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Too Many Close Shaves for Cyclists

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

Not for the first time have I been cycling, driving or walking around London where I have seen a cyclist almost knocked from their bicycle.

I have ‘harked on’ about the duty of care that each of us owe to each other.  This applies even more so when on the road for obvious reasons. I always fail to understand how those in a car and this comment applies in relation to any accident, naturally assume that they are protected by the metal and plastic hull that they are in and equally, that they are driving nothing short of a lethal weapon. 

I recall a cycling accident claim I dealt with a number of years ago for a very fine and brave gentleman who lost his leg below the knee when he was knocked from his bicycle as he was cycling to work. It was in the early hours of the morning when it was still dark. He however had lights displayed and was very much there to be seen. The van driver who had collided with had looked down to his radio and been momentarily distracted.  He had failed to allow sufficient space in the lead up to overtaking my client, despite there being a very wide road at this point, and a collision occurred resulting in injuries causing my client to lose his leg. 

The Highway Code is quite clear on this point. We must when we are overtaking cyclists, leave sufficient space. We have to do so simply for the reason that cycling does not involve riding in a straight line at all times.  We have as cyclists, potholes and various other hazards to negotiate and we may therefore move out or swerve on occasions. The swerve is unlikely to be anything dramatic and perhaps involving no more than a few inches and if we do swerve therefore, there should be sufficient space to allow a car or van to pass us safely rather than leaving no more than an inch or two to spare.

I appreciate that some car drivers might find this to be a bind. I understand also that some cyclists cycle very much in the middle of bus and taxi lanes which no doubt infuriate bus and taxi drivers, however we must always if we can look at the issue from both sides and ultimately it is very much the cyclist who will fare the worst if they are struck by a vehicle. 

We do not yet have the law in this country as they do in Holland whereby if a cyclist is knocked to the ground, there is an immediate presumption of guilt upon the vehicle driver. There are however, increasingly more bicycles on the road. It remains to be seen whether this law might be introduced at some stage in the future.

Tristan Hallam is a Personal Injury Solicitor and Partner at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London. For a free consultation call freephone 0808 175 8000 or contact us online and we will call you.