Who Has Priority on the Road? 2022’s New Highway Code Rules Explained

The Highway Code is a set of rules that all drivers in the UK are required to follow. On 29 January 2022, a number of new rules were added to the code, many with the aim of making the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at some of the most important changes to the code, and explain what they mean for drivers.

Before you start driving, it is important that you have a clear understanding of your responsibilities and the expected behaviour of other road users. The Highway Code is essential reading for drivers, and failure to follow it could result in points on your license, a fine, or even imprisonment in serious cases.

What are the new highway code changes?

2022’s new Highway Code rule changes put a general emphasis on driver responsibility and where pedestrians and cyclists take priority, but the full list of changes covers broader topics as well. Some of the most important changes include the following:

Who has priority at roundabouts?

The revised regulation now states that drivers should give cyclists precedence on roundabouts, and should avoid cutting across the paths of cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles. These changes are intended to prevent accidents between large vehicles and cyclists, which can often be fatal.

Under the new Rule 186, drivers should: “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.”

Drivers should allow cyclists to pass before entering or leaving a roundabout.


Additionally, drivers are advised to watch out for:

New rules for overtaking

Under the previous version of the Highway Code, drivers were advised to overtake cyclists ‘only when it is safe to do so’. This has now been replaced with a more specific instruction, which states that drivers should take the following precautions when overtaking:

Cyclists riding in groups are also advised to provide the opportunity for cars to overtake, though only if it is safe to do so.

london city

Hierarchy of road users

Rule H1 of the Highway Code introduces the “Hierarchy of road users”, which outlines the priority of different types of road users.

The rule’s wording is as follows: “…those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.”

The order from most to least vulnerable in an accident:

Under the new priority rules, large vehicles have the most responsibility when it comes to ensuring the safety of other road users. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and horse riders are often classed as ‘vulnerable road users’, and drivers must take extra care when passing them.

Additional emphasis is placed on preventing harm to pedestrians who are “children, older adults and disabled people”, as they are even more at risk than others.

What does ‘give way’ mean?

The term ‘give way’ means to allow other road users to pass if necessary. When drivers see the ‘give way’ sign, marked by an inverted triangle, it indicates that oncoming traffic has priority, and that they must allow them to pass before continuing.

Give way sign in focus

Who has the right of way?

The Highway Code is clear that pedestrians always have the right of way. If a pedestrian steps out into the road, even if they are not at a designated crossing, drivers must stop and allow them to cross.

Generally speaking, pedestrians also take priority over cyclists. If you are cycling on shared use cycle tracks, you must give way to any pedestrians.

Pedestrians using a parallel crossing have priority over drivers and cyclists, so you must wait for them to cross before continuing. The same goes for pedestrians crossing a zebra crossing, except the code now extends even to pedestrians waiting to cross.

Guidance on exiting your vehicle

Along with changes to positioning and priority, the new highway code changes have introduced several new rules for drivers.

One of the new recommendations is to use the “Dutch Reach”, a common manoeuvre used in the Netherlands and other European countries which helps to avoid accidents where doors are opened onto the path of cyclists, motorcycles, and pedestrians.

The Dutch Reach is a way of opening your car door using the hand farthest from the door (typically your left hand). This forces you to twist your body and look over your shoulder, which gives you a better view of oncoming traffic.

Other rules

The new updates to the highway code also cover several other rules for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.

Cyclists and horse riders on shared routes should be cautious when passing pedestrians, and should always try to give way. Though rarely enforced, it is illegal for cyclists to ride on the pavement unless it is a designated cycle route.

Cyclists and horse riders should be considerate of pedestrians when passing them, especially if there is not enough room for them to pass without getting too close. The Highway Code now recommends that cyclists “slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)”.

Electric vehicles

Finally, the new code includes guidance for owners of electronic vehicles, which were previously not mentioned.

Those charging their vehicles at an electric vehicle charge point should avoid leaving cables across walkways, where they could present a trip hazard.

Charging points should be positioned neatly in a way that does not obstruct pedestrians or other road users.

A full list of amendments to the Highway Code is available at: