Vulnerable road users and drivers

Lesson Type
Last updated: 30 Sep 2020

There are different types of vulnerable road users and, as your instructor will stress in your driving lessons, it’s important to remember to be courteous and patient around them. Read our guide to find out how everyone can share our roads safely.

Pedestrians – average speed 3.1 mph

Always remember that pedestrians are vulnerable road users and should be treated with respect. Always be patient and wait for pedestrians to cross the road when they are in front of you. Never honk your horn angrily or pressure someone to cross the road.

Horses and horse riders – average speed 5 mph

Horses and horse riders are vulnerable road users. Horses can be nervous animals, so never honk your horn or rev your engine loudly from behind. You might startle the horse and anyone riding it could be thrown off. Always slow down and pass a horse when there is plenty of room to give it a wide berth — roughly the same as you’d give to a car. Riders generally keep to the edge of a country road so that cars can overtake, but watch out for any hand signals in case they plan to change direction.

Cyclists – average speed 15 mph

Due to the rising costs of petrol, there are more and more cyclists on the road these days. Because many ride in traffic wearing high—vis clothing and helmets, drivers sometimes forget that cyclists are vulnerable road users, but a collision with a cyclist could be fatal. Keep an eye out for hand gestures that indicate when a cyclist wants to change direction, and be sure to use your indicators to let a cyclist know where you intend to go.

Always give a cyclist plenty of room and never follow them too closely. Always leave enough room between your vehicle and the curb at junctions, because often thin cycle lanes are painted next to the curb to guide a cyclist into a bike box. Remember that cyclists never cycle in a straight line and can be affected by a strong wind.

Once you’ve parked on the side of the road, check your mirrors to make sure that you don’t hit a cyclist once you open the door. It’s also illegal to park in a cycle lane; doing so forces a cyclist to swerve into the road.

Children – average speed varies

We’re giving children their own category because they often misjudge a driver’s speed and intentions, making them very vulnerable road users. The general rule is to slow down and proceed with caution whenever there are children present.

In quiet residential roads children might play games in the street or run out from between parked cars. Toys such as balls or Frisbees might also fly into the road from a front garden, and this might tempt a child to fetch it.

Another important vulnerable road user to watch out for is a Lollipop Lady. They are the first to walk into the road on school mornings to ensure that pupils can get to school safely. Never park on a zigzag line in front of a school.

Motorcyclists – average speed varies

Motorcycles and more recently eScooters, although faster than other vulnerable road users, could still be badly injured if they collide with your vehicle. Motorcyclists have a habit of zipping through heavy traffic, so it’s important to look out for them when you’re about to drive ahead. You should also look out for them before turning into a side road – always check your mirrors. Share your motoring tales in the comments below, or via our Twitter and Facebook.