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Cars Parked in Cycle Lanes – Who is Liable in the Event of an Accident?

By Principal Lawyer, Personal Injury - Serious Injuries

Despite the presence of double yellow lines some car drivers park on cycle paths to set down passengers. In the event of an accident, would the illegally parked driver be liable or the cyclist?

In relation to illegal parking the key consideration is whether or not the Defendant exposed another road user to a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury.

The Court of Appeal considered such a case in 2001 in the case of Foster v Maguire where a cyclist collided with a parked trailer.

Maguire, the Defendant, drove his van and trailer along a dual carriageway and parked by the nearside kerb in such a way that his trailer blocked both the cycle lane and part of the nearside traffic lane.

Tracy Foster, the Claimant, was riding her bicycle along the cycle lane and didn’t notice Maguire’s trailer until it appeared in her 5-10 yard, head down riding vision. She did not swerve and unfortunately hit the trailer head on. It was raining at the time of the cycling accident and traffic was very heavy on both lanes of the dual carriageway.

The trial judge dismissed Foster’s claim but this decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in what they described as “the conventional and correct approach in any case where the Claimant seeks damages for injury caused by the negligence of the Defendant.”

Did the Driver owe the Cyclist a Duty of Care?
The Court ruled that Maguire owed a duty of care to other road users when deciding where to park his van and trailer.

If so, was the Duty of Care Broken (i.e. Was the Driver Negligent)?
According to the Court, Maguire knew that by parking on a cycle lane cyclists would be forced into the nearside traffic unless she chose to dismount and wheel her bicycle on to the grass verge.

Did the Driver’s Negligence cause the Cyclist’s Injuries?
The Court referred to a previous House of Lords case of Jolley v Sutton L.B.D.C. Here it was ruled that a Defendant is liable for injuries caused by a breach of duty of care if the injuries were “reasonably foreseeable” as a consequence of their negligence.

In deciding that Maguire’s breach of duty of care did contribute to Foster’s injuries, Sir Anthony Evans said that Foster was “certainly exposed to some risk of injury if the driver of another vehicle failed to appreciate the situation in good time.”

He went on to say that Maguire was required not to obstruct the cycle way if it was not necessary for him to do so and found that he was “careless” of Foster’s safety “in the face of a reasonably foreseeable risk that she might be exposed to injury.”

It’s the Facts of the Case that Matter
Despite his ruling, Sir Anthony Evans made a very heavy finding of contributory negligence of 70% meaning that Foster only received 30% of the full value of her claim.

The Foster v Maguire case, like all personal injury claims, turned on its own facts. This was a very busy road and the weather conditions were difficult for cyclists. In other cases, Courts have dismissed claims where cyclists were travelling at speed and failing to keep a proper look out.

In conclusion, whether a cyclist can pursue a personal injury claim arising from a collision with a car illegally parked in a cycle lane depends on all the circumstances of the case.

Richard Gaffney is Slater and Gordon’s Principal Lawyer for the CTC, the UK’s national cycling charity.

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