Spring has well and truly sprung and with petrol prices at an all time high people may be considering the purchase of a new, or dusting off an old, bicycle and hitting the streets.
It is well known that cyclists are among the most vulnerable of all road users. As more people take to the streets on bicycles there has been a corresponding increase in the number of cycling accidents causing serious personal injuries and fatalities.
Despite the concerns, cycling is for the most part fun, healthy and, with some basic precautions, safe. The vast majority of ‘bike v car’ collisions occur at junctions when bicycle or car is turning and crossing traffic. More often than not, and regardless of who is at fault, the danger is right in front of you where you can see and avoid it if you are concentrating.
Below are a few tips to make your cycling safer:
1 – Don’t ride on the pavement. You may think it’s safer than being amongst the traffic but the converse is true – you are considerably more likely to injure yourself or someone else by doing so. Those riding on the pavement are in danger at every road crossing or driveway because motorists do not look for fast traffic on footpaths.
2 – Be safe Be Seen! As the old adage goes. Hopefully other road users are unlikely to hit you if they can see you. Bright clothes make you easier to spot in the daytime and riding without lights in the dark is obviously an extremely risky activity. Always use a proper front and rear light whenever you ride in the dark.
3 – Lane Position. Beginners or novices will often ride very close to the curb. This leaves little room for error if an unexpected obstacle or defect in the road is encountered and will often result in passing vehicles overtaking the cyclist without, as the Highway Code instructs they should, moving into the other lane to do so. While I would not advocate riding in the middle of the road with an increasing queue of frustrated motorists builds up behind you (if this happens it is probably safer to pull over and let them pass) it is important to assert your presence on the road.
If a stream of cars is passing too close, and if the traffic is relatively slow and you feel safe and confident to do so, move slightly to the right in the road and signal to passing motorists that they should use the other carriageway to pass. Sadly, this is unlikely to endear you to the average driver but keep in mind that it is you who is using the road correctly.
One final point is the need to be aware of HGV vehicles, particularly at traffic lights and junctions. Be aware that with the high cab position the driver may not have seen you. Never position yourself so that you are on the inside of a HGV at traffic lights: As the vehicle turns left the rear wheels will cut the apex of the corner and if you are positioned on the inside there is a serious risk that the you will be struck. Recently there have been a number of deaths in these circumstances.
4. – Keep it straight and look where you are going. Don’t make unpredictable movements in the road. Concentrate on what you are doing and look ahead to check for any obstacles which you may need to manoeuvre around. Signal when you are turning and check behind you before moving across the lane. You may encounter obstacles, potholes, road works signs in the road. If such an obstacle is inappropriately positioned or a pothole negligently left unrepaired and an accident and injury is sustained then you may be able to make a claim for the injury and the cost of repair to your bicycle from the highway authority. These types of claims can be very complicated and you should contact a solicitor who will pursue your claim on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
5. – Wear protection. At the very minimum you should wear a cycle helmet. It will not stop you from crashing or people from crashing into you but it may mean the difference between a minor and very serious injury or fatality if you do. Incidentally, a number of recent court cases have looked at whether a cyclist, who has suffered due to the fault of motorist, could have been ‘contributory negligent’ by not wearing a helmet in much the same way as a car driver would be found to have contributed to their injuries by not wearing a seat belt. While no reported cases have, to date, found such a contribution, it is clear that the courts would consider making a finding if the cyclist’s injuries would have been less severe or avoided had a helmet been worn.
6. – Maintenance. Make sure your bicycle is safe to ride. Regularly take you bike to a local bike shop for servicing if you are not able to perform it yourself. At the very least, before you set off make sure that your tyres are pumped up, check the brakes and make sure the important bolts (those connecting wheels, handlebars, etc) are present and tight.
With these few basic precautions you can greatly decrease the risk of an accident and the severity of injuries when an accident happens. In the event of an injury which you believe is the fault of someone else, be it a motorist, local authority or someone else, you should contact a personal injury solicitor and enquire about a claim for compensation.
Hayward Baker solicitors will be able to advise you on the merits of any compensation claim arising from an accident and, if you have a good claim, will deal with on your behalf on a no-win no fee basis.