Coventry West MidlandsGeneral

New Highway Code. Cyclists accused of contributory negligence even if you choose the safest route

The Highway Code is under consultation, and if implemented could have severe consequences for cyclists that choose to cycle on a road.
The law is not going to change, so it will still be legal to cycle on a public road (with certain exceptions – e.g. Motorways). The wording of the Highway Code may however remove the rights of the cyclist in the event that they are involved in an accident with a car.

To understand this we need to go back to an incident where Darren Coombs, a 9 year old cyclist was left permanently disabled after he was hit by a car. Darren’s family made a claim against the drivers insurance (which was with Provident). The insurer counter-claimed negligence against the parents and childminder because Darren was unsupervised and not wearing a helmet.
There is no legal requirement in the UK for cyclists to wear a helmet, but the wording of the highway code is: “You should wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations “(Highway Code – Rules for Cyclists). Regardless of whether wearing a helmet would really have helped or not, the family had to deal with their own feelings of guilt, but also that of an insurance company suggesting that it was their fault! As a result of a public outcry the insurance company backed down, but it showed both how low insurance companies are willing to stoop, but also that a suggestion from the Highway Code is now going to be used against people by Insurance companies.

The worrying parts in the new Highway Code (as well as keeping the earlier statement on helmets) is in the Highway Code Consultation Document.

Item 58:
“Use cycle routes when practicable and cycle facilities such as advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings where they are provided, as they can make your journeys safer.”

Item 60:
“Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 134). Keep within the lane wherever possible.”

The problem with this is that if the cyclist chooses not to use a cycle route, and instead continues on the road (as is their legal right), then they may find themselves accused of contributory negligence in the event that they are hit by a car.

The problem then lies when you look at the state of some of the cycle facilities, which vary from greatly inconvenient to down right dangerous. A few places you can see these are:

There are also a couple of news items on this at:

What can you do?

You can sign up for the CTC’s campaign (which emails your MP), and contact the Driving Standards Agency with the Highways Code consultation. You can also support other cyclists by donating to the Cyclists Defense Fund.