Safer Cycling – Changes to the Highway Code

2 minute read

Bicycle handlebars

The Government is proposing a number of changes to the Highway Code in an attempt to make cycling safer on British roads.

There are an estimated 5 million cyclists on British roads and the BBC has reported that the number of miles cycled on our roads during the pandemic has increased by a staggering 45.7%. It has also been reported that the use of bicycles in the past year has risen more than in the previous 20 years put together, making now the perfect time to strengthen protection for cyclists.

The central proposed change to the Highway Code is to create a “Hierarchy of road users”, where those that can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger to others on the road. This means that lorry and car drivers have the greatest responsibility as they must ensure the safety of cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians.  However, in turn cyclists are required to look out for and prioritise pedestrians in their path and at road junctions.

There are four main proposed changes which will affect cyclists;

  • An expectation that cyclists on quiet or country roads will cycle in the centre of the lane to make themselves as visible as possible
  • When going straight ahead at junctions, cyclists will have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of side roads, unless signage indicates otherwise
  • Recommended safe distances are proposed for car drivers overtaking cyclists, being 1.5m when travelling at less than 30mph and 2m when travelling in excess of 30 mph
  • A recommendation that the “Dutch Reach” method of opening car doors be adopted, advising that the driver’s door is opened with the left hand, thus causing the driver’s head to turn backwards and observe any cyclists approaching on the right of the vehicle.

The importance placed upon bike safety in the proposed changes is a significant step in acknowledging the vulnerability of cyclists and the role vehicle drivers must adopt to keep all road users safe.

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