What The Law Says About Road Users On Two Wheels
There’s a lot of pain and anguish on Britain’s roads and pavements that’s being hushed up and causing as little noise as the turning wheels of a bicycle – and that’s my gripe.
Only the other day, I was seeking to cross a long, crossing-free road in the Manchester rush hour by being waved through bonnet to bumper queuing traffic by the car drivers.
I reached the white line in the middle of the road, looked left, to see if I could cross the other side and, to my horror, was almost mowed down by a cyclist absolutely belting down the middle of the road to my right, appearing out of nowhere and moving at a good 15 mph.
His only response was to yell, ‘Watch out!’ as he continued with no adjustment in speed whatsoever, as if he had a God-given right to proceed unhindered, without reacting to anything in his path.
‘Watch out’ indeed!
In the last few months alone, the Manchester Evening News has reported on two road traffic incidents involving cyclists.
In the first, an 81-year-old woman was knocked down, suffering a broken arm and shoulder and requiring hospitalisation.
She died nine days later.
On September 30, a cyclist knocked another woman down and left her unconscious in the street. The cyclist just sped off.
The road victim in this instance needed a five-day hospital stay and complex surgery on her injuries - predicted to take at least four months to heal.
There was no way of tracing the cyclist and, amazingly, they had committed no offence.
According to a senior police officer speaking after the incident in which a Manchester pedestrian was “mowed down” in September, there is “currently no legal requirement for a pedal cyclist to be insured and there is no legislative requirement for them to stop or provide their name and address following a collision”.
There’s also no registration plate through which to trace an at-fault cyclist.
Furthermore, Greater Manchester Police’s policy is to not record road traffic incidents if there is no motorised vehicle involved.
Cyclists require no knowledge of the Highway Code, no licence and no insurance.
Had the errant cyclists in these incidents been traced, there’s a probability they would have no insurance policy to claim against.
Having either Third Party or Comprehensive insurance is optional for cyclists and few buy it, relying, if on anything, on home insurance policies, offering little cycling-specific cover.
The need for insurance
The need-for-insurance argument works both ways.
If a cyclist suffers personal injury, they could lodge a claim through their insurer.
The Association of British Insurers said back in November 2011, following a 12% increase in accidents involving cyclists in the first quarter of the year, that cyclists should have insurance protection.
It warned that liability cover was a must, as cyclists could be sued for damages.
A good specialist policy costs only £30-£40, but cyclists tend to turn a blind eye, pointing out there are far more traffic accidents – even on pavements – caused by cars.
This issue is like a red rag to a bull for cyclists.
They deny a need for insurance by swerving the argument and highlighting the lengths they have to go to, to stay safe, whether that’s avoiding vehicles, potholes or drain covers.
They say drivers jump red lights, just as they do, which is true.
The difference is that the driver can be traced.
A commuting cyclist can maintain an average speed of 15mph, while a fit one, on a light road bike, can probably reach and maintain 20-25mph – a speed that, combined with a bike’s sharp metal, can do serious damage to anyone, particularly a child.
But beyond the issue of personal injury, there’s also that of damaging vehicles and leaving the scene of the incident, scot-free, with no obligation to leave a note to explain and take responsibility for the nice big dint, or scrape down the side.
We all know and appreciate that cycling assists congestion and cuts pollution.
We’re not arguing with that, nor asking cyclists to pay Vehicle Excise Duty.
We just want them to have some accountability.
One quarter of road users in London’s morning rush hour are cyclists.
That’s one-in-four road users, who have no responsibility to report an accident to property or person and who, more than likely, could never be traced after an incident, no matter how serious.
*What do you think? Should cycle insurance be compulsory to protect third parties?
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