A cyclist riding on a road alongside a car and a bus illustrating the 2022 changes to the Highway Code and the effect on road users

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The Highway Code changed on 29 January – are you aware of the changes?

Tim Jones runs through the January 2022 Highway Code changes and how they affect different road users.

On Saturday 29 January, some important changes were made to the Highway Code, to help protect the most vulnerable road users, including cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders.  However there has been widespread criticism that these changes have not being publicised enough and many members of the general public are unaware of them.  This is reinforced by the fact that whilst the online version of the Highway Code has been updated immediately, the printed version, used by a lot of learner drivers, will not be available until the Spring.

So, what are the changes?  In this article, we cover just a few of the most significant ones, including that which has received a lot of interest – the so called ‘Dutch Reach’ method of opening car doors which has been in use in The Netherlands for many years.

What is the Dutch Reach and how do I perform it?

The Dutch Reach is the practice of opening a car door with the hand furthest away from the door, forcing the person to turn their head and look backwards.  The intention is that if there is a cyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or even another car coming from behind, you may spot them and avoid them colliding with the door as you open it.  Unfortunately, cyclists riding into car doors carelessly opened is a common occurrence and can cause serious injury, including major trauma injuries.

Hierarchy of road users

Another important change is the introduction of a hierarchy of road users, guidance which has been introduced to help inform the other rules.  This effectively means that road users are ranked in order of how vulnerable they would be in the event of a road traffic incident; heavy goods vehicles carry the most responsibility to ensure other road users are safe and pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders the least.  However, it’s important to note that the changes stress that the ‘hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly’.

Can cyclists ride in the middle of the road?

The Highway Code now provides explicit rules about when cyclists should ride in the middle of the road for safety reasons:

  • To make themselves more visible on quiet roads, although it should be noted they should move left to let faster vehicles overtake;
  • In slow-moving traffic, before moving to the left again when the traffic flow speeds up;
  • When approaching junctions; and
  • When approaching a road narrowing which could mean overtaking is unsafe.

Additional changes in relation to cyclists include the advice that cyclists keep at least half a metre away from the kerb and drivers leave at least 1.5 metres between themselves and the cycle when travelling at speeds of up to 30 mph, leaving even more space if travelling at higher speeds.

The code has also been updated so that cyclists riding in groups can ride 2 abreast, this is particularly encouraged when riding in larger groups or accompanying children or less experienced riders.

What about horse riders?

When overtaking horses, cars should give as much room as possible, and at least 2 metres.  Horses must not be overtaken when it is unsafe or not possible to meet this distance and drivers should slow down to under 10 mph to pass a horse.  The distance of at least 2 metres is recommended as even the most reliable horse can spook as the result of an unexpected noise or movement and often react by spinning – with horses weighing over half a ton and being such large animals, if they spin they could easily collide with a passing vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian, causing serious injury.  With the increasing number of electric cars on the road which produce little noise, a horse may not always hear an electric car approaching from behind and the car passing will be an unexpected movement for the horse.

Turning into or out of junctions

The changes to the Highway Code also state that drivers should not cut across horse riders, horse-drawn vehicles or cyclists when turning into or out of a junction and everyone should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road which they are turning into or out of.

And let’s not forget electric cars …

Drivers of electric cars, when using charging points, must ensure they park close to the charge point, avoiding creating a trip hazard for pedestrians from trailing cables, display a warning sign if possible and return charge cables neatly to avoid creating an obstacle for other road users.

Why are these changes needed?

It’s hoped these changes will encourage people to respect and consider the needs of others around them and to improve the safety of those most at risk on and around our roads.  Major trauma injuries are commonly suffered as the result of a road traffic collision, and it is hoped these changes will reduce collisions and injury for all road users.

How Major Trauma Group can help

Major Trauma Group welcome these changes to the Highway Code which have the potential to save lives and reduce major trauma injuries. 

Sadly, no number of changes can prevent road traffic collisions from occurring, and injuries being sustained.  If you have been injured in a road incident, we can connect you with a specialist major trauma solicitor for a free, no-obligation, chat.  We believe everyone’s focus following major trauma injury should be on rehabilitation and recovery, to assist the injured person to make as full a recovery as possible, by accessing the correct rehabilitation at the correct time.  Working together with specialist lawyers and rehabilitation clinicians, we take care of the complex legal issues and let you focus on your rehabilitation journey.

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation, chat: hello@majortraumagroup.co.uk

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