Advice line: spotlight on cyclists

17 December 2012 5.41pm.

The success of British cyclists at the Tour de France and in this summer’s Olympic games has encouraged more people to get on their bikes.

Cycling is good for your health, but it is good for the economy too, with a recent London School of Economics report indicating that cycling generates nearly £3 billion a year for the UK economy, and the number of bicycles sold in the UK continues to rise.

Unfortunately, recent accidents involving Bradley Wiggins, and the GB cycling team head coach Shane Sutton, prove that even the best cyclists can be involved in mishaps.

Statistics show that last year 107 cyclists were killed and a further 19,108 injured as a result of road traffic accidents.

These figures relate to reported road traffic accidents, so the actual figures may be much higher.

As a personal injury lawyer I also see the devastating after-effects that an accident can have for cyclists — and for their family in fatal accidents.

Even cyclists wearing helmets can suffer nasty head injuries, as well as suffering other damage such as broken bones and lacerations.

Given the potentially serious consequences it is worth considering what steps can be taken to avoid cycling accidents, and what to do if you are involved in one.

The Highway Code recommends that cyclists should wear the correct size cycle helmets which conform to current regulations and are securely fastened.

Light coloured or fluorescent clothing with reflective strips and accessories are recommended and are of particular importance at this time of year, when mornings and evenings are darker.

Bicycles must be fitted with white front and red rear lights lit when cycling at night.

Whilst flashing lights are common, and permitted, it is recommended that cyclists riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.

Cycle lanes, whilst not compulsory, should be used where available as often they can make the journey safer.

Further common-sense rules involve riding in single file when in groups, particularly on narrow or busy roads; not riding close behind other vehicles; and to look well ahead for obstructions in the road such as drains, potholes and parked vehicles to avoid sudden swerving.

Be patient and follow traffic lights and signs.

Importantly, be aware of your surroundings.

You might be a safe cyclist but you have to contend with drivers and pedestrians acting unexpectedly.

This means avoiding bad habits, such as listening to music or using your phone whilst cycling, which can reduce awareness of your surroundings and other road users.

Failure to follow these rules could result in a reduction in any compensation award that may be payable.

Drivers can also take steps to reduce accidents.

Drivers should give cyclists at least as much room as they would give a car when overtaking.

Cyclists are most vulnerable when drivers are performing a left-hand
turn, so drivers should remain aware of their surroundings and other road users and check their mirrors and blind spots carefully.

Patience is also important.

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, firstly, if you are on the ground but able to move, get out of the way of other traffic.

Take time to get yourself together, even if you think you are uninjured.

If possible, note the registration number and details of any vehicle involved and obtain the driver’s details.

Get details of any passers-by who may have seen the accident. Note the time, date and location of the accident, and report it to the police.

Seek medical attention if necessary, either at the scene or by attending a hospital or GP later.

Keep details of any expenses incurred and any hospitals or medical professionals you attend.

Following these steps can assist in making a compensation claim at a later stage.

If you are considering a compensation claim following a cycling accident, take legal advice from solicitors who specialise in personal injury claims and have experience of dealing with cycling accidents.

* By Richard Poole, senior solicitor with Thorntons. Thorntons is a trading name of Thorntons Law LLP.

Peter Clinch More than 1 year ago
Some good advice there, but some of it isn't as good as you might think... "Cycle lanes, whilst not compulsory, should be used where available as often they can make the journey safer" assumes that such lanes are all well designed and implemented, gritted if it's frosty, swept of debris etc., and the truth of the matter is that isn't always so and it's sometimes safer, especially when the gritters have been out, to use the main carriageways. And some other good advice is missing completely... Things like proper road positioning are actually far more important to safety than wearing a helmet because the most vital thing is not being in an accident to start with, and a helmet doesn't help with that (in fact there's some evidence you're more at risk). As an accredited Cycle Trainer I would highly recommend John Franklin's book "Cyclecraft", published by The Stationary Office and the text underpinning the Bikeability cycle training scheme, as an excellent source of advice on improving cycling safety.
MushroomgodMat More than 1 year ago
interested about the headphones comment - in a court, lets assume a cyclist who was wearing headphones was knocked of his bike, and can we also assume the car is technically at fault... 1: Would a cyclist with headphones be seen in a more negative light than a car driver with his windows closed, listening to the radio? 2: would a deaf cyclist have a more of a problem making a claim/convincing a judge of their case because of their impaired hearing over that of a cyclist who had perfect hearing?
Peter Clinch More than 1 year ago
Similar rhetorical questions have, quite rightly, been raised by Chris Boardman in radio and TV interviews about cycling safety recently. It is important to judge all road users (cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, HGV drivers etc.) by the same criteria of *reasonable* care, or otherwise we risk ending unfairly victim-blaming minority groups for their own demise. I prefer to ride without headphones but back in the 80s, when the roads were more dangerous than they are now, I rode with a Walkman. It's not best practice but as anyone driving with music on knows it's hardly unreasonable.