Having conducted exclusively serious injury work for many years now, it has become increasingly apparent to me over those years that riding a bicycle, motorbike, scooter or moped carries with it a far greater risk than driving a car. This is particularly relevant when riding around the streets of London.
We already know that bike riders, a term used to encompass riders of all of the above-listed modes of transport, are much more vulnerable road users due to the lack of protection that they would otherwise be afforded by a fully enclosed vehicle. However, there is a common misconception that these bike riders are reckless, whereas my own experience would suggest that it is in fact other road users, particularly those in cars and larger vehicles such as lorries, who show little regard for bike riders, who they often see as nothing more than a nuisance.
I recall one claim in which I was hoping to secure witness evidence from an independent witness to my client’s accident, only to see that in a statement he had given to the police, he commented that he hates all bike riders and that accidents are always their fault. Not the most helpful of witnesses for my client’s claim and needless to say, I did not pursue that particular witness any further!
This however is indicative of how bike riders are often perceived by motorists, especially in a city like London where the ratio of bike riders to other road users is particularly high. However, more and more people are cycling to work these days, in an effort to save on the cost of commuting on public transport or driving to work and with some thought for sparing the damage that commuting and driving can cause to the environment. These are not bicycle couriers, or food delivery cyclists; these are people like you and me who are just making their way to and from work. They deserve to be as safe on the road at all times as any other road user.
So why is that often not the case? The government’s road safety statistics from 2015, for example, revealed that you would be 15 times more likely to be killed on the roads of Britain if you are riding a bicycle than if you are driving a car. In 2016 alone, 18,477 cyclists were injured in road traffic accidents, 3,499 of whom were either killed or very seriously injured (figures taken from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA)).
The main reason is lack of awareness on the part of other road users. In fact, ROSPA reports that most accidents involving cyclists specifically which lead to either death or very serious injury occur at or near to road junctions, with most occurring at T-junctions. This suggests that very often, motorists are turning in and out of these junctions without any awareness of or concern for cyclists and focusing only on other mechanical vehicles. ROSPA also report that around 80% of accidents occur in daylight, so it is not even an issue of darkness making it harder for the motorist to see the cyclist, which in itself then leads to questions over what the cyclist was wearing and whether a lack of reflective gear has contributed to the accident.
I would say that the majority of my caseload involves claims for clients who were knocked off of some form of bike and have suffered very serious injuries as a result. Such accidents can occur at a much lower speed than an accident involving two cars for example, as a low speed accident involving two cars will rarely lead to any driver or passenger suffering serious, life-changing injuries. In stark contrast, even a relatively low speed collision can cause a bike rider to be thrown from their bike and then the severity of their injuries will be dictated by factors such as how they land, what they land on, whether they strike anything as they fall, whether their head strikes the ground as they fall and what protective gear they are wearing at the time. Obviously the greater the collision speed, the heavier the fall and the more serious the injuries. If a car driver is involved in a collision, they will generally remain within the confines of their vehicle but a bike rider will usually be thrown from their bike and this is often where the more serious injuries occur, as opposed to in the collision itself.
As far back as 2002, the government introduced its “Think Bike, Think Biker” campaign which urged drivers to look out for motorcyclists at every junction and this was updated in 2012. An ever-increasing number of road traffic collisions involving bikes led to the government trying to raise awareness of other road users towards bike riders. The targeting of the campaign at other road users, not at bike riders, was a recognition on the part of the government that these accidents were very often caused by other road users not taking bike riders into consideration. This certainly correlates with my own experience of running many claims for bike riders over the years, the vast majority of which are successful as I have been regularly been able to establish negligence on the part of other road users towards my bike rider clients.
There is therefore a clear note of caution here for all bike riders, but even more so for all other road users. Bike riders have every right to be just as safe on the roads as other vehicle drivers but with the very high number of accidents involving bike riders being struck and injured by other road users, they remain as vulnerable on Britain’s roads as ever.