On 3rd September 1967, traffic in Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right overnight. That was a pretty fundamental change and was, by all accounts, accomplished with relatively little difficulty.
Saturday 29th January 2022 saw subtle, but important changes to the Highway Code introduced in England, Wales and Scotland which affect all road users -- pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists and drivers alike -- which are intended to change the relationship between us. As we know, failing to comply with the requirements of the Highway Code can be used in court proceedings as evidence of fault so it is important that everyone is aware of these changes.
New to the Highway Code is the Hierarchy of Road Users, which puts those most at risk from collision at the top of the order of priority and places the responsibility on those most likely to cause harm in that situation -- usually vehicle drivers and riders. So, at junctions, those using vehicles (including cyclists) should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road whether that is the road they are on or the road they are turning into. Cyclists also have priority on roundabouts.
At zebra crossings, vehicle users and horse riders should give way to allow waiting pedestrians to cross and whilst only pedestrians may use the pavement, they can, under the revised Code, use any part of the road and use cycle tracks unless there are signs to prohibit them from doing so.
Drivers and motorcyclists should also give way to cyclists when turning into a junction so that a cyclist carrying straight on has priority across the mouth of the junction.
Cyclists are now subject to a new Rule 72 which suggests that they should adopt a position in the centre of the lane of the road on which they are cycling but moving in to the left, as necessary, but on busy roads with faster-moving traffic, cyclists should keep left maintaining a ½ metre distance from the road edge.
Overtaking gets a mention in the changes to Rule 163 which give advice for all road users when overtaking -- indicating distances that should be allowed -- 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists and 2 metres when overtaking horses or pedestrians walking in the road.
The vulnerability of children, older adults and disabled people is emphasised in Rule 204.
Then comes a novelty in Rule 239, which suggests that drivers should use the "Dutch reach" method of opening your car door -- using your left hand rather than your right to push open the driver's door. The idea is to reduce how much the door opens initially and the action causes the driver to look over the right shoulder so as to be able to see overtaking vehicles and cycles more easily and protect them against doors swinging open without warning.
So, whilst we may not be doing anything as radical as the Swedes, we should all be trying to go Dutch it seems!
A detailed table showing the many changes can be found here:
and a summary of the changes can be found here: