A rise of 26 per cent in the number of accidents involving cyclists in the UK has prompted an outcry for greater awareness of the dangers of cycling amongst all road users.
The Department for Transport’s recently published Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2010, observed that in the first quarter of 2011 the total number of cyclists killed and injured on Britain’s roads was 3,730 – up from 2,961 on the same period in 2010.
The DfT’s report states that four of the five most frequently reported contributory factors were some kind of driver/rider error or reaction.
In 57 per cent of serious accidents involving a cyclist and a vehicle, the reason of ‘failed to look properly’ was attributed as the cause of the accident by the driver of the vehicle.
Speed is another common factor, and although excessive speed was cited as a contributory factor in only five per cent of accidents in 2010, it was a contributory factor in 17 per cent of fatal ones.
Overall, speeding and ‘driving too fast for the road conditions’ were cited as contributory factors in 30 per cent of all fatal accidents, and loss of control (to which excessive speed could have contributed) was a factor in another 36 per cent of fatal accidents.
Other causes for accidents can include poor road surface, such as potholes, of which there are an estimated 1.6 million on the UK’s roads. Obstacles in the path or road, a manufacturing fault, poor maintenance or a collision with a pedestrian or animal were also cited as reasonably common causes. Many of these resulted in accident claims being filed.
Interestingly, the report also estimates that the cost of all these accidents to the British economy was £15.82billion in 2009 alone, which lies in stark comparison with the estimate £18billion cost of Britain’s war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011.
Boom in popularity of cycling
According to a recently-published report from the London School of Economics and Political Science, it is estimated that 208 million bicycle journeys were made during 2010. This equates to a 1.3 million rise in Britain’s cyclist population, and brings the total number of cyclists in the UK to 13 million.
The report also purports that a 20 per cent increase in cycling levels by 2015 could save £52 million in NHS costs and £107 million by reducing premature deaths, and by delivering beneficial cuts to pollution and congestion, saving the government £207 million and £71 million, respectively.
Cyclist accident facts (courtesy of RoSPA, February 2011)
- Around 75 per cent of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas;
- Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries;
- Around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads;
- 75 per cent happen at, or near, a road junction;
- 80 per cent occur in daylight;
- 80 per cent of cyclist casualties are male;
- Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children;
- 2,771 cyclists were killed or injured on Britain’s roads in 2010 (DfT).
On Tue 9 August 2011, lifelong-dedicated and extremely experienced cyclist 75-year-old cyclist, Audrey Fyfe, was reportedly clipped by a car while riding home through Edinburgh after visiting family and succumbed to a serious head injury in hospital two days later.
When Sam Harding, 25, was cycling in the bus lane on Holloway Road at 1pm on Saturday 6 August 2011, he was forced to swerve into the path of a single decker bus in order to avoid a parked car’s open door. He died on impact.
2010 saw 29-year-old army officer, Capt Jonathan Allen, killed when he collided with a lorry after swerving to avoid a pothole on the A338 en route to his Wiltshire barracks. The County Council had previously received a complaint about the pothole, but deemed that it was 5mm ‘too shallow’ to meet the requirements for repair.
With 40 per cent suffering arm injuries and around 25 per cent suffering leg injuries, these are most common injury sustained by cyclist.
These range from cases of minor concussion and cuts to fatal brain damage and skull fractures. Incredibly, this is a common injury suffered by cyclists, with around three quarters of cyclists killed having sustained major head injuries.
Chest and abdomen injuries occur much less frequently (five per cent), but are incredibly serious and are often accompanied by head injuries.
Alarmingly, in fact, hospital data shows that over 40 per cent of adult cyclists and 45 per cent of child cyclists suffer head injuries. A study of 116 fatal cyclist accidents in London and rural areas found over 70 per cent of the cyclist fatalities in London had moderate or serious head injuries in London, and over 80 per cent of those killed in collisions on rural roads. And up to 45% of people who had these injuries filed personal injury claims.
How to prevent cycling accidents
- Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road using the Highway Code, and stick rigidly to them
- Don’t take unnecessary risks, e.g. running red lights, cycling on the left hand side of a bus;
- Wear high-visibility, reflective clothing, to help other road users see you at all times;
- If you wear a rucksack, ensure it’s highlighted with reflectors or a high-visibility shell/strips;
- Wear a good quality, well-fitted bicycle helmet to help minimise the risk of head injury;
- Ensure that your bike and its component parts are well maintained, regularly – especially during the winter months;
- Cycle well away from the curb, especially where vehicles are parked or where it is likely that a pedestrian will step out into the road between parked vehicles;
- Avoid cycling on poorly surfaced and/or busy roads.
To make a claim
You must prove that the other party was negligent, and that injury and/or property damage sustained occurred as a result of this negligence. The following steps will help strengthen your case:
- Always exchange contact details with the other party, noting vehicle details yourself;
- Report the incident to the police – this is particularly important in case the other party decides not to cooperate;
- Seek medical treatment, especially where there has been a trauma, of any level, to the head;
- Wherever possible, take photos of the accident scene – this will support any liability dispute, which often occurs in cyclist/vehicle accidents.
- If your accident was as a result of poor road surface or an obstacle, take photographs – you could even measure the hazard, e.g. the depth of the pothole.
- Obtain as many witness contact details as possible – these can supply valuable supporting evidence from a different perspective to your own;
- Either dig out the original purchase receipt for the bike if it’s been written off, or acquire a replacement/repair quote.
- You may well be entitled to claim against the motorist’s insurance for cycle accident compensation. For advice on how to pursue a claim, either call us free on 0800 567 7866, request a call back your convenience by filling in the contact form to the right, or complete an online claim form.
A cycle accident can often be terrifying and can result in serious physical injuries and mental scars. Compensation accounts for the trauma of an accident and any costs incurred as a result, e.g. bicycle repair/replacement, replacement of bicycle accessories, medical care and loss of earnings.
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