Vulnerable Road Users

Some vehicles and people on the roads are highly susceptible to crashes, injuries and fatalities. Called vulnerable road users, they include motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, and they are most at-risk since they lack a protective shield. When driving your car or truck, be extra cautious around vulnerable road users.

Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users 

  • A motorcycle’s narrow profile can hide in a car’s blind spots or be masked by outside objects such as bushes, fences or bridges. Take an extra moment to look for motorcycles when changing lanes or turning at intersections. 
  • When pulling into traffic, or in or out of driveways, note that motorcycles may look farther away than they are, and it may be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed.
  • While stopping distance for motorcycles is the same as for cars, slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Additionally, motorcyclists often slow down by downshifting or coasting, so brake lights aren’t always activated when motorcycles stop. Therefore, motorists should always allow extra following distance behind motorcycles. 
  • Note that a motorcycle’s turn signals aren’t always self-canceling. Some riders, especially beginners, forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. 
  • Motorcyclists adjust lane position within a lane for visibility and to minimize the effects of debris, passing vehicles, and wind, not to be reckless or show off, or to allow cars to share the lane with them.
Scooter rider with safety gear

Bicyclists are vulnerable road users 

  • Motor vehicles should approach and pass bicyclists at a slow speed and with a gap of at least three feet, required by Virginia law. Motorists may legally cross the double yellow line to safely pass a cyclist, as long as the oncoming lane is clear. Motorists should not honk, yell out to, or crowd bicyclists.
  • Bike lanes separate bicyclists from other traffic. Bike lanes may be marked by signs, white lines and symbols applied to the pavement. Motorists should never park in a bike lane, and should not drive in a bike lane except when turning right. Before crossing a bike lane to turn, motorists are encouraged to scan for bicyclists to the right and rear, use a turn signal, scan again for bicyclists, and then merge into the bike lane for the turn.
  • Avoid “dooring” bicyclists. Motorists must ensure their door will not obstruct the path of a passing bicyclist. Virginia law levies a fine on drivers convicted of opening a vehicle door on the side of passing traffic without confirming that it was “reasonably safe to do so.”
  • To minimize the chance of “dooring” or being hit by oncoming traffic, a driver can use his or her ‘far hand’ to open the car door, which pivots the body to look at the side mirror and toward the back of the car for bikes and traffic.

Pedestrians are vulnerable road users 

  • Many pedestrian-motorist crashes occur when the pedestrian is crossing the road, either mid-block or at intersections. Motorists must yield to pedestrians at intersections and in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked. 

  • Drivers are required to come to a full stop for a pedestrian using a cane or guide dog, as this indicates blindness or vision impairment. 

  • When drivers are turning left or right, they must yield to pedestrians crossing the intersection and allow pedestrians time to cross safely. Motorists should avoid turning left in front of a crossing pedestrian. Motorists turning right on red should remember to look right for pedestrians and bicyclists before turning.  

  • When approaching red lights and stop signs, motorists need to observe stop lines on the pavement and not encroach on crosswalks. Drivers should not idle in the pedestrian crosswalk while waiting to proceed. 

  • Motorists should avoid passing other stopped vehicles. The vehicles may be stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicyclist to cross the road.
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