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Can More be Done to Protect Cyclists?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cycling is having a minor renaissance in the UK thanks to environmental awareness, changing attitudes towards health and ever increasing fuel prices. The number of people commuting and using bicycles for city transport has shown an upward trend in recent years with the introduction of London’s ‘Boris bikes’ being the most visible incarnation of this phenomenon. The overwhelming success of British cycling professionals in events such as the Tour de France and the Olympics has also given the sport a huge boost.
Although there are plenty of positives from this trend, road safety remains a serious concern. An accident during the Olympics in which a cyclist was killed by a bus carrying journalists between venues has drawn significant attention to safety issues. Greater measures, both legal and practical, have been called for to reduce the dangers.
The Road Authorities
There is significant pressure on the Government and local authorities to improve road safety at a fundamental level. Calls have been made for improvements to the design and layout of roads and junctions. These include providing dedicated lanes for cyclists, dedicated provisions at junctions, additional HGV safety measures and cycling safety assessments for new road schemes.
The Cyclist
Cyclists are currently obliged by law to have white front and red rear lights lit at night; flashing lights are permitted. Bikes must also be fitted with red rear reflectors and amber pedal reflectors if manufactured after 1 October 1985.
Protective clothing is not a legal requirement but a helmet, appropriate clothing and fluorescent clothing and accessories are recommended. Pressure to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory have recently increased particularly following publicity following the death of Mr Harris, although Mr Harris was in fact wearing a helmet at the time of his accident.
The Cyclist and Other Road Users
Britain’s roads have to cater to various forms of traffic including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The potential for conflict is high and the rules of the road aim to reduce this conflict.
The law prohibits cyclists from riding on pavements. Cyclists should take care when they encounter pedestrians and slow down or stop if necessary. The Highway Code recommends the use of cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so.
Road safety relies on the law, practical measures, cooperation between road users and common sense. Finding the right balance is a constant challenge for legislators, road authorities and road users themselves.
If you would like further information or wish to discuss a potential or current claim following a cycling accident, we have experienced lawyers who can help you. Please contact Sarah Vincent by email or by telephone 020 7611 4848.