What Highway Code changes mean for road users

14 September 2022

A picture of three horses and riderson a village road with houses on one side and cars on the other

The Highway code has been updated to prioritise the safety of vulnerable road users – people walking, cycling and riding horses.

The introduction to the Code has a hierarchy of users which puts those most at risk in the event of a collision at the top.

We've explained the changes of seven circumstances you are likely to come across as a road user:

“The Highway Code has changed to give greater priority and protection to vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. A recent survey by the AA found that 61% of drivers had not read the changes made in January this year. Reading and knowing about the changes to the code and the need to protect vulnerable road users will help NFU members do their bit to help make Britain’s roads safe for all.”

NFU transport adviser Tom Price

People crossing at junctions

  • Traffic should give way to people crossing or waiting to cross at a junction.
  • Traffic wanting to turn into a road should give way to people who have started crossing who have priority.
  • 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.

Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

People cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in these spaces. People walking should take care not to obstruct or endanger other users of shared spaces.

Cyclists are asked to:

  • not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
  • slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)
  • remember that people walking may be deaf, blind, or partially sighted
  • not pass a horse on the horse’s left

Positioning in the road when cycling

Updated guidance for cyclists includes:

  • riding in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings
  • keeping at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than them

Cyclists in groups

People cycling in groups:

  • should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
  • can ride two abreast - and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders

People cycling are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.

Overtaking when driving or cycling

You may cross a double -white line if necessary (provided the road is clear) to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less.

Guidance on safe distances when overtaking includes:

  • leaving at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
  • passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space
  • allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keeping to a low speed when passing people walking in the road (for example, where there’s no pavement)

Wait behind them and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

People cycling passing slower-moving or stationary traffic

The updated code confirms that people cycling may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.

They should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important:

  • on the approach to junctions
  • when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles

Cyclists at junctions

When turning into or out of a side road, cyclists should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.

Some junctions now include small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic. Cyclists are encouraged to use these facilities where they make their journey safer and easier.

There is new guidance for people cycling at junctions with no separate facilities.

The code recommends that cyclists should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle where there are no separate cyclist facilities. This includes positioning themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel able to do this safely. This is to:

  • make them as visible as possible
  • avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous

People cycling turning right

Advice for cyclists where signs and markings tell them to turn right in 2 stages. These are:

  • stage 1 - when the traffic lights turn green, go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the road, and then stop and wait
  • stage 2 - when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the cyclists) turn green, complete the manoeuvre

Cyclists have priority when going straight ahead at junctions

Cyclists going straight ahead at a junction, have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.

Cyclists are asked to watch out for people driving intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.

Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse drawn vehicles

Drivers and motorcyclists should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts. The Code says drivers and motorcyclists should:

  • not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
  • allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout

Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.

Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or drivers of a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.

Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The code recommends a new technique when leaving vehicles. It’s sometimes called the ‘Dutch Reach’.

Where drivers or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, they should open the door using their hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. For example, using their left hand to open a door on their right-hand side.

This will make them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them. They’re then less likely to cause injury to:

  • cyclists or riding a motorcyclists passing on the road
  • people on the pavement

Using an electric vehicle charge point

The code includes guidance about using electric vehicle charging points.
When using one, people should:

  • park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables
  • display a warning sign if possible
  • return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users

Where to find further information

Read the full Highway Code at: GOV.UK | The Highway Code

Contact NFU CallFirst for more information and advice. Call: 0370 845 8458

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query someone from NFU CallFirst will contact you. If needed, your query will then be passed to the appropriate NFU policy team.

You have 0 characters remaining.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.