Highway Code changes, January 2022

Road traffic with cyclist

You may have seen some stories about Highway Code changes, most of which centred on a £1,000 fine for drivers who don’t open their car door using something known as the Dutch Reach. But, as so often with headlines, there’s a bit more to it than that.

The new guidance includes a hierarchy of road users – with drivers expected to be aware of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. Essentially, road users who can cause the greatest harm bear the greatest responsibility to reduce danger or threat to other road users.

Key points for drivers

People crossing at junctions

The updated code clarifies that when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way. If a pedestrian has started to cross and traffic wants to turn into the road, the person crossing has priority and the traffic should give way.


Guidance for safe passing distances has been updated. You should leave at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists travelling up to 30mph. You should leave more space for cyclists travelling faster than this).

You should leave at least 2m when passing people riding horses (or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10mph) or people walking in the road (where there’s no pavement).

You may cross a double white line to overtake other road users if it is safe to do so, but if it’s not possible to meet these clearances, you should wait and not overtake.

Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The Highway Code now recommends that anyone in a car should open a door using a technique known as the Dutch Reach. This involves using the hand on the opposite side to the door they’re opening, which will make them turn their head and be aware of any oncoming road users approaching. It’s a simple – and lifesaving – habit to get into.

There are also new rules related to charging EVs. You should park close to charge points and not trail cables so people could trip over them. You should display a warning sign if possible. Charging cables should be returned neatly.

Priority for cyclists at roundabouts

Drivers and motorcyclists must give priority at roundabouts to cyclists, those riding horses and horse-drawn vehicles. You shouldn’t attempt to overtake a cyclist on a roundabout and should allow them to move across your path as they navigate the roundabout.

Guidance for cyclists that drivers should be aware of

Drivers should also be aware that the code updates guidance for where cyclists should position themselves on the road (in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings or at least 0.5 metres away from the kerb on busy roads).

There is new advice about cycling at junctions. Some junctions now include small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic.

Where those cyclist-specific signals so not exist, bike users are advised to position themselves in the centre of their lane in order to make themselves as visible as possible and to avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous.

The updated code clarifies that when people cycling are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.

There were ten sections of The Highway Code updated, with 50 rules added or updated. You can read the specifics on the GOV.UK site.

So can you really be fined a grand for not opening your car door using the Dutch Reach? The truth is that the punishment for opening a car door in such a way as to cause injury already existed. The new rule recommends a safer way for drivers and passengers to open a doors, reducing the risk of injuring other road users and therefore, reducing the risk of fines being levied.

Cyclists Oxford High St shared on Flickr by Tejvan Pettinger
Creative commons licensed (CC BY 2.0)