Article By Fahema Begum

2022 Highway Code changes explained – cyclist, pedestrian and mobile phone rules updated


You may have heard the Highway Code has been updated for 2022 so it better reflects the latest mix of road users, and addresses confusion over phone-use laws. It’s worth apprising yourself of both the new and existing rules of road users. But while the changes are here to improve safety, if you’re not familiar with them, there’s every chance you could be caught out and handed a hefty fine or even worse, a fine AND points!

Don't worry we're not going to go into the whole Highway Code, but below we’ve detailed the 8 rule changes now in place and the penalties you might face for non-compliance, whether you’re a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian.

Happy (and safe) driving!

Here's a summary of the changes:

1. Pedestrians and cyclists have priority at junctions

2. Cyclists don’t have to keep left – or use lanes

3. Drivers must treat cyclists like motorists when joining roads

4. Zebra crossing pedestrians given more right of way

5. Box junctions, traffic light lines and give-way rules tightened up

6. Dutch Reach recommended for car users opening doors

7. Mobile phone use is banned - except in an emergency

8. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

1. Pedestrians and cyclists have priority at junctions

This change could very well catch out motorists, because it requires drivers to let pedestrians or cyclists (or horse riders) cross if they’re waiting at the roadside on a junction. Previously, motorists only had to give way in these circumstances if the pedestrian/cyclist was already crossing.

The rule change comes in a bid to reduce the chances of vulnerable road users from being clipped or hit by a car, placing the onus on the driver – ie. the person in the least vulnerable position – to prevent such incidents. This is likely to affect urban drivers most, because of the prevalence of jaywalking on city streets.

2.Cyclists don’t have to keep left – or use lanes

For motorists who drive in busy cities like London, this rule clarification probably won’t make much difference in practice. But for those in areas where cyclists are a less common sight, it might.

The 2022 Highway Code no longer asks for cyclists to stay on the left side of the road – or, indeed, to use any provided cycle lanes. Instead, cyclists are told to ride “no less than half a metre” from the kerb or verge.

This places a greater responsibility on motorists to overtake cyclists safely. The Code dictates drivers must pass cyclists with at least 1.5 metres of space up to 30mph, with a wider gap at higher speeds.

In practice, this will probably mean cars will need to pass a cyclist as if they were another car. Cyclists are however, asked to keep left in slow moving traffic or at busy junctions, to aid with overtaking in rush hours.

3. Drivers must treat cyclists like motorists when joining roads

Motorists weren’t previous required to wait for a gap between cyclists when joining a new road. And while in reality, nobody in their right mind is going to pull out of a side road onto a street if a train of cyclists is passing, the 2022 rules do now clarify the requirement to give bicycles way. 

As you would with passing cars, you’re required to wait for a gap in cyclists before joining a new road.

To ensure compliance of this updated rule, motorists who fail to give way could receive a £70 fine.

4. Zebra crossing pedestrians given more right of way

The 2022 changes have stated that pedestrians waiting to walk onto a zebra crossing have right of way, rather than just those already stepping onto it. We suspect few motorists will have to make a habit change with the alteration, because it’s commonplace for drivers to stop as soon as someone approaches a zebra crossing.

But for the few offenders – such as those who zoom past zebra crossings to avoid stopping – it makes the rules clear.

Not only will witnesses be able to report these rule breakers but dash-cam footage can also be used to prove that a motorist unsafely blasted over a zebra crossing where pedestrians were waiting. It’s a strong deterrent – and one that’ll be music to the ears of parents with young children who walk home from school.

5. Box junctions, traffic light lines and give-way rules tightened up

Motorists who enter a box junction when not turning right, cross the white line at a set of red traffic lights, or don’t give way to oncoming cars on a narrow road can now be penalised by the local council. 

Previously, these rules were only enforceable by the police. Now: Introduced from Spring 2022, local authorities more power has been granted to local authorities to help crack down on offenders. 

When the new rules for these misdemeanors come into force this spring, even motorists who creep over the white line into the box ahead for cyclists at a traffic light can be penalised. 

Motorists can be fined £70 or more for the offences, this also includes making U-turns in areas where they’re not permitted.

6. Dutch Reach recommended for car users opening doors

Before you could exit your vehicle any way you’d like, taking care to check mirrors and check over your shoulder for any oncoming traffic.

The Dutch Reach – asks motorists or passengers to use their arm furthest from the door when pulling the handle to get out. This forces them to rotate their torso, thereby increasing the chances of them seeing an approaching cyclist.

While you’re not required to use the Dutch Reach technique when getting out of a car, it’s recommended, because you’re liable if a cyclist hits your door. Always look back to avoid causing harm.

7. Mobile phone use is banned - except in an emergency

Many of us will have assumed this one to have already been in force. The laws didn’t reflect that smartphones can now be used for far more than just making calls, so the Highway Code restrictions have been tightened so they include the use of music apps, taking videos or photos. You can’t even use the phone while the car is stationary.

However phones can still be used for hands-free calls via your car’s Bluetooth or wired connection, as well as satellite navigation.

But in all cases, the phone will need to be secured in place, rather than in your hands or lap. Break the rules and you could be handed a £200 fine and six penalty points.

If the case is deemed serious enough to go to court, you could be handed a maximum £1,000 fine and be disqualified from driving.

8. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

The code is updated to clarify that people driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. The new guidance will say people driving and or riding a motorcycle should:

  • not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
  • allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout

The code already explains that people cycling, riding a horse, and driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.

Guidance is added to explain that people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across people cycling, riding a horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.

Commenting on the changes, Jason Wakeford, Head of Campaigns at Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Brake welcomes the changes to the Highway Code.

“The introduction of a road user hierarchy is so important for road safety. It means it is clear that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they pose to more vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

“We urge all road users, particularly drivers, to look at the updated Highway Code, learn about the changes, and do their bit to put safety first.”

For further guidance on the Highway Code, road safety and vehicle rules