Coachlines - January 2022

26.01.22 Liveryman John Blauth

Don’t be baffled by Highway Code changes

Confused about the changes to the Highway Code as highlighted over the weekend of 22/23 January by over-excited journalists in some media? Don’t be.

The differences between Highway Code old and Highway Code new are clearly outlined on this PDF, helpfully produced by the Department for Transport. There aren’t as many changes as you might have been led to believe…

There is, we are told in the Daily Mail, fury over changes to the Highway Code. There is confusion among road users it claims. Cyclists and pedestrians will, the more breathless news coverage intimates, have carte blanche to weave across the highways, with drivers held culpable for every mishap. The Guardian accurately reports that this is nonsense and has published a brief, potted guide to what will change – and what will not.

Cyclists in the middle of the road? No, the Highway Code simply says cyclists should use the centre of a lane, and only at certain times. This is not new guidance. There is no new rule about riding two abreast: the new text makes this more clear and now says “You can ride two abreast, and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders.”

There is no new rule about having to use cycle lanes, which was the case anyway. It says cyclists “may exercise their judgment and are not obliged to use them”.

One much debated change is that drivers about to turn into a junction should now give way to pedestrians “crossing or waiting to cross” that road. That’s what good drivers do anyway, but it is a change to the previous version, which said pedestrians had priority only “if they have started to cross” which is plain silly, especially for frail and vulnerable people, elderly people and parents with a child in a buggy.

These changes are nothing more than an underline of the simple and basic courtesy we all owe to other road users, by drivers and cyclists alike. The updated Code sets out a “hierarchy of road users”, making the uncontroversial point that quicker and/or heavier modes of travel should be especially careful for those who are more vulnerable. While this, as the code says, “most strongly applies” to those in charge of a motor vehicle, cyclists are not exempt and should be alert for horses and pedestrians, especially children, older people, and people with disabilities which includes those who are deaf.

Much of the negative coverage of the new Highway Code has focused on supposed confusion what is actually the case is that the revised Code contains standard good sense and courtesy while including elements, such as the primary position and riding two abreast, which have been in the rules for many years but are “…still routinely unknown to many drivers.”

With thanks to The Guardian, for helpful input and clarity.