You will all be familiar with the hierarchy of road users set out in the Highway Code.  

Image Source - Department of Transport

The hierarchy was updated in 2022 to reflect that road users who do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.   In a recent Court of Session decision, Lord Sandison made obiter comments inferring that the hierarchy does not apply to cycle paths as they are not roads.

Dick v Merrick, considered liability where two cyclists collided at a point where two cycle paths (NCR7 and NCR75) met.  Having heard evidence, Lord Sandison found both cyclists equally to blame.   The decision on liability seems correct.  Both cyclists were travelling at about twice the safe speed and both completely failed, for no good reason, to take steps reasonably necessary to observe the presence of the other until the collision was inevitable.  

Of more interest, are the comments of Lord Sandison in relation to the hierarchy of users on a path.  He essentially indicates that there is no hierarchy and any attempt to treat a cycle path as a road is “entirely misconceived”.  He went on to state that “They are simply paths, open to cyclists as well as to anyone else who wishes to use them other than by way of motorised vehicles, be that pedestrians, children on scooters, teenagers on skateboards, or mothers pushing prams.  Their users can be young or old, nimble or lumbering, able to see and hear well or not, alert to their surroundings or lost in their favourite music or a podcast on their headphones.  There are no lane markings indicating that particular categories of user should only occupy certain parts of the path, or that cyclists travelling in one direction should use one section of the path and those going the other way a different one.  Indeed, every user of the path is perfectly entitled to use any part of it, just as it pleases him or her.  There are no priorities, either as between categories of user or within one category. Pedestrians occupy no lesser place in the hierarchy of users than cyclists.  Every user must respect the interests of every other user.”

What this judgment highlights is that regardless of the hierarchy of road users, everyone using a road or path has a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of other people doing the same thing, whether walking, cycling or driving a vehicle.  There is no king of the road (or path).