• Ultimate Guide for Sharing the Road Safely With Cyclists, and Pedestrians (UK, USA in 2023)

    Ultimate Guide for Sharing the Road Safely With Cyclists, and Pedestrians (UK, USA in 2023)

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    Ultimate Guide for Sharing the Road Safely With Cyclists, and Pedestrians (UK, USA in 2023)

Ultimate Guide for Sharing the Road Safely With Cyclists, and Pedestrians (UK, USA in 2023)

Are you in the US or the UK and want to avoid a car accident? Maybe you already crashed and want to know your rights. Being able to share the road and travel safely to avoid others on foot or cycling in a considerate manner is one of the most important parts of being a driver. The dangers of biking, potholes, and what to expect when you are a tourist can be a life or death matter. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other, whether that’s checking for motorbikes in cities or horses on country lanes. 

Unlike the UK, we Americans don’t have a “Highway Code,” as each state is sovereign. For example, in California, the law is that cars stay at least three feet away from bicycle riders. And bicyclists are not allowed to ride in the opposite direction of traffic either. Making left turns seems especially problematic with UK islanders and California travelers. Both jurisdictions rely on Vision Zero as a basis. (see below.)

To an extent, even local cities can and unincorporated areas can set their own vehicle codes in many US states. I am Los Angeles car accident attorney Michael Ehline. I owned a limousine transportation company and construction company before becoming a lawyer in Texas and California. In California, we assume we have to yield to pedestrians, even on a private road. But in New York, people may think differently or be unaware of new hazards or regulations. [Sometimes drivers may have the right of way, such as when turning at an intersection with a green signal or when pedestrians are jaywalking or crossing outside of a marked crosswalk. But these situations require drivers to exercise reasonable care and avoid hitting pedestrians.]

Road hazards may also be treated differently, as may be driving in bad weather or crossing an intersection. Set in their ways, older adults may want to consider a guided tour or Uber rather than bravely learning all the nuances. Above all, we must be extra cautious in new territories when interacting with motorists in the presence of a new territory.

I have logged millions of miles and thousands of hours traveling United States roads privately and commercially. I also used to live in the United Kingdom for a spell. I can tell you right now roundabouts and driving on the wrong side of the foggy and slippery road is not all tourists need to worry about as an American. You must be patient and talk about things beforehand to avoid a bad collision. And UK drivers may be confused about the difference in left-hand turn regulations in Nevada as opposed to California, as opposed to crazy Downtown Los Angeles one-way streets!

In the UK, it appears that every driver is taught about The Highway Code when undergoing their initial driving lessons taken prior to the license examination. There is quite a bit to remember in the UK rules. Each new driver faces stricter laws and a push for 15-minute cities where having a car is for the elites alone. Even with all the right papers, it can be difficult to remember everything everyone must navigate.  

The Highway Code updates frequently. This guide will help you understand the changes that have occurred recently and what you should be doing while driving in these US and Commonwealth systems.

UK Highway Code Compared to US Vehicle Codes?

The UK Highway and California Vehicle Code are two sets of rules and regulations that govern road safety and traffic laws in their respective regions and jurisdictions.

Here are some key differences to consider between the two:

  1. Jurisdiction: The UK Highway Code applies to the United Kingdom, while the California Vehicle Code applies to the state of California in the United States. Pedestrians and bicyclists in other states will have different regulations to deal with when facing traffic crashes and motor vehicles.
  2. Content: The UK Highway Code contains guidance on general road safety, including advice for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. It also includes rules and regulations for driving in specific situations, such as in adverse weather conditions or when driving on motorways. The California Vehicle Code, on the other hand, is a much more comprehensive legal document that covers all aspects of vehicle operation, including registration, licensing, and liability. It also includes rules for commercial drivers, motorcyclists, and other types of vehicles like ATVs or electric bikes, for example.
  3. Structure: The UK Highway Code is structured as a set of guidelines and recommendations, whereas the California Vehicle Code is structured as a legal document that outlines specific laws and penalties.
  4. Enforcement: Similar to US states, violations of the UK Highway Code are not usually subject to criminal penalties. But failure to follow its guidance may be taken into account in civil cases, such as forfeiture of your license to drive. Violations of the California Vehicle Code can result in quasi-criminal fines, as well as points on a driver’s license, and even imprisonment in certain cases involving extreme recklessness and bodily harm.
  5. International Recognition: The UK Highway Code is recognized as a model for road safety guidance in many countries around the world. At the same time, the California Vehicle Code is specific to California and may not be recognized or enforceable outside of the state. Whether or not points can be passed from the UK to a US state, or in reverse, is a hot question in many US courts.

