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Does the Risk of Injury from an Accident Make it Too Dangerous to Cycle on the Roads of Britain?
Cycling seems to tick all the boxes: as a mode of transport, as a means of exercise, as an enjoyable pastime for the family and as a method of keeping travel costs down. There really is nothing that can be gain-said against it, apart from one unavoidable fact. That fact is, that every time a cyclist jumps on his or her bicycle and sets off on the country’s roads, there is the ever-present danger of being hurt, sometimes very seriously or even of being killed? Is that a valid comment or are we being unduly morbid?
Added 24th September, 2018
Just how dangerous is it to cycle on the roads of Britain?
Googling the search term, ‘cycling accident news Humberside,’ brings up such headlines as ‘cyclist seriously injured’, ‘cyclist suffers potentially life-changing injuries’ and in one tragic case, ‘cyclist killed when container falls from lorry in Hull’.
According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) in its November 2017 Road Safety Factsheet, in 2016, 18,477 cyclist were injured in reported accidents in the UK (so presumably there were many more who were injured, but didn’t report to the police, such as those who were the victims of the ever growing number of potholes on our roads). Of the reported cases 3,397 were seriously injured, with a further 102 being killed.
When read in insolation, these figures are alarming and perhaps a factor as to why 59% of non-cyclists are put off cycling because they feel that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the roads.
ROSPA’s report found that per billion vehicle miles, 1,011 pedal cyclists are killed or seriously injured, in comparison to 26 car drivers
Are we trying to put you off cycling? Absolutely not. Many of us here at Bridge McFarland solicitors are keen cyclists, just for the very reasons given in the first sentence of this article. To put the gruesome accident statistics into some form of context too, you may be reassured to know that a British Social Attitudes survey carried out by the government in 2016 reveals that 1.9 million people cycle every day, or almost every day, rising to 2.7 million who cycle at least once a week and 3 million who jump on their bikes at least one a month.
Balancing those figures against the numbers injured whilst on their cycles on the roads of Britain and the accident statistics would seem to suggest that the chances of being injured in a cycling accident on the road, are still fairly remote, whilst pursuing an activity that has all the positive benefits referred to in the opening lines of this article.
What are the Causes of Most Accidents Involving Cyclists?
Perhaps given that cycling is considered to be such a worthy mode of getting around, what we should really be looking at, are ways of minimising accidents involving cyclists. One of the best ways to educate both cyclists and motor vehicle users, is to look at the most common ways cyclists become involved in accidents on the road and the extra precautions that cyclist and driver can take, to try and avoid coming into collision with each other.
1. Motorist emerging into the path of a cyclist
When we wrote earlier in this piece about cyclists being in potential danger every time they set off on a road journey, this type of accident was very much at the forefront of our minds and the word that we had in mind, when we made that statement was ‘vulnerability.’ The cyclist is vulnerable on every journey he or she takes. There are numerous minor prangs between motor vehicles every day. A car pulls out from a minor road into the path of another travelling within the 30mph speed limit on a major road. The car on the major road brakes, but still there is a collision. The chances are that both drivers will escape major injury at low speed – whiplash injury may be the outcome for one or both drivers (and we do not minimise the fact that more serious injuries may occur) but more often than not, the drivers will be shaken up, but are then able to exchange details then go on their way.
If the same accident happens but the driver pulls out into the path of a cyclist, with whom he or she then collides, the odds of the cyclist being seriously injured or worse, are much higher. Simply put, the cyclist has minimal bodily protection against serious injury. Yes, they will invariably be wearing a helmet, but there have even been studies of the effectiveness of cycling helmets that indicate that there is no evidence that helmets save lives or prevent serious injury at all across cyclists as a whole. The chances of the cyclist suffering broken bones, serious head injury or even death in the event of a car pulling out on them, is significantly higher than would have been the case of two motor vehicles colliding.
2. Motorist turning across the path of a cyclist
Exactly the same reasoning can be applied here as in number 1, above.
3. Motorist changing lanes and failing to spot the cyclist
In 1975 there was a brief public information film that used to appear on the TV which had the warning, ‘Think once, think twice, think bike’ with an actor punching his flat hand with his other fist to show the effect of a motor vehicle colliding with a motorbike. The film could equally have applied to a cycle in place of the motorbike.
