Brown v Brent and British Cycling Federation 21.06.11

The Claimant, a cyclist, collided head on with a road race competitor, the First Defendant, on 26 August 2007. He brought a claim for personal injury against the competitor and the race organiser, Surrey Cycling League, a body affiliated to the Second Defendant, British Cycling. The race took place on public roads which remained open to the public. The accident occurred when the Claimant exited a mini roundabout and collided with the First Defendant, who was taking a racing line into the roundabout, intending to turn left and following a group of cyclists who were ahead of him in the race. Both cyclists were injured.

The Claimant alleged that:

  • The First Defendant crossed the centre white lines as he approached the roundabout, rode into his path, failed to keep a proper look out and was riding too quickly in the circumstances.
  • The Second Defendant failed to inform him by signs or otherwise that a road race was taking place, and failed to take any reasonable measures to ensure that the participants in the race did not come into conflict with users of the public highway (by way of inadequate risk assessment and failure to arrange the closure of the public roads comprising the race route).


The Defendants alleged the Claimant exited the roundabout at speed, crossed to the wrong side of the road and ignored warnings given to him.

Held

  • The First Defendant crossed the centre white line, rode into the Claimant’s path and rode too fast in all the circumstances.
  • Warning signs were in place along the route - it was not proportionate or appropriate to close the roads in the circumstances. The Second Defendant took all reasonable steps to ensure members of the public were not put at unnecessary risk.
  • The Claimant exited the roundabout at excessive speed and failed to observe or heed that a race was taking place or proceed with caution despite the presence of a race marshal and road signs.
  • The First Defendant was two thirds liable for the accident and the Claimant was one third liable. The claim against the Second Defendant was dismissed.


Comment

It was alleged that the race organiser should have asked the highway authority to close the road. The Judge accepted this would be an “extreme step to take” that was “not proportionate or appropriate” in the circumstances. A requirement that organisers close public roads for races could present a risk to the future of the sport.

Although the First Defendant was taking part in a race, he was using open public roads and was expected to exercise the usual standard of care required of all road users. Even where a member of the public failed to note appropriate warnings, he was still entitled to expect competitors to exercise the usual standard of care when using public roads.

The Chief Executive of British Cycling, Ian Drake has commented:

“It is essential that we vigorously defend the right of cycle races to be organised on the public highway. I am delighted that the Judge found that the Surrey League had acted responsibly in all aspects as we rely on organisers like the Surrey League to provide the grassroots road racing in this country which is the backbone of our sport”.