UK gets new highway code, and misinformation flows

Controversy has erupted in the UK over the introduction of a new highway code. You would think it must be wildly radical, but no: mildly sensible is more like it.

But because it makes clear bike riders have rights to the road, and drivers have obligation to ensure roads are safe, the nuts holding the wheel have been barking at the moon.

Some of it is pretty simple and obvious: there is a recommendation to open the door of a parked car with the left hand (if driving) so you are more likely to see motorcycles or bicycles coming from behind. This is known as a 'Dutch Reach'.

Drivers are now to give priority to bicycles in roundabouts and not cut them off. A good change and Australian authorities are considering similar roundabout rule improvements.

Some changes, such as giving bicycles priority at intersections over traffic turning in or out of the intersection, have fully or partly been law in other countries, and are overdue in the UK.

For the first time bicycles can pass slow moving and stationary traffic on the left, something that Australian riders would be very familiar with and grateful for on the regular trips.

Riders are recommended to pass parked cars a metre or so out from the door, something that is universally recommended around the world.

The changes confirm that rider can ride two abreast, something that surprises drivers everywhere. This is not new in the UK, but rage erupted.

It has been clarified that on narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic, people may sometimes ride in the centre of the lane, rather than towards the side of the road.

There are some new obligations on riders too. Riders should not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind. And while people riding a bike, a horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in these spaces, people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.

Significantly, drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross. The old rule specified that you only had to give way to people already crossing an intersection.

The new Code is here

Meanwhile in the USA, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced the nation will adopt Safe Systems as the basis of its road safety strategy

Safe Systems (also known as Vision Zero) is already in place across Australia and has already had a positive impact, though governments' reluctance to tackle high speeds has held process back.

The US death and serious injury toll among bike riders is horrendous, and the new policy has been acclaimed for its attention to vulnerable road users and focus on slowing speeds.

“Today we commit that our goal is this: zero,” Buttigieg said at the launch event for the new strategy.

“I understand the scale of the challenge and the ambition represented by that goal. And I understand that we may not get there during my tenure as Secretary.

"But the decision — to commit to that goal in a serious way, at a national level — changes the way cities and towns design roads, it changes the ways companies build cars, and it changes the way people drive them.”

The new strategy is here

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

Become our friend

Find out more about Bicycle Network and support us in making it easier for people to ride bikes.

Become our friend - Footer