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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Cyclists (and Motorists) At Fault

Cyclists as well as motorists are under a duty to take reasonable care on the roads (and to stop at red traffic lights!) which is pretty trite law. And it a duty that has recently been brought home in three civil claims by cyclists who had suffered serious injuries in road accidents. In one case, the cyclist lost the claim entirely: in the other two, the cyclist was held to have substantially contributed to the accident which means that their compensation will be reduced by the proportion of their own negligence. 

Case I* On the B5414, a single carriageway with one lane in each direction, at 8am on a dull day in January, the claimant was cycling alongside his friend: the claimant was on the outside. Just before reaching a puddle, the claimant veered to his offside onto the other lane as the defendant was driving his car on it in the opposite direction at a speed which was appropriate for the circumstances and road conditions. There was a collision between the claimant's cycle and the defendant's car. The trial judge decided that the claimant had had no good reason for moving to his offside. His friend had avoided the puddle without doing so. The defendant had been confronted at the last moment by the veering claimant. The argument that the defendant should have seen the claimant in time and either stopped or steered to his left was rejected. The claimant's appeal against the dismissal of his claim has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Case 2** The claimant was riding her cycle and the defendant, ahead of her, was driving his articulated HGV along Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port. They were both going in the same direction. Having driven over a railway bridge, the defendant stopped at traffic lights at the junction of Whitby Road with a road to his left into which he had intended to turn. He was signalling left but straddling two lanes. When the lights turned to green, he started to make that turn. At the same time, the claimant passed along the nearside of his vehicle and across its front. There was a collision. At the civil trial, the claimant was held to have been 30% to blame for the accident and the defendant 70%. The defendant's challenge to that decision has been thrown out by the Court of Appeal. In relation to the claimant, she should have realised the defendant was straddling two lanes and she could not have safely assumed he was going to go straight ahead or turn right. She had cycled down the brow of a hill on the railway bridge at some speed and had failed to heed the advice in rule 73 of the Highway Code ("Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you.....Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb."

Case 3***
Just before 7.30 am on a Sunday, the claimant was taking part in a cycling time trial on the westbound carriageway of the A27. The defendant in his van was travelling on the eastbound carriageway and went to turn right at a designated gap in the dual carriageway. He thought he was safe to  make the turn. He was wrong. The claimant was coming along and he would be crossing the claimant's path. The claimant collided with the van's rear as it crossed and the collision caused him catastrophic and life changing spinal injuries. At his speed, it would have taken the defendant approximately four seconds to have moved across the carriageway. The claimant had been cycling at between 20 and 25mph. He would have been approximately 40 metres away when the van first started to move across the junction which would have given him ample opportunity to apply his brakes and avoid the collision if he had been keeping reasonable observation of the road. The claimant may have swerved within lane 1 but that action was too little, too late. The claimant, for one reason or another, had had not been keeping a sufficient lookout. Because of that, a High Court judge has ruled that he was 20% to blame.

* Elson v Stilgoe [2017] EWCA Civ 193
** McGeer v McIntosh [2017] EWCA Civ 79
*** Rickson v Bhakar [2017] 264 (QB)