23 April 2015
Bunch riding – Who is Liable in the Event of a Cycling Accident?
Cyclists on club rides often use “bunch riding” techniques and can even save energy when doing so. If one of the cyclists is injured in an accident, could a personal injury claim succeed?
By working together and riding closely in a group cyclists can ride faster and for longer periods. They can also save energy. Leading cycling coaches estimate that cyclists can save as much as 40% from riding behind the wheel of another rider due to the slipstream effect.
Keeping close together can also enhance the safety of the group as they will be more visible in traffic thus reducing the cycling accident risk. Not all road users are aware that the law allows cyclists to ride two or more abreast. Many cyclists will no doubt have been on the receiving end of abuse from motorists in these circumstances!
What if a cyclist riding in a chain gang is injured? Whether or not a personal injury claim will succeed depends on the specific circumstances of each case and whether negligence on the part of one or more cyclists in the group can be identified and proven.
There have been very few reported cases in relation to injured cyclists riding in a group.
The High Court recently considered the case of Thomas v Warwickshire County Council where Mr Thomas, an experienced cyclist, sustained a serious head injury when he fell from his bike during a group ride. He was travelling at 25mph and riding two abreast with 20 other cyclists, 15cm from the rear wheel of his fellow rider when his bike struck a defect in the road surface.
The Judge held that it was reasonable to assume cyclists would ride two or even three abreast but, very harshly in my opinion, held the Claimant to be 60% contributory negligent on the basis he was riding closely behind the bike in front.
So, the closer you are to the rider in front the greater the energy saved but if you ride too close then there’s a greater accident risk. It is sensible to position yourself slightly to the offset so that you can see ahead. Sudden changes of speed or direction will risk a pile up so you should make a clear signal to other riders if you want to make a move.
Accidents can happen but if you follow safe cycling advice then riding in a group has the dual benefit of being energy efficient and safer as a group is far more visible to motorists than a solo cyclist.
Paul Kitson is a keen cyclist and Slater and Gordon’s Principal Lawyer for the CTC, the UK’s national cycling charity.
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