One of the main causes of accidents between cyclists and motorists is when a motor vehicle suddenly changes lanes without the driver checking his mirrors properly or taking sufficient account of any blind spot that he might have, for the presence of a cyclist.
This same problem applies to:
4. HGVs and Vans turning left, without properly checking for the presence of cyclists in their blind spots, particularly at traffic lights and junctions
5. The rear end shunt
This is probably the most common type of road traffic accident of them all. Another situation where if the two vehicles involved were motor vehicles, in most cases the drivers will walk out of their vehicles unscathed. If the cyclist is the innocent victim, the chances of serious injury are high.
6. Opening a car door into the path of a cyclist
Car drivers or front seat passengers opening their door without checking their wing mirrors pose a threat to any passing motorist. When they do this into the path of a passing cyclist, the potential for causing serious injury to the cyclist, is self-evident. The potential is there too for the cyclist to be knocked into the path of a vehicle in the opposite carriageway.
Adopting the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening car doors has been suggested as a method of cutting down the risks from ‘car dooring.’
An article on cycling accidents, could not be complete without mention of potholes. The state of the countries roads seems to be getting worse and worse, particularly in relation to the number of and increasing depth of potholes. The cause has been put down to an increase in numbers of extreme rainfall events coupled with councils being strapped for the cash to repair them.
Whatever the cause, potholes present a serious danger to cyclists, particularly on country roads which are less busy, affording the opportunity for cyclists to go at faster speeds than urban roads. If they fail to see a pothole and drive over it, the consequences can tragically be fatal.
Types of Injuries Caused in Cycling Accidents
The types of injury sustained by cyclists in non-fault cycling accidents can be wide ranging. Even the most minor of accidents where a cyclist is involved, can result in broken wrists and arms through the cyclist being thrown from or over the front of their cycle. Other types of injury are;
- Bruising and scratches of limbs or face
- Fractured jaw
- Dental injuries
- Fractured tibia or Fibula
- Collar bone – clavicle fractures
- Broken neck
- Spinal injuries
- Head injuries
- Deep lacerations
- Chest injuries
The list is not conclusive and multiple injuries in serious cases are common.
So, what is the answer to the question posed by our title to this article? Does the risk of being injured in an accident make it too dangerous to cycle on the roads of Britain?
The answer to that will be a subjective one. If the answer was to be a definitive ‘yes’ then why have there been an increasing number of cyclists on the road since 2008? After all there are more and more cycle lanes being built, although these are most noticeably in the cities and London in particular. Even in the major cities according to the Guardian newspaper, a survey has revealed that only 30% of the residents of 7 major cities felt it was safe to ride a bike where they lived, with 3 out of 4 surveyed also saying that they wanted more to be spent from their taxes, in building a still greater network of cycle lanes.
If you are one of the 59% who say that that you are put off cycling on the roads because of the perceived dangers, then you are unlikely to be swayed sufficiently by all the known benefits of cycling for health, cost and enjoyment reasons.
Equally, confirmed cyclists will point to the fact that each day there are millions of cyclists on the road and only a very small percentage of them will ever have had or ever will have an accident. They may also emphasise the large number of car accidents that happen every day with an average of 300 casualties involving the occupants of cars per day covering the whole range of severity from very minor to fatalities, in 2016.
Cycling Accident Personal Injury Compensation Claims
If you have been injured while riding your bike, and the accident was not your fault e.g. it was due to the negligence of a motorist, because of a poor road surface (e.g. potholes), or if your bike (or equipment) failed, you may be able to make a cycling accident compensation claim.
Bridge McFarland are experienced cycling accident and personal injury solicitors. In most cases we will be able to take on your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis.
The personal injury solicitors at Bridge McFarland will take the time to understand the details of your case. If necessary, they will seek additional evidence, such as medical records, to ensure that you have the strongest case possible. The money you receive may compensate you for the pain and worry you have endured, cover any costs you have incurred, and cover any loss of earnings if you are unable to work.