Cycling Accidents And The Law

The risk of a cycling accident is greater than ever, especially in cities due to the sheer volume of traffic and increasing numbers of cyclists. Below we discuss many of the questions our clients as us related to cycling accidents and the law.

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  • “This is a really excellent personal injury team that can be regarded as one of the major players in the London claimant personal injury market.”

Cyclists are considered vulnerable road users, and motorists are expected to take precautions to reduce the risks of injury to cyclists nearby. But as a cyclist – whether you’re riding a pedal bike or electric bike – you are also expected to follow several rules and regulations to ensure you and your bike are legal and road safe. By June 2022, there was a 15% increase in cycling accidents in London causing serious injuries compared to the previous year. To help protect you from the risk of accident and serious injury, here’s a simple breakdown of the legal requirements for cyclists.

What is the law with regard to making a cycling accident claim?

Motorists owe a duty of care to other road users. To make a successful cycling accident claim, you need to prove on balance that the vehicle driver was driving below the standard expected of an ordinary, considerate and competent driver. You also need to prove that this breach of duty of care directly caused the accident and your injuries. Proving the driver was at fault can prove challenging given the power and resources of motor insurance companies versus an individual cyclist. However, the personal injury solicitors at Osbornes are highly experienced in securing compensation for victims of cycling accidents. If you were also at fault, e.g. you had ignored cycling guidance at the time of the accident, the potential amount of compensation you could receive is likely to be reduced. This is known as ‘contributory negligence’ meaning liability for the accident is split between the parties. A failure to comply with the law could even impact your ability to make a claim, so it’s important to talk the issues through with expert solicitors as soon as possible. Here, we mention common mistakes cyclists make that can impact their injury claims.

Can I claim if I was cycling at night without lights?

Cyclists are expected to have clean lights in proper working order under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations. These regulations, updated several times in recent years, require cyclists to switch on their lights when driving between sunset and sunrise – whether or not it’s dark. The front lights must be white and the rear lights red (and they can be flashing lights). You should also have a red reflector at the rear; and amber pedal reflectors (unless your bike pre-dates October 1985). Cyclists are increasingly using head torches to increase their visibility but you are not allowed to rely on these instead of front lights. There are no legal requirements to have your lights on in bad weather, such as heavy fog, during the daytime. However, if visibility is particularly poor and you have an accident – the fact that you didn’t have your lights switched on could be used against you. If you’re worried about the impact of not having your lights on your claim, it’s important you still speak to us. It may simply mean your compensation will be reduced.

Can I claim if I wasn’t wearing a cycling helmet?

Cyclists are not legally required to wear a helmet, though it’s generally considered to be far safer to wear one. The Highway Code recommends cyclists wear a helmet and reflective clothing, but this is good safety practice, not a legal obligation. If you weren’t wearing a helmet and suffered head injuries, it’s possible this could be taken into account when your compensation is being negotiated. However, given helmets are not compulsory, we would resist attempts by the motorist’s insurer to rely on the lack of helmet protection to significantly reduce your compensation.

Can I make a claim if I cycled through a red light?

Running a red light is dangerous and it is illegal for all road users, including cyclists, under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Traffic Signs Regulations and Directions 2002. Unless the vehicle driver who hit you was also negligent, you’re unlikely to be able to claim compensation. You could also be fined up to £2,500. However, don’t assume you can’t make a claim – always discuss the circumstances with specialist lawyers. For example, if you ran a red light and were then hit by a speeding driver – it’s possible you could claim a reduced level of compensation to reflect the reality that both parties were to blame.

Can I make a claim if I was cycling while using a mobile phone?

Though illegal for motorists to use their mobile phones while driving, it is not yet a specific criminal offence for cyclists to use their mobile while cycling. However, using your phone while cycling can be dangerous and you could face prosecution for cycling carelessly or dangerously. Using a mobile phone while cycling also puts you at risk. You can be distracted and might not have full control of the handlebars – and swerve into the path of oncoming vehicles. If you’re prosecuted and fined, you may not be able to claim compensation. But if it can be proved that the driver was also negligent – speeding, for example – the insurer will rely on your conviction to reduce your compensation.

Can I claim if my bicycle brakes weren’t working properly?

The law requires UK cyclists to have efficient front and rear braking systems that operate independently (subject to exceptions, for example, e-bikes). Sadly, it’s not uncommon for cyclists to be seriously injured or killed because their brakes failed or some other defective component contributed to the accident. In many cases, someone else can be held responsible for your injuries. If your brakes were recently repaired at a cycle repair shop and you believe the accident happened because the repair was faulty, you could make a claim against the repairer. And if your brakes failed on a bicycle borrowed or rented from a company, such as an outdoor leisure business or bike rental company, you could have a strong compensation claim against the company. These organisations owe a duty of care to make sure bikes for rent are kept in good working order and fit for purpose to minimise the risk of injury.

Can I make a claim if I was drunk while cycling?

It is illegal under Road Traffic Act 1988 (section 30) to ride your bike if under the influence of alcohol or drugs (you could face a fine of up to £2,500 on conviction). If inebriated, you’re highly unlikely to be in proper control of your bike and at significant risk of a collision. If there is evidence you were drunk (or on illegal drugs), you’re unlikely to be able to claim against the motorist, unless you can prove they were also driving negligently. If you managed to avoid a breath test or giving a blood or urine sample, it will be challenging for the driver’s insurer to claim you were drunk. That said, the Highway Code states that cyclists must not drive carelessly or dangerously – which could be used against you if it can’t be proved you were drunk.