Overall, while the UK Highway Code and the California Vehicle Code are designed to promote road safety, they differ in scope, structure, and enforcement.

  • The UK’s Highway Code is a set of regulations that help people navigate the country’s roads. The Department of Transport created it to ensure everyone using the roads follows the rules.

Although it’s unnecessary to have a copy of the Highway Code in your glove box, it’s still important that everyone reads the traffic laws and is clear on its key components concerning traffic signals, stop signs, and the right of way. Even a bike lane may be treated differently in Los Angeles, California, then in Motherwell, Scotland. Doing some initial research will also help you better understand pedestrian safety.

Pedestrian Crossing?

For example, a pedestrian crossing a street may not always have the right of way against oncoming traffic. Understanding traffic safety from the local perspective will help ensure everyone follows the rules and drives safely. Me, I never rely on traffic signs. Aggressive driving and people driving above the posted speed limit are among the most common factors in pedestrian fatalities. And for you bicyclists. Don’t presume a bicycle helmet will keep you safe on an icy road in London.

What Changes have been made to the UK Highway Code? 

On January 29, 2022, the government updated the Highway Code, following a public consultation done in 2020 of 20,000 participants about how they use the road. In 2021, a review was carried out to make sure that the safety of people riding horses, walking, and cycling was improved.

The Highway Code has been updated to make navigating easier for road users.

There have been eight main updates covering various categories.

  1. A hierarchy has been established to prioritize road users.
  2. It is the responsibility of all road users to cross the road at the designated intersections.
  3. There are various shared spaces on the road, and they should be used safely. For instance, cyclists should not overtake horses.
  4. It is also the responsibility of cyclists to position themselves properly at the intersections.
  5. While riding or driving, it is also the responsibility of drivers to maintain a safe distance from other roadway users when they change lanes, deal with red lights, make a left turn, etc.
  6. Cycling at junctions and right-of-way rules
  7. Cyclists, as well as those who use horse-drawn vehicles, should be careful around roundabouts.

Why are the Updated Highway Code Rules So Important? 

New rules are being introduced to try and improve the road safety of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. These rules are also partnered with local initiatives, including London’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan. The Mayor of London has pledged to make sure that by 2030, the number of fatalities related to London buses will be reduced.

He is working with partners to improve junction design, lower speed limits, and create safer streets. The Highway Code is also being aligned with other initiatives to make sure that all Londoners have a better experience.

Yes, California’s Vision Zero initiative and the UK’s Vision Zero program share similar goals of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries on their respective roadways. Both initiatives aim to create safer roads through a combination of education, engineering, and enforcement strategies.

Compare and Contrast California Vision Zero Responsibilities

Vision Zero remains a statewide effort in California that involves collaboration between state agencies, local governments, and community organizations. It focuses on improving road design, reducing speeds, increasing pedestrian and cyclist safety, and promoting safe driving behaviors. The initiative also includes data analysis and public engagement to identify and prioritize high-risk areas and populations.

Similarly, the UK’s Vision Zero program is a national effort with the intention to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on its roadways by 2040. The program focuses on safer road design, reducing vehicle speeds, promoting active transportation, improving public transportation along narrow roads, etc. It also includes measures to improve road user behavior, such as increased enforcement of traffic laws and educational campaigns to promote safe driving and crash avoidance.

Overall, California’s Vision Zero initiative and the UK’s Vision Zero program are committed to reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries and creating safer roadways for all users with lower police involvement.

What happens if you don’t follow the new rules regarding collisions? 

There are stiff penalties to pay for breaking the rules. Apart from putting road users at risk, you could also face various penalties, such as points on your driving license and a penalty fine. In severe cases, a person could be sent to prison. For instance, if you are caught driving carelessly or inconsiderately, you could be given an unlimited fine or disqualified from driving. On the other hand, if you are caught driving dangerously, you could be sentenced to prison for two years.

This guide will teach you the ins and outs of interacting with different groups on the road, such as pedestrians, horses, and cyclists. It will also cover the recent changes affecting these individuals so that you can be safe and legal on the road.

