What is the new Highway Code? How cyclists are impacted by 2022 changes - and who gets priority at roundabouts

Highway Code updates set to change who has priority at junctions and put more responsibility on drivers

New rules which change how drivers and cyclists use roundabouts and junctions are set to come into force in the coming days.

The updates to the Highway Code also bring changes to the guidance on who has priority at junctions and pedestrian crossings, as well as placing more responsibility on the drivers of the largest vehicles.

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The changes, which are due to come into force from 29 January, are part of a new hierarchy of road users being introduced to help protect the most vulnerable road users.

Under it, those with the most potential to do harm, such as HGV and bus drivers, have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger posed to other road users, with the drivers of other motor vehicles also given more responsibility to reduce the risk to vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

The new rules change how drivers must interact with cyclistsThe new rules change how drivers must interact with cyclists
The new rules change how drivers must interact with cyclists | Shutterstock

Among the key changes being introduced is a new rule for drivers using a roundabout at the same time as a cyclist.

Under the updated rule, drivers are now told to give priority to cyclists on roundabouts and not cut across their path. Rule 186 states: "Give them plenty of room and do not attempt to overtake them within their lane. Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.

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"Cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles may stay in the left-hand lane when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout and should signal right to show you they are not leaving the roundabout.

"Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure that they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles in the left-hand lane, who are continuing around the roundabout."

Similar rules now apply at junctions and when passing slow-moving traffic. Drivers turning into a junction are warned not to cross the path of cyclists travelling straight ahead when doing so. They are also told to give cyclists at least 1.5 metres of space when passing them.

The updates also aim to strengthen and clarify rules on who has right of way in a variety of situations.

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Drivers and cyclists should now give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross at a junction or zebra crossing. Previously the guidance was only to give way to those already crossing. The rules also make it clear that cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared-use cycle tracks.

The Department for Transport says the changes are designed to make the roads safer for more vulnerable users but do not mean that pedestrians and cyclists have no responsibility.

It says: “The objective of the hierarchy is not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but rather to ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”

The new hierarchy looks like this:

  • Pedestrians 
  • Cyclists 
  • Horse riders 
  • Motorcyclists 
  • Cars/taxis 
  • Vans/minibuses 
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

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