Can I make a cycling accident claim if I was riding carelessly?

The Highway Code states that cyclists must not ride carelessly; they must ride with proper care and consideration for other road users. This includes checking junctions are clear before turning; cycling at a reasonable speed for the weather conditions, and keeping to cycle lanes where available. Various factors can lead to careless cycling, such as listening to music, interacting with other road users or having a drink while cycling. If you were riding carelessly and caused a collision, you’re unlikely to have a claim. But if you believe the motorist was driving carelessly, you may be able to make a claim but your share of responsibility for the accident would impact your compensation settlement.

Can I claim if a car was parked in the cycle lane?

It’s encouraging that there’s an increasing number of dedicated cycle lanes in London and across the UK, and only pedal cycles and e-scooters are permitted to use them. Drivers are prohibited by the Highway Code from stopping or parking in cycle lanes that are defined by a solid white line, precisely because doing so poses a dangerous obstruction for cyclists. Drivers could be issued with a penalty charge notice for a rule breach. If you’ve hit a vehicle on a cycle lane or collided with a moving vehicle when swerving around a vehicle parked illegally on the cycle lane, you have a very good chance of winning personal injury compensation.

Does cycling in the middle of the road affect my claim?

The law recently changed to reflect the reality that a motorist’s failure to see a cyclist is one of the most common causes of cyclist accidents. In 2021, the Highway Code (Rule 72) was introduced to recommend cyclists drive in the middle of the road, if safe to do so, to ensure they are clearly visible – for instance, when crossing a junction and in slow-moving traffic. If it’s not safe – for example, a car is coming up from the rear – you should move to the left. Motorists must give priority to cyclists in the centre of the road, so if you have been hit by a vehicle while you were either cycling (or stationery at a junction) in the middle of the road, you could make a claim for compensation for your injuries. The other side could try to argue it wasn’t safe for you to be in the middle of the road, however, the fact that you had priority over the motorist is in your favour.

Can I make a claim if I was cycling up a one-way street?

Cyclists are not permitted to ride against the flow of traffic on a one-way street unless signs have been posted to indicate that it is okay to do so. If an accident does occur in this circumstance, it may be possible that a compensation claim can be made. However, it will be difficult to prove the liability of the other party involved, and a lower settlement might be expected due to the contributory negligence of the cyclist.

What if I was cycling on the pavement and hit a pedestrian?

In the hierarchy of road users, cyclists have a responsibility to reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians, who are also considered vulnerable road users. It is an offence for cyclists to ride on a pavement (unless it is a designated cycle path shared with pedestrians) and has been since the Highway Act came into force in 1835. Cyclists breaching the rule face a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of £50 or a fine on conviction of up to £500. That said, the FPN is not aimed at cyclists using the pavement out of fear of traffic on a particular road. But the reality is, if you’ve collided with a pedestrian while cycling on the pavement, you’re probably going to get the blame. You’re also unlikely to be able to make a compensation claim if you’ve been injured unless someone else contributed to the accident. A speeding vehicle could, for example, mount the pavement into the path of a cyclist, who then hits the pedestrian; and both the cyclist and the pedestrian are injured. Proving liability could be a challenge; but with a detailed analysis of the incident, we may be able to secure compensation on your behalf.

What if I hit a pedestrian crossing the road?

Cyclists are expected to prioritise pedestrians on the road as they are considered more vulnerable. They are often hard to see, especially in the dark or poor weather. Pedestrians have long since had the right of way at zebra crossings, and cyclists must give way to anyone who steps onto a crossing. A recent law change imposes an even greater responsibility on cyclists: pedestrians now have a right of way over cyclists and motorists at junctions and at the roadside – even if they have not yet stepped into the road. So, if you were cycling along and hit and injured a pedestrian, you could be asked to pay injury compensation. However, where the pedestrian was careless as to their own safety our specialist solicitors will work hard to reduce the level of compensation you may have to pay.

Can I claim if I injured myself by hitting a pothole on my bike?

Potholes can be extremely dangerous and often hard to see until it’s too late. A pothole is a not insignificant hole in the road, often caused by the road surface expanding and contracting due to extreme temperature changes. If a cyclist hits a pothole, they can be thrown off their bike and seriously injured. The local authority or local highways authority has a legal duty of care to maintain roads and repair potholes and other defects within a reasonable time period. If they fail to do so and a cyclist is injured, the local authority should be held liable. Your chance of success might depend on whether the authorities knew or ought to have known about it and repaired it, but we will fight to secure the compensation you deserve.

What if I was cycling on a dual carriageway or A road?

Cyclists are not allowed to drive on motorways but are free to cycle on both dual carriageways and A roads. However, there are important exceptions:

  • Cyclists must not cycle on dual carriageways or A roads where there are signs prohibiting them (under a specific traffic regulation order)
  • They must not cycle onto the part of an A road which has been designated a motorway

While the general rule is that you can cycle on dual carriageways and A roads, you will appreciate that the risks are greater – particularly where the speed limit is 70mph. Even so, you still have priority as a cyclist, so if you’ve been involved in a collision it’s highly likely it was caused by a negligent or dangerous driver.

Read our blog post about the rules relating to bike boxes.

If you have suffered an injury due to a bike accident, you may be able to claim compensation. Call our specialist cycle accident solicitors for a free consultation on 020 7485 8811 or fill in the enquiry form below.

Contact our Bicycle Accident Lawyers today.

For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811

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