Highway Code changes – How do they affect motorbikes?

3 Min Read

Motorbike and rider

Significant changes to the Highway Code came into force on 29th January 2022 which create a new “hierarchy of road users” that works on the basis of “those in charge of vehicles that cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility”. In that hierarchy motorcyclists are right in the middle at fourth.

This reflects the fact that motorcyclists can both cause collisions due to the fact that they are mechanically propelled and capable of high speeds, but can also be victims of collisions due to the fact that they are smaller than cars/vans and so more difficult to see, and don’t have the protection of a metal shell around them like the driver of a car.

But what do the changes mean in practice if you are a motorcyclist?

Changes to the highway code - horses (4)

Pedestrians crossing

As a motorcyclist you must give way to pedestrians on Zebra crossings and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing. This is probably nothing new for most motorcyclists, who do this anyway.

The major change is that you must now give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that you are turning into or out of. In practice, this may be difficult because your view of a pedestrian may be obscured by other vehicles and it may be difficult to judge the pedestrian’s intentions. It may also take time for pedestrians to stop thinking that they have to wait for the vehicle to go, and this confusion in itself could be the cause of more accidents.

Overtaking

You are now required to give cyclists at least 1.5 metres when travelling up to 30mph and when passing horses you should allow 2 metres of space and travel at no more than 10mph.

Similarly, the new rules on overtaking are positive for motorcyclists. The types of vehicles that tend to cause serious injury to a motorcyclist are those that are bigger, such as cars, vans, and lorries and because they are lower down the hierarchy this means that they too have increased obligations to consider the presence and path of motorcycles and to give you extra space when overtaking.

Positioning

Another change for the benefit of motorcycles is that when stationary (at traffic lights for example), drivers should not pull up next to you, but wait behind you, even if you are right next to the kerb.

Opening of doors

One of the main risks for motorcyclists is drivers opening a door into your path. The Highway Code changes address this by suggesting that doors should be opened using the Dutch method. Essentially, someone opening the door on their right should do so with their left hand, because that forces them to turn and look over their shoulder into their “blind spot”, therefore increasing the chance of them seeing motorcyclists.

In summary, the changes require everyone using the roads to be more considerate of those around them, which will hopefully reduce collisions and serious injury for all road users.

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