Did you know that 92% of all cycling casualties occur on built up roads where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour or less?

Over 3,000 cyclists are seriously injured and over 100 deaths occur each year. Over a third of these accidentsoccur in London and the South East with the greatmajority (84%) in urban areas. However, around halfof cyclists’ deaths occur on country roads, with themajority involving another vehicle. Most occur duringweekday rush hour and the majority are at roadjunctions, often with the cyclist simply “going ahead”.

Most injuries are to the head and face and to the arms and particularly shoulders.

Despite these issues, the popular view is that cycling is a good thing – it improves health (reducing health care costs) and avoids pollution and traffic congestion. The consensus is that cycling should be encouraged.

With the superb range of sports bikes now available, cyclists can achieve greater speeds but outside the safe environment of the Olympic Velodrome you are at the mercy of cars, buses and heavy goods or agricultural vehicles.

Be safe, be seen

Cycling accidents often happen because the rider is not seen until it is too late. Typically, most accidents happen at road junctions or roundabouts where the driver of a vehicle simply does not see the cyclist, but there has also been a growth in the incidence of “road rage” being taken out on a cyclist.

Wearing of helmets

Given the high proportion of major head injuries such as skull fractures and brain damage in cycling injuries, particularly in fatal accidents, there is much talk as to whether wearing a cycling helmet shoulc d be made compulsory, as it is for motorcyclists

Opinion divided

Research upon the efficiency of wearing a helmet has been inconclusive and the subject matter is controversial.

Much research shows that the promotion of mandatory helmet wearing can actually reduce cycling levels. This is due to the cyclist’s concern about his or her appearance as well as the inconvenience and discomfort. However, some will argue that the perception by cyclists of reduced risks by wearing helmets can lead them to take greater risks. Some research shows that drivers are more careful around helmetless cyclists because, perhaps, they are perceived to be more vulnerable.

Recent research

The Transport Research Laboratory concluded that helmets would probably be effective if, for example, a cyclist tips over, and his head hits the road or kerb at a speed of just over 12 miles per hour. The helmets are not designed to protect wearers from impact with a moving motor vehicle, given that the current British and European Standards require protection only for a fall of 1.5 metres.

Whilst there is no legal duty to wear a helmet, Section 59 of the Highway Code recommends such use (as well as light coloured, fluorescent and reflective clothing and accessories).

Lights, reflectors, drink and drugs

There is a legal duty to have front and rear lights as well as rear and pedal reflectors upon all recent models which must be at least equivalent to EU Standards, under the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989.

A flashing light is legal but there are requirements regarding its brightness and frequency. Under the Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 an independent braking mechanism for front and rear brakes is required.

It is an offence for a person to ride a cycle when unfit to do so through drink or drugs if incapable of having proper control of the cycle (Road Traffic Act 1988).

By virtue of the same Act it is a criminal offence to ride a cycle dangerously on a road or in a public place. However, cycling would only be considered as “dangerous” if it fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist.

THINK! Advice for when you’re cycling

  • Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you.
  • Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles – like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen.
  • Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor.
  • Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility.
  • Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights.
  • Wear a correctly fitted cycle helmet which is securely fastened and conforms to current regulations.


Compensation claims

If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a cycling accident within the last three years, which was not your fault, then you should consult our Personal Injury Team. They will be able to advise on whether you may be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries.

Expert advice is necessary, not only because serious injuries may require long term care funding, but also because insurers are seeking to place more responsibility on cyclists for their own safety, including arguing whether wearing a helmet would have made any difference to the injuries suffered.

If a cyclist in injured in an accident and a legal claim is brought for compensation, the defendant, often a vehicle driver, will try to show that the cyclist has also broken the law and is, therefore, partially responsible for the accident, which can mean a reduction in the amount of compensation which can be claimed.

In a ground-breaking Court decision in 2009, it was held that failure on the part of the cyclist to wear a helmet could justify a reduction in the compensation awarded in circumstances where it can be shown that helmet use would have reduced (or avoided) the severity of the injury. This judicial decision has, however, been the subject of some criticism and as a general proposition can be doubted.

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