Hierarchy of Road Users Generally

The Highway Code has a new term called the hierarchy of road users. It aims to prioritize the most vulnerable individuals in the event of an accident. This includes pedestrians, as well as people with disabilities and children moving from destination to destination.

The full UK hierarchy is as follows: 

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists 
  3. Horse riders 
  4. Motorcyclists 
  5. Cars 
  6. Vans/minibuses 
  7. Large passenger or courier vehicles like buses and HGVs 

This hierarchy doesn’t mean that people can disregard the rules of the road or behave irresponsibly. It’s designed to prevent accidents from happening as a result of confusion regarding who has priority. The three H rules are part of this system.

UK Rule H1 

Although everyone is responsible for their actions on the road, drivers are the ones who have the most responsibility. They should take extra care and avoid driving in a manner that could endanger others.

When it comes to moving pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and horse-drawn vehicle operators need to take the necessary care.

This rule aims to educate road users about the various disabilities that can affect people. It also encourages them to be aware of the fact that some of these can be easily visible, such as the appearance of a deaf person. Everyone must ensure that they are following the rules of the road and are not basing their decisions on the actions of others. Having the proper awareness of other road users can help reduce the likelihood of getting hit by a car.

UK Rule H2 

An accident can happen when cyclists, pedestrians, or drivers enter an intersection or turn left or right. There are a lot of things to check when it comes to navigating through traffic, especially when you’re behind the wheel.

This rule applies to all drivers trying to cross the road while following a pedestrian using a parallel or zebra crossing. The pedestrian should have started to cross even if they were already waiting. If they have already stepped out onto the road, you must stop and allow them to cross.

UK Rule H3 

This rule applies to both motorcyclists and drivers. They should not cut across the road when changing lanes or merging onto a road. Also, when approaching a cyclist, avoid accelerating and turning in front of them. Doing so could cause them to brake dangerously and lead to an accident.

This is very important when it comes to horse riding as not only can you hit the rider, but the animal could also throw the person off.

Drivers and cyclists

Unless they drive on the motorway, drivers often share the road with cyclists. There are plenty of occasions where bikes and cars come together on city streets, country roads, or commuters’ trips.

It can be hard for drivers in the UK to overtake cyclists on certain roads. Only certain areas have dedicated bike lanes, which means that the responsibility for safely navigating the road belongs to both the driver and the cyclist. Being stuck behind a bike can be frustrating, but remaining calm is important.

According to the latest government statistics, over 140 cyclists died on British roads in 2020. This figure is a rise from the previous years, as the number of people cycling has increased due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Also, 4,215 individuals were seriously injured in road accidents. It shows that paying attention to the road is very important to avoid accidents.

The new UK rules 

The Highway Code has been updated to help reduce the number of accidents involving vulnerable road users, such as cyclists.

In particular, drivers should pay attention to the following changes: 

  1. Road positioning. Cyclists on quiet roads should now ride in the center of the lanes instead of over to one side. In addition, groups of riders are permitted to ride side-by-side. Cyclists should always move over to allow cars to overtake them. Also, drivers should refrain from pushing them to move over and wait until they are ready to do so.
  2. Overtaking. Determining when it’s safe to overtake a cyclist can be hard. New rules allow drivers to cross a double white line if the cyclist is going below 10 miles per hour. However, you must stay safe and avoid endangering other road users. When overtaking, you should leave at least 1.5 meters between yourself and the bike. If you’re driving over 30 MPH, you should also leave more room.
  3. Cycling at junctions. Some areas have created separate traffic lights for cyclists that are designed to help them move ahead of cars. The lights are at eye level and have a bike symbol to help prevent confusion. This will hopefully reduce the risk of getting hit by cars at certain intersections.

These lights are not designed to automatically switch on when a cyclist approaches a junction. They should be used to guide them to the center of the road, and drivers should refrain from overtaking them. Also, when going straight across a junction, cyclists should let vehicles exiting a side road pass before proceeding.

What can drivers do to be considerate in watching for cyclists?

Motorists play a vital role in maintaining a safe environment for cyclists on the road. In addition to following safely behind bikes, drivers should take extra care when exiting a parking space or turning left. They should also use their indicators correctly to help the cyclist see where they are going.

