Peninsula’s Director of Health & Safety Gavin Scarr Hall explains the changes that drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and road users in England, Scotland and Wales need to familiarise themselves with.
If your organisation’s work involves driving, cycling or use of public highways, the new rules will affect you in one way or another.
Perhaps you have a fleet of company vehicles or a workforce of bicycle couriers. Either way, it’s crucial that your employees are aware of how to drive or cycle when on the clock.
Figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that 4,290 pedestrians and 4,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on UK roads from the start of 2020 to June 2021.
The changes have been introduced not only to heighten awareness of road risks, but to bring greater accountability for those who pose a higher risk to other road users.
It’s important to remember that many of the rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements.
And other rules, whilst not strictly offences in and of themselves, could be used as evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.
50 rules have been added or updated in the 2022 edition of the Highway Code. Here are some of the most important changes.
- Hierarchy of road users
Road users who are most at risk are placed at the top of a hierarchy. Pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders are given priority in certain situations to allow for their safety. Drivers must give way to cyclists and pedestrians when turning, and only pedestrians may use the pavement.
- Pedestrians crossing the road at junctions
The updated code gives priority to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross at junctions. Both drivers and cyclists should give way to pedestrians.
- Walking, cycling, or riding in shared spaces
New guidance advises cyclists not to speed past walkers or riders, especially from behind. Their presence should be announced by ringing their bell, slowing down where necessary to respect their safety. Cyclists should not assume they can be seen or heard by all; walkers might be deaf, blind, or partially sighted.
Horses using paths and bridleways should not be passed on the animal’s left – they can startle and cause serious injury to the rider and those around them.
- Position in the road when cycling
The new code emphasises visibility for cyclists, to reduce the risk of collisions where the driver fails to see the rider in their blind spot.
Cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic, and when approaching junctions. Groups of cyclists should be conscious of other road users’ needs, riding two abreast at most. They should be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake – either by moving into single file or coming to a stop when it’s safe.
- Overtaking when driving or cycling
Updated guidance clarifies the safe distances as 1.5 metres when passing cyclists and pedestrians travelling at 30mph, and 2 metres for those travelling at 10mph or less (including pedestrians on the road). If it isn’t safe to overtake, perhaps with a steady stream of oncoming traffic, drivers should wait behind the road user and reduce their speed as appropriate.
Cyclists passing stationery or slow-moving traffic can pass on the right or left, but they should be cautious. They will occupy drivers’ blind spots, heightening the risk of colliding with vehicles pulling out or changing lanes. HGVs and lorries have larger blind spots; it may be safer to wait behind until a lane frees up.
- People cycling at junctions
This rule is similar to the rule for drivers, requiring cyclists to give way to those crossing or waiting to cross. It incorporates the new cycle traffic lights introduced at some junctions.
Where there are no cycle lanes, cyclists are encouraged to think of themselves as driving a vehicle. This means positioning centre of lane, being visible, and staying conscious of safe spots for overtaking.
Cyclists also have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road if they are going straight ahead at the junction.
- Cycling at roundabouts
Priority is given to cyclists on roundabouts. This means drivers shouldn’t attempt to pass or cut across cyclists in their lane. Cyclists and horse riders must be given plenty of room and allowed to cross motorists’ paths as they travel around the roundabout.
- The ‘Dutch Reach’
Vehicles have blind spots on the rear left and right sides, which can prevent the driver from seeing the rear or side mirrors. This obscures vehicles and persons approaching from the rear, making it all too easy to hit a cyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian with your door when you open it onto a road or pavement. For a cyclist travelling at speed, injuries can be serious.
The Dutch Reach is a technique to heighten awareness when exiting a vehicle. Instead of opening with the hand nearest and exiting facing forward, you would use the opposite hand. Reaching across, you turn your head to look over your shoulder before you exit.
- Electric vehicle charging
Electric cars are included in the Highway Code for the first time, to recognise the risks charging points present to road users. Guidance says that charging points should be used responsibly, with users parking closely to avoid creating trip hazards with the charging cables. Warning signs should be displayed, and the cables returned neatly.
So, the burning question for employers off the back of these changes is: How can I ensure I am compliant?
Your employees who cycle to work or cycle as part of their work should be confident of their ability to ride safely on the road. They should also be aware of the Highway Code and the specific rules for cyclists. Bicycles must have efficient brakes and working lights on when cycling at night – white at the front, red to the rear. They should have a bell fitted to alert others to their presence.
Employees who drive as part of their work activities must be authorised by their employer. This means conducting regular checks on the licensing and insurance status of your drivers, whether they use private or company-issued vehicles.
You can carry out quick, simple checks on a driver’s licence using the DVLA website, and a copy of their insurance certificate should suffice to prove they’re fully insured to drive for business. Make a note in your calendar to check these on a regular basis and ensure any traffic violations are immediately reported to you.
Ensure that you have driver’s handbooks tailored to your organisation and keep them continually updated to ensure they always include the most up to date changes and regulations. Ask employees to sign and date documentation confirming receipt of the handbook each time it is updated. This is a simple way for your business to ensure than all the rules are followed in the interest of staying compliant, and of course, safety.