Cycling Accident claims & the law

February 11, 2010
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Cycling on the pavement

Bicycles are, in law, “carriages” and should be on the road not pavement.

Some cyclists choose to cycle on footpaths because of the danger of cycling accidents. While understandable this is still illegal and you will have to walk with your bike on the pavement if a cycling accident is likely on the road. The maximum fine for cycling on the pavement from the courts is £500, although it is more usually enforced by way of the Fixed Penalty Notice procedure (FPN) which carries a £30 fine.

Cycling on footpaths is not good for the image of cyclists and can cause cycling accidents and even claims against cyclists!

Where can I cycle?

Knowing where you can and cannot ride can be complicated due to confusing definitions. Here is some help:-

A Cycle Track is a “way” which is, or is part of a highway being a “way” over which the public have a right of way on pedal cycles with or without a right of way on foot

A Footpath is a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot only, not being a footway [Section 329(1) Highways Act 1980]. You cannot cycle on a footpath which is away from the road but you only break the law if local by-laws or traffic regulation orders create an offence.

A Footway is basically a pavement and is defined as a “way” forming part of a highway, which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public has a right of way on foot only [Section 329(1) Highways Act 1980].

Cycling on footways (a pavement at the side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888.

Avoiding cycling accidents in pedestrianised zones

Whether or not you can cycle in these areas is generally up to the local authority which may explicitly allow cycling in pedestrian zones. If you are permitted to cycle in these zones, you must give priority to pedestrians. According to the Department for Transport’s Code of Conduct, cyclists need to weigh up whether there’s a critical mass of pedestrians: “In pedestrianised areas, only ride your cycle if there aren’t too many pedestrians about; otherwise dismount and push it.”

Passengers and cycling accidents

The obvious risk of causing a cycling accident carrying passengers This is not news to any experience cyclists and is not allowed unless your cycles have been built (or adapted) to carry passengers.

Legal requirements for cycles

  • Bikes ridden at night need front and rear lights, flashing or steady.
  • At night a bicycle must also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85)
  • At the point of sale (ie shops) bikes now have to come fitted with bells but there’s no legal requirement for them to be fitted to bicycles no longer on shop display.
  • The Highway Code does not stipulate that bells must be used. It states: “Be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example by ringing your bell.”

Cycling accidents and the Highway Code

It is worth refreshing your memory occasionally as the Highway Code is helpful in avoiding cycling accidents.

If the Highway Code includes the word ‘must’ then these are laws and must be complied with. Those rules which omit the word ‘must’ are advisable but not compulsory.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 says: “A failure on the part of a person to observe any provision of The Highway Code shall not of itself render that person to criminal proceedings of any kind, but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.”

Drink and the risk of cycling accidents

Whilst the strict blood alcohol limits do not apply to cyclists it is still illegal to ride a bike if you are unfit to do so.

A bicycle is defined as a carriage for use on the highway but cyclists are not in charge of ‘mechanically propelled’ vehicles so, in law, do not have to adhere to exactly the same ‘drink drive’ rules as motorists. However, the Licensing Act 1872 makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle (or any other vehicle or carriage, or cattle) on a highway or in a public place. Furthermore, section 30 Road Traffic Act 1988 says: “It is an offence for a person to ride a cycle on a road or other public place when unfit to ride through drink or drugs”.

Most importantly however you are in danger of causing a cycling accident if you drive whilst not fully in control of your cycle.

Mobile phones can cause cycling accidents

According to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (amended 2003) it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while using a mobile so cyclists are not caught. However it is clearly extremely dangerous to ride a bike whilst texting or speaking on a phone and if you caused a cycling accident it is likely that you would be prosecuted for not paying due care and attention.

Let our specialist cycling accident solicitors assess your claim or pick up the phone and speak to us on 020 7288 4800.

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