A beginner’s guide to vulnerable road users pt 1

Male motorcyclist focuses through open visor of helmet.

Published 2 December 2021
Last updated 2 December 2021

In this post, we’re going to take a look at two groups of vulnerable road users – pedestrians and motorcyclists. But just what is a vulnerable road user? And why is it important that you learn about them?

Vulnerable road users – a definition

Vulnerable road users (VRUs) are people who require extra care. Motorcyclists, horse riders, pedestrians and cyclists all fall into this group and are easily identifiable. However, age, health and experience also affects how vulnerable people are, and this can extend to drivers of vehicles too.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists

So let’s imagine you’re driving into your local town to go shopping. On the way you have to cope with pedestrians and motorcyclists alongside the usual cars, vans, buses and lorries. What should you be thinking about when you see them?

Pedestrians...

  • Keep your speed down. This will make it easier for you to stop if you need to (NOTE – this is a pretty good advice in most driving situations. Excessive speed means you have less time to make critical decisions and less chance of reacting safely to hazards!)
  • When you’re turning at road junctions you should give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross the road into which or from which you are turning
  • Give pedestrians space and allow plenty of time for them to cross the road – particularly if they are elderly or disabled
  • Don’t make assumptions about where they are going. Some pedestrians may step into the road unexpectedly, so look for any signs they might walk out in front of you, and be ready to respond
  • Stop at zebra crossings if pedestrians are ready to cross. Don’t assume that you have the time, space or right to keep going as it could have disastrous consequences
  • Obey the lollipop man/lady! Their signs are not just for show...in fact, drivers MUST stop whenever the school crossing sign is displayed by an authorised person. So go slow, keep scanning for hazards and stop when directed to do so.

Motorcyclists…

  • Motorcyclists can be difficult to spot against a background of moving traffic. Keep scanning for hazards and only commit to a manoeuvre if you are sure that it’s safe
  • If you’re waiting at a junction and you see a motorcyclist coming towards you on the road you are trying to join, remember that judging their speed can be difficult. Motorcyclists are often moving more quickly than you think, so if you have any doubts at all, do not pull out in front of them.
  • Whenever you’re about to move off or make a turn, check, check and check again. Motorcyclists can occupy blind spots in your mirrors and they can also be hidden by other traffic
  • In slow-moving traffic, motorcyclists sometimes ‘filter’ between lanes. This often happens when congested traffic is moving at low-speeds . Filtering is not illegal as long as it’s done with due care and attention. However, it does mean that changing lane without proper care can have dangerous consequences. Again, the advice is to stay vigilant and keep checking the mirrors for riders filtering between lanes.
  • Spilt fuel and oil on the road can make it very slippery. This can cause motorcyclists to lose control of their bikes. Check your vehicle has no oil leaks and make sure that you fuel cap is fitted securely.

End of the road

Next time we’ll look at cyclists and horse riders, but if you can’t wait until part 2, head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and browse the official DVSA range of titles. They’re packed full of top tips and advice designed to help you get the most from every stage of your driving life.


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