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Biking Claims, advice from a cycling solicitor

View profile for Ian Wolstenhulme
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Around 3.5 million cycles were sold in Great Britain in 2015, in the same period 3.21 million cars were registered in Great Britain - this means more bikes were sold than new cars so it’s now official cycling is a national obsession.

With the freedom of the open road or trail comes a price, unlike a car, a pedal bicycle offers no protection if you fall off or come into collision with another road user. As a cyclist myself I am aware of these risks. With the passing of the summer months and gloomier conditions around the corner, being seen is essential. I have an autumn and winter checklist, which is not much different from my spring and summer wear. I ensure my light’s at the back and front are working, wear something bright over my clothing and always ensure I wear a cycle helmet. I am told that cycling is safer than tennis or indeed gardening, although out of the three I don’t want to take any chances on the bike.

We cycle to work, cycle to school, cycle for fun both off and on road, triathlons are the latest craze and so it goes on and this increase in cyclists on our roads has also inevitably led to an increase in accidents involving cyclists.  As a personal injury lawyer I know that such claims are not without their own specific issues having dealt with many over the years.

Cyclists do not have their own rules on the road, although some road users assume they do. Cyclists like other road users should ride with due care and attention, abiding the highway code. They are also responsible under the Road Traffic Act 1988 for their actions.

Cycle accidents come in several forms, whether the incident involves another road user, a defective or poor road surface, such as potholes, securing good, reliable evidence is key, especially as soon as possible after the incident both medical (causation of harm) and non-medical (for example, accident reconstruction).

Whilst a wearing a cycle helmet is not law, failing to protect our heads can lead to life changing injuries, some of which are avoidable. Additionally compensation can be reduced if it is proven by medical evidence that wearing a helmet would have reduced the injuries. The same is true of wearing high visibility, reflective or florescent clothing, especially at night and being able to demonstrate good cycling experience is often key in proving how proficient and safe the injured cyclist is.  Wearing earphones whilst cycling is also something to avoid, we need to be alert to dangers.

As with other road users, cycling whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is an offence, and this is another argument we encounter when dealing with cyclists claims.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 offers limited assistance in circumstances such as reckless or dangerous cycling despite containing a definition of dangerous cycling, and deals also with careless and inconsiderate cycling.

Laws for Cyclists

Many cyclists are afraid of fast-moving motorised traffic so cycle on footways, but it’s against the law. If a certain stretch of road is deemed too dangerous to cycle on, choose an alternative route (via smartphone apps or online journey planners) or walk your bike on the dangerous stretch. If you ride on the footway (‘pavement’ is not the technically correct term, see below), you could get a fine.

Bicycles are, in law, carriages (as a consequence of the Taylor v Goodwin judgment in 1879) and should be on the road not footway. (Technically speaking, a ‘road’ is a ‘carriageway’).

Cycling on footways (a path at the side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888. This is punishable by a fixed penalty notice of £30 under Section 51 and Schedule 3 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.

  • You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic
  • You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals.
  • You MUST NOT: carry a passenger unless your cycle has been built or adapted to carry one, hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer, ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner or ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine.

Some interesting facts and figures:

  • The number of people living in London who cycled to work more than doubled from 77,000 in 2001 to 155,000 in 2011. Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield also saw substantial increases.
  • In England, around 4% of commuting trips are cycled
  • Traffic counts suggest that the number of miles cycled in 2015 was around 10% higher than the 2007-11 average;
  • This is all good news, but there’s a long way to go until cycling reaches the levels seen in 1949 (14.7 billion vehicle miles).
  • Using official road casualty and road traffic reports, population stats and the National Travel Survey, Cycling UK calculates that, on average: One cyclist is killed on Britain’s roads for every 27 million miles travelled by cycle - the equivalent to over 1,000 times around the world;
  • Each year, there are 8 million cycle trips for every cycling death;
  • The general risk of injury from cycling in Great Britain is just 0.05 injuries per 1,000 hours of cycling.
  • According to a paper that looked at sports injuries, tennis is riskier than ‘outdoor cycling’ (5 injuries per 1,000 hours for tennis, 3.5 for cycling). ‘Rowing machine exercise’ came in at 6 injuries per 1,000 hours and you are more likely to be injured in an hour of gardening than in an hour of cycling
  • Around 70% of non-cyclists in Britain feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads; and over half (51%) of those who do cycle share this view.

During 2015, my own age group, 40-49 year-olds on average each cycled 87 miles over the year, outstripping all other age groups so I’m not alone out there.  If you have been injured in a cycling accident just email or call me and we can have a chat about your potential cycling claim. Ian.wolstenhulme@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.