Cycling in Britain is on the up and up. From “Boris Bikes” to the Tour de France, people of all ages and abilities are taking to the roads in their droves. Our own Tour de Yorkshire roars through the county again this Bank Holiday weekend, drawing millions of spectators and tourists to the area. What a fantastic time to be on your bike!
According to Welcome to Yorkshire figures, the number of regular cyclists increased by 18,000 in the last year, and is set to rise again this year with Britain’s ongoing sporting successes on track and road. In line with the increase in popularity, councils have created more cycle lanes in and around our cities to improve safety. If it means more cars are being left at home and traffic can be managed more efficiently, accommodating cyclists is money well spent. But how accommodating are other road users?
Reducing road rage
It is the age-old battle: most of us have seen the Youtube videos of verbal, even physical, exchanges between cyclists and drivers, neither accepting that they were in the wrong! With an increase in the number of cyclists, incidents involving bikes are likely to become more and more common – and they can often be very serious indeed. In 2014 to 2015, 99 cyclists died or were seriously injured after a cycling accident.
In our experience of handling personal injury claims involving cyclists, we find that a little common sense on both sides goes a long way. Below is a list of our best tips to avoid a bicycle accident on the road, for both cyclists and motorists. Most are fairly obvious, but we never cease to be amazed at the number of cycling accidents we handle which could have been avoided!
Keep your distance
If you are overtaking a cyclist, give plenty of space to the side and pass them safely. Do not try and squeeze past them on your side of the road when another vehicle is coming the other way!
Equally, if you are cycling in traffic, don’t try to edge through tight spaces – you never know if a car is changing lanes or turning left. You might also clip a wing mirror! Also be careful as you overtake parked cars – doors may be opened in your path.
Look, look and look again!
Cyclists: whether you are overtaking a queue of traffic, on a roundabout, or taking a right turn, always assume a driver has not seen you. Expect the unexpected and be aware of drivers not concentrating.
Drivers: make sure you are always looking out for cyclists, not just other cars. Take an extra look when you are at a junction – it might be clear of cars, but not bikes.
Keep in lane
Cyclists: if there is a cycle lane, stay in it! Drivers: stay out of it! If you have to move into it, be very careful!
Use your bell
In several European cities where cycling is more commonplace than in the UK, almost every cyclist has a bell on their bike and they use it regularly, warning pedestrians and motorists of their presence. Inexplicably, in the UK the majority of cyclists do not have a bell on their bike, let alone use one. We strongly advise that all cyclists should fix a bell to their bike; it might just stop a pedestrian walking into your path.
Don’t blast your horn!
As opposed to a short trill of a bell, loudly blasting your car horn at a cyclist balancing on two wheels can be very dangerous, especially if it is a bus or lorry that is sounding off. Cyclists can lose balance, become nervous and even fall off, which can have disastrous consequences.
Cyclists: increase the chances of being spotted and a dangerous situation avoided. Wear bright or hi-vis clothing. Never cycle in dark conditions without a light on the front of the bike and suitable reflectors on the rear. Always, always wear a helmet – not only are they life savers, but also they are larger than your head so can be spotted more easily!
Capturing the evidence
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Given the vulnerability of a cyclist exposed to impacts, they can often cause serious damage to both property and the person. In the unfortunate event that you are involved in an accident, it is vital that the circumstances are documented properly as quickly as possible. As we have seen from the Youtube videos, one party often blames the other.
Before helmet and dashboard cameras, it was often very difficult and risky to run personal injury claims to court. However, it is now more common for there to be footage of an accident which can assist enormously in helping us (and the courts) establish fault. Regular city / road cyclists would be wise to invest in a helmet cam; it could make the difference between a quick, successful claim and an expensive court process with no guaranteed win.
If you do not have video footage of an incident, see if there were any witnesses who are happy to give their version of events. Independent witnesses are vital in establishing who was at fault; they have nothing to gain by giving a biased account, so a court values their input highly.
Finally, make sure you take down the details of the other party at the scene if at all possible. Even just a vehicle registration number is enough for us to track down a negligent driver who knocks you off your bike.
If you have been involved in a cycling accident with a vehicle, a pedestrian or even another cyclist, why not give us a call to discuss whether you can bring a personal injury claim. It can’t hurt to ask, and it doesn’t cost you anything to find out. Contact one of our specialist solicitors on 0800 988 7756.