Changes to the Highway Code and the hierarchy of road users

The Highway Code

Explore the latest changes to understand your responsibilities on the road

You may have heard about the new changes to the Highway Code that came into force on 29th January this year. It’s easy to find it all a little confusing, so we wanted to help make it clear what the changes mean for you so you can play your part in keeping all road users safe. 

The first change is the addition of a new section to the Highway Code that aims to clarify the hierarchy of road users.

The new Hierarchy of Road Users is:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcycles
  5. Cars and taxis
  6. Vans and minibuses
  7. LGVs


This new hierarchy aims to protect the more vulnerable road users and ensure they are kept safe while using the road. In essence, it’s the responsibility of those who have the capability of causing most harm to reduce the danger and look out for those who could be more at risk of injury from other road users. 

As a car driver, while you should always be aware of all road users – you should be prioritising pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and motorcycles to ensure you don’t pose a threat to them on the road.

Cyclists positions on the road

The next change to be aware of is regarding how cyclists should position themselves on the road to ensure maximum safety. To keep cyclists safe, there are a few situations where they should ride in the middle of the lane in order to be as visible as possible to other road users. These situations include:

  • On quiet roads or streets: However, cyclists should allow faster vehicles to overtake by moving to the left, if it is safe to do so
  • In slow traffic: Cyclists should be in the centre of the road until traffic starts moving more quickly, in which case they should move over to the left, when it is safe to do so, to let other vehicles overtake
  • At junctions and road narrowings: In these situations it’d be unsafe for drivers to overtake a cyclist, so cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane

Pedestrians crossing the road at junctions

This one is a rule for drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders, and cyclists to be aware of. When pedestrians are waiting to cross at a junction, drivers and motorcyclists should give way and allow pedestrians to cross, as long as it is safe to do so.

At a zebra crossing, drivers and motorcyclists should always give way to pedestrians, and horse riders should give way to pedestrians if they are safely able to. 

When using shared cycle tracks, cyclists should give way to pedestrians when possible, and cyclists should not use the pavement, as this is only for pedestrian use only.

Be aware of cyclists at junction

At a junction, drivers should treat cyclists as you would another driver. You wouldn’t turn across the path of another vehicle when turning in or out of a junction, and you also shouldn’t cut across any cyclists who are going ahead either.

You should take care not to act in a way that would cause a cyclist to need to swerve or stop. If a cyclist is moving off from a junction or cycling across one, you should stop and wait for an appropriate gap before you continue.

Overtaking other road users

When overtaking cyclists, horse riders, or pedestrians you should leave plenty of space around them. If you’re driving at 30mph or less, you should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking a cyclist. If you’re driving faster, you should leave extra space too.

When passing any horse riders, you should be driving 10mph or under and leave them at least 2 metres space to ensure maximum safety. If you encounter any pedestrians walking in the road, you should reduce your speed and leave at least 2 metres space again when passing them. 

Opening your car door

We’re sure everyone already knows how to open a car door, but did you know there’s a safer way to do it? The new recommendations in the Highway Code are to use a ‘Dutch Reach’ when you open your door. 

To put it simply, this means using your hand that’s furthest away from the door to open it. So if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat on the right hand side of your vehicle, use your left hand to reach across and open the door. By doing this, your body and head will naturally turn more and give you the chance to look over your shoulder and see if there are any incoming cyclists who could be at risk of injury from your door.

It’s essential you understand the rules of the road as set out in the Highway Code, as many of these are legal requirements. Failing to follow these rules could mean you are committing a criminal offence. 

You can explore the full Highway Code and all the new changes on the Government website

When you start learning to drive with Acclaim Motor School, you’ll also receive a free physical copy of the Highway Code so you can stay up-to-date and refer back to any sections you need.

> Get in touch with us today to book your driving lessons with Acclaim

Learner drivers and new drivers can enjoy the flexibility of paying for insurance by the mile and earn a £10 voucher* with Pay As You Go Insurance from Marmalade.
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