If you have to change your signal, assuming that the cyclist doesn’t see your new direction unless you make eye contact is important. Some other things you can do while stationary include avoiding parking in bike lanes or in areas that are not designed for cars.

When traveling at high speed, this can cause a cyclist to move into the middle of the road. This can be particularly challenging for those who use their feet to hold the pedal, as it can take them a while to do so safely.

When opening the car’s door, drivers should ask their passengers to check it. They should also refrain from leaving it open for a long time on quiet residential roads.

Driver and pedestrians incidents

According to the government, pedestrians are more prone to accidents than car drivers. In 2020, over 350 individuals were killed in Britain when cars hit them. Around 68% of these deaths were caused by a collision with a vehicle.

An accident can happen in different places on the road. The most common cause of these accidents is the failure of a car driver to pay attention. In other cases, the pedestrian’s poor behavior causes the accident. By all taking responsibility and following the rules of the road, we can hopefully reduce the number of fatalities among all road users.

The new UK rules 

The new rules clearly state that pedestrians are the priority when crossing the road. Cars should give way to those waiting to cross regardless of whether or not there is a designated zebra crossing.

It’s important for cars to stop and allow people to cross the road when they’ve started to do so. Also, it’s always a good idea to stop at all the parallel and zebra crossings so that pedestrians can cross without having to wait for the traffic to move over.

What can autoists do to look for pedestrians? 

In The Highway Code, pedestrian safety has always been a priority. As a driver, it’s important that you pay attention to the signs and keep an eye out for pedestrians who may suddenly appear in front of parked cars and ice cream vans. While the service window of most ice cream vans is usually opened to the right, kids can easily get excited and run out into the road.

When it comes to pedestrian safety, the Highway Code states that it’s important for drivers to use the Dutch Reach technique when exiting vehicles. This involves using their left hand to nudge the car’s door open while looking behind them.

When you see a group of people walking in the road, especially in a country lane, please slow down and pass them wide and gradually. Also, don’t assume that they can step onto the verge to cross the road.

Drivers Spooking horse riders?

Although not as common as cyclists, horses are still commonly seen on UK roads. Being mindful and safe behind the wheel can help reduce the risk of getting spooked and causing harm to both the horse and the rider.

Many riders wear reflective vests, and their wraps may say, “please pass slowly and wide” or “move over.” These are all designed to remind drivers to avoid squeezing the animals into the road or making excessive noise when passing.

Even though they have adequate exposure and training, horses can still be spooked. This is why it’s important that the owners take the necessary steps to make sure that they’re calm before they’re allowed to ride on the road.

The new UK rules 

When overtaking a horse-drawn vehicle, drivers should leave at least two meters between them and the vehicle. They should also pass at a speed of less than 10 MPH. People with horses are allowed to stay in the left lane of the roundabout even if they intend to go around it. To avoid getting cut off, drivers should wait until the rider signals before proceeding.

What can drivers do to aid horse riders? 

Slow down when you see a horse and stay as far behind the animal as possible. If possible, wait for its rider to signal you so you can see if they’ve seen you or heard them. It’s usually easier for electric vehicle drivers to hear or sense traffic than it is for humans.

It’s important to be aware of any changes that may happen at the last minute due to the unpredictable behavior of horses. If you see a horse, keep moving slowly and wait for its rider to signal you so you can safely leave the area. Some riders avoid saying thank you or giving you a signal because they’re focused on controlling their horse. If you see another vehicle driving fast, signal it to stop.

If you’re planning on overtaking, wait until the road widens before doing so.

What if a car accident happens?

Even experienced drivers can get into accidents. There are always risks involved when it comes to road travel. For instance, a cyclist might hit an unexpected obstacle, while a pedestrian might accidentally step into the road. Following proper procedures and helping those involved in an accident can help you get back on the road quickly.

Before you make an insurance claim, ensure you have all the details about the other driver involved in the accident. For instance, the registration number, the driver’s name, and the incident’s dates and times should be noted.

Getting the proper insurance coverage can help protect you in the event that you get into an accident. Ensure all your paperwork is in a safe place so the insurance company can easily access it. You’ll also need to report the incident to the company.

Taking photos can also help support your claim. Your insurance company can also help you with the next steps following the accident. Follow their instructions to avoid negatively affecting the other claims. Above all, patience is key when driving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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