Road Traffic Incidents

The key contributory negligence arguments to be run against a Claimant cyclist will be that he or she was;
  • Cycling ‘too fast’ (is your client really likely to be travelling over the speed limit?)
  • Cycling with his or her ‘head down’. This is an allegation that will be raised if your client is wearing any form of lycra clothing and riding a bicycle with dropped handlebars. It’s highly unlikely to be the case that your client was concentrating on the tarmac rather than the road ahead.
  • Failing to wear adequately ‘visible’ clothing or failing to display lights on the bike. There is a new Rule in the Code requiring (46) that cyclists must have front and rear lights lit. Clothing is dealt with at (45) where it is recommended ‘light coloured or fluorescent clothing..reflective clothing in the dark.
  • Undertaking/overtaking a queue of traffic.

A cyclist who is travelling in a cycle lane will usually assume that he or she has ‘right of way’. Despite the provisions of the Code, the Court has been less than enthusiastic about acknowledging the particular vulnerability of the cyclist and the special consideration that should be given to cycle lanes.

The Code highlights the duty on the motorist, to include traffic when turning, must give way to cycle lane traffic from either direction (159).

In Clenshaw V Tanner (2002) a cyclist in a designated cycle lane who collided with the rear of a breakdown recovery vehicle that was turning left across his path, was held to be 50 per cent contributory negligent.

Thankfully the fact that there is likely to be two wheeled traffic travelling along the nearside of a queue of traffic either in a cycle lane or otherwise and that a motorist should take extra care has recently been recognised in Fagan V (1) Jeffers (2) MIB (2005) where the Court found that a motorist had to proceed with utmost care and not cross the carriageway until he had put himself in a position where he was satisfied that no traffic was likely to come up on the inside of the opposing carriageway.

In Richards V Quinten (2000) the Court found that a cyclist riding in a cycle lane had the greater opportunity to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a car emerging from a driveway and although the car driver should have been proceeding with extreme caution, the cyclist was held to be 75 per cent contributory negligent.

It is not uncommon for cyclists to cycle into stationary objects ahead of them – in Foster V (1) Maguire (2) Irwell Construction Ltd (2001) a cyclist was found 70 per cent to blame for her injuries where, notwithstanding that it was reasonably foreseeable that she would be exposed to injury by a van and trailer which was blocking a cycle lane, she had failed to keep a proper lookout for her own safety. In Howells V Trefigin Oil & Trefigin Quarries Ltd (1997) the claimant rode his bicycle into the defendant's stationary lorry, which was projecting slightly into the road and on appeal, was found 100% responsible.

If your client has been out for a country ride Lamoon V Fry (2004) might be of help to you. The accident occurred at a bend on a country lane prior to which, Claimant cyclist had been travelling on wrong side of road. Notwithstanding the finding that Defendant had been properly keeping to his side of the road albeit too fast, the Court found a motorist on such a road nevertheless had to be aware of other users who could be put at risk by a motorist driving too fast for the conditions and the Defendant was found 40% responsible.

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