New Highway Code rules for cyclists start on 29th January 2022

BE AWARE OF NEW RULES BUT REMEMBER THAT MANY OTHER ROAD USERS MAY NOT BE SO AWARE!

Without wishing to appear negative, in a ‘what could possibly go wrong’ vein, new road priority rules aimed at protecting pedestrians and cyclists could have the opposite effect in the early months and years of implementation, simply because other road users may not be aware of the changes and, innocently, treat junctions differently. We urge everyone to bear this in mind before assuming that other road users recognise the new protocols.

So what are the changes?

Essentially there is a road hierarchy concept so that the most vulnerable are prioritised over the bigger/faster road users. It should always be remembered that there are never solutions to problems, just ‘trade offs’ and as worthy and commendable as this new regime may seem, it is probably going to irritate a lot of drivers as their journeys get slowed

The hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/Taxis
  6. Vans/Minibuses
  7. Large Passenger Vehicles/Heavy Goods Vehicles.

It is not difficult to see the logic of this, and hopefully we all take a considerate line, looking out for all of those groups in a safe and responsible manner. But does this mean that as you steam towards a PB on a Strava KOM you should slam on the brakes to let a pedestrian cross the road?

The Highway Code now states that you ‘must’ give way to pedestrians on a crossing, and cyclists crossing on shared crossings. In fact, the word ‘must’ suggests that it is legally enforceable, whereas wording that uses the word ‘should’ will usually not be legally enforceable. For example, you ‘should’ wear a helmet but you ‘must’ have lights at night. On shared use paths (cyclists/pedestrians) cyclists ‘must’ now give way to pedestrians.

So whilst cyclists may be slowed by pedestrians possibly more than before, there are also new protocols saying that drivers should give way to cyclists and leave safe gaps particularly with regards to roundabouts. It is probably worth reminding ourselves of the current protocol as the new Official Guidance is yet to be published ( so let’s not make any judgements quite yet – there’ll enough howling shouty campaigners for cyclists and motorists shrieking with disgust that it doesn’t go far enough or goes too far without us adding to the noise).

Currently, section 77 of the Highway Code, concerning roundabouts, reads as follows:

You may feel safer walking your cycle round on the pavement or verge. If you decide to ride round keeping to the left-hand lane you should

  • be aware that drivers may not easily see you
  • take extra care when cycling across exits. You may need to signal right to show you are not leaving the roundabout
  • watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout.

Much of these new rules envisages situations at junctions and, for example, where one is turning in to a road and, say, a pedestrian is waiting to cross that road, then you should let them cross.

For decent, courteous responsible road users this should not make a huge difference to their travel, but if the guidance does throw up some protocols that don’t suit all junctions and different road users are taking different approaches, then a few mishaps may be inevitable.

We understand that official guidance will be issued around the time the new rules are applied. Whilst we can see that advertising them well in advance may mean confusion as to when they start applying, it is equally true that if you wait until ‘kick off time’ many people will be unaware and different road users may behave differently.

Our own view is that these changes shouldn’t be too radical to a reasonable, courteous road user but there will be pompous, selfish road users (on bikes and in cars) who are unaware and assume a contrary position when executing junctions……all we ask is that you take care and tolerate others.

Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings.