10 Cycling Safety Improvements - The Personal Injury Lawyer's View26th Jan 2022
Updated: 26 January 2022
Making The Roads Safer For Cyclists
Cycling UK has been lobbying for changes to the Highway Code to improve safety for those of us who ride bikes.
This much-respected cycling rights organisation has published 10 key rule changes it would like to see implemented. Here’s our take on them as cycling accident solicitors…