New Highway Code rules change who has priority at roundabouts

Three new updates to the Highway Code will be coming into force this year.

One of the revisions is to introduce a road user hierarchy, which will give road users who have the potential to cause greater harm – such as drivers of passenger vehicles and cars – more responsibility to protect those around them.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said the new measures will be implemented from 29 January.

Here, The Independent takes a look at the changes coming into force in England, Scotland and Wales.

Hierarchy of Road Users

The government will rank road users to ensure those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.

According to the DfT, the objective of this new measure is not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but rather to encourage a more “mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”

The hierarchy is of particular concern to drivers of passenger vehicles and large goods, closely followed by vans and minibuses, then cars, taxis and motorcycles.

Cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles will similarly be obliged to reduce danger to pedestrians.

The new Highway Code text includes a warning to always remember that “the people you encounter may have impaired sight, hearing or mobility, and may not be able to see or hear you.” It adds: “None of this detracts from the responsibility of all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety.”

Rule for drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists

The second alteration to the Highway Code has been devised to create more obvious priorities for pedestrians, particularly at junctions, and clarify where they have right of way over other road users.

Drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which they are turning. The same will go for zebra crossings, and pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.

Pedestrians will always have priority when on a zebra crossing, on a parallel crossing or at light controlled crossings when they have a green signal.

In addition, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.

Rule for drivers and motorcyclists

A new requirement will be placed on drivers to give priority and not cut across to cyclists when they are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane.

The new rule also applies if the cyclists are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road.

Drivers must also not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve.

According to the DfT, drivers “should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if needed.”

The new rule reads: “This includes when cyclists are:

  • approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
  • moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
  • travelling around a roundabout”


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