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Five ways cyclists can protect themselves legally

View profile for Robert Dempsey
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According to the Government, 3,430 cyclists were killed or seriously injured between October 2015 and September 2016; this marks a seven per cent increase on the 2010-2014 average.

As concerns grow over cyclist safety on British roads, personal injury lawyer Robert Dempsey has shared his top five tips on the best ways for cyclists to use the law to protect themselves.

Get a helmet camera

“A helmet-mounted camera could prove to be a cyclist's best friend. While it would not directly prevent an injury if a road traffic accident were to occur, the footage could provide vital evidence that would help to resolve who was at fault.

“If the evidence were supportive of the cyclist, and if it were disclosed to their insurers promptly, it could bring about a swift resolution in any liability dispute. Not only can courts use this evidence to prosecute, early disclosure would be actively encouraged under court procedure rules.”

Insure yourself

“Since 1930, it has been compulsory for any person in charge of a motor vehicle to have some form of insurance in place. This obligation however does not extend to cyclists. As cycling becomes more popular, the number of companies offering insurance for cyclists is on the rise.

“The type of insurance can vary. In the first instance, cycling enthusiasts who invest in expensive bicycles and equipment may wish to insure against theft of or damage to the equipment.

“Secondly, a cyclist may want to take out insurance to cover personal accidents which include any injury which may or may not have involved another party. These forms of insurance tend to offer a fixed tariff amount based on the type of injury sustained.

“Finally, even the most careful of cyclists may find that, through a lapse of concentration, they have caused injury to others. Without the right insurance for this type of incident, cyclists could find themselves personally liable to pay any compensation necessary for injury or losses to other road users.”

Invest in a helmet

There is no legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets. However, there have been a number of civil cases in which a driver has sought to argue that a cyclist contributed to their injuries due to not wearing a helmet. Once the driver has raised this argument, the burden is on them to prove that the failure to wear a helmet has caused or contributed to the injury.”

Don’t drink and ride

"It may be tempting for cyclists to adopt a more relaxed approach to drinking and cycling compared with drinking and driving. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a specific offence resulting in a fine. The use of alcohol may also contribute to dangerous or careless cycling, which is also considered a crime.

"With regard to a civil claim, if an injured cyclist were found to be under the influence of drink or drugs when they were hurt, then this may reduce or negate their claim if, based on the facts, any lack of judgement contributed to or caused the injuries."

Stick to the road

“It has been illegal for cyclists to ride on pavements since the Highway Act of 1835 came into place. However, this is not the only 19th century law case that is still applicable to cyclists. The 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act applies to drivers of carriages who cause injury through wanton or furious driving.

"Whilst the terminology may seem out-dated and even quaint, the courts have seen fit to apply this to cyclists who have caused death or injury through cycling through red lights or riding on pavements. In 2008, a cyclist was imprisoned for seven months after he struck a pedestrian while cycling downhill on a pavement. In 2015 a cyclist in Hereford struck and killed a pedestrian. He was imprisoned under the same act - other relevant factors were that his bicycle was considered to be "defective" with a deflated rear tyre, a cracked front tyre and no bell.

"With regard to a civil action, if a cyclist is injured while on a footpath, their presence on the footpath could arguably have contributed to their injuries to the extent they may not recover full compensation or potentially may receive no compensation at all."