A new hierarchy of road users will put vulnerable categories such as pedestrians and cyclists at the top if a new change to the Highway Code is enacted on 29 January.

When passed, the Highway Code update will include a new risk-based hierarchy of road user. For the first time in Britain the law will recognise that those who pose the greatest risk on the roads to others have a higher level of responsibility. This means someone cycling will have greater responsibility to look out for people walking, while someone driving would have greater responsibility to look out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.

Pedestrians and cyclists will have priority over drivers at junctions, with drivers of motor vehicles having to give way when someone is waiting to cross on a side street. This introduces a rule similar to that around a zebra crossing which drivers will have to observe. If they are turning into a side street and a pedestrian is waiting to cross the vehicle driver must give way to the pedestrian.

Another provision makes it clearer what people should do on shared paths or pavements.

This provides that everyone – cyclists and those using mobility scooters include have obligations and responsibilities to the more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians: “Cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks. Only pedestrians may use the pavement. This includes people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Pedestrians may use any part of the road and use cycle tracks as well as the pavement, unless there are signs prohibiting pedestrians.”

Cyclists will be encouraged to take up a central position in a lane in certain situations to make themselves more visible to other road users. The amended Highway Code now provides:

“When riding on the roads, there are two basic road positions you should adopt, depending on the situation.

“1/ Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations:

“─ on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely

“─ in slower-moving traffic move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely

“─ at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you

“2/ When riding on busy roads, with vehicles moving faster than you, allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so whilst keeping at least 0.5m away from the kerb edge. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quickly. Take extra care crossing slip roads.”

Other key amendments in the new Highway Code include:

  • Clearer guidance for drivers overtaking people cycling to give at least 1.5m
  • Guidance on how drivers and passenger can prevent ‘car-dooring’ cyclists by using the Dutch Reach

The Dutch Reach – what is it?

This is a way of opening a vehicle door with your furthest away hand when parked, to try to eliminate danger to vehicles passing by – particularly cyclists. Here is what it provides:

“a new technique, commonly known as the ‘Dutch Reach’. This advises that road users should open the door of their vehicle with the hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening which naturally causes the person to twist their body making it easy to look over their shoulder and check for other road users. The new text will read: you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening, e.g. use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motorcyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement”


All of the changes are laid down in full here.