist is hit by someone opening their vehicle door.
Protecting Vulnerable Road Users
On the whole, these updates to The Highway Code mark a positive change for bikers. In particular, the introduction of the hierarchy of road users acknowledges the vulnerability of motorcyclists, putting more responsibility on drivers to look out for bikers, and hopefully reducing the number of serious accidents on our roads. Furthermore, Fletchers has campaigned for the introduction of The Dutch Reach, so this is a welcome update which should help to further protect the vulnerable road users we’re so passionate about supporting.