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How do the recent changes to the Highway Code affect cyclists?

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Cyclist convictions double under Victorian legislation

Cyclists come second only to pedestrians in the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ which is designed to protect the more vulnerable road users.

Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show 4,700 cyclists were either killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads from June 2020 to June 2021.

So what has changed for cyclists?

Some rules have been updated, for example there is now a description of cycle tracks and there is reference to evidence which suggests that wearing a correctly fitted helmet will reduce your risk of sustaining a head injury in certain circumstances. Another rule has been updated to clarify that it is at times appropriate for cyclists to ride in the centre of their lane, and that it can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast, but they should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups. There is also added guidance to be considerate of horse riders.

Motorcyclists are to give priority to cyclists when turning in or out of a junction or changing lanes and drivers are also encouraged to stop and wait for a safe distance between cyclists at roundabouts or during slow-moving traffic.

Other key amendments include clearer guidance for drivers to leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists.

To reduce the risk of an accident when getting out of a vehicle, drivers are now encouraged to open their door by using the hand on the opposite side, as it is more likely to lead to them looking over their shoulder allowing them to carefully check for any oncoming cyclists. This is known as the ‘Dutch reach technique’.

The updated Highway Code also explains that, unsurprisingly, unsafe speeds increase the chance of causing a collision which is likely to be more severe. Inappropriate speeds are described as those which are intimidating, deterring people from walking, cycling or horse riding. The code now states that you should reduce your speed when sharing the road with other road users, especially older adults, disabled people and horse drawn vehicles.

In slow-moving traffic, drivers should allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross in front of them and the rules advise against cutting across cyclists, or turning at a junction if to do so would cause a cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve, as this could put them in danger.

The full list of changes can be found on the government website.

The new rules urge drivers to take more care around vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. As more drivers become aware of the rules, it is hoped they will adjust their driving to be more considerate of others, which will make our roads safer and more inviting to cyclists, and ultimately reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by road traffic accidents, as well as having a positive environmental effect.

If you have been involved in a cycling accident, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice and guidance on 0161 696 6235.

By Donna Wilkes, new business advisor