The recent road traffic accident involving Bradley Wiggins, the first Briton to win the Tour de France and an Olympic champion has once again thrust the topic of cyclist safety into the spotlight. There has been an ongoing battle between cyclists and motorists leading to a volatile relationship in sharing the roads in a way which allows everyone to be safe. Depending on who you speak to, the arguments from both sides will differ dramatically. The reality is that both cyclists and motorists have rights and responsibilities which if followed, can allow both sides to be safe.
I currently act for a cyclist who sustained personal injury whilst cycling through green traffic lights at a crossroads. He was hit by a motorist which failed to give right of way to my client as he was supposed to. As a result, my client sustained multiple injuries including a sprained wrist and torn ligaments to his wrist as well as soft tissue damage to his shoulder and knees. Although primary liability has been admitted by the motor insurers, they have alleged “contributory negligence” in that they consider my client failed to take care of his own safety by failing to display cycle lights or wear protective clothing thereby not making himself visible to the driver. My client denies these allegations.
When using the roads, it is important to note that both cyclists and motorists have responsibilities for their own safety.
Cyclists should ensure that they are visible to other road users by wearing bright, reflective clothing and displaying lights in dark or poor weather conditions. They should not jump red lights or ride in the wrong direction on one-way streets unless signs are present giving them permission to do so. They should signal their intention to start, turn or stop and should not ride on pavements unless there are shared paths which allow bicycles. Cyclists should stay back from large vehicles, to make sure drivers can see them especially when they might make a sudden turn. Cyclists should use cycle lanes and advanced stop lines at traffic lights and check to see if they are in another vehicle’s blind spot.
Motorists should always look out for cyclists on the inside when turning left and before opening car doors as well as looking out for them at junctions, when overtaking and at roundabouts. They should ensure there is sufficient space for cyclists and use dipped headlights to prevent dazzling cyclists. They should be alert and expect the presence of cyclists and for them to make sudden movements if there are bad road surfaces or windy weather.
If cyclists and motorists show mutual respect for each other then road traffic accidents are likely to decrease. No doubt the high-profile crash involving Bradley Wiggins and the subsequent crash involving the head coach of the British cycling team, Shane Sutton, will remind cyclists and motorists of the potential for road traffic accidents. Hopefully it will also cause both sides to reflect on their own responsibilities when using the roads to ensure they remain as safe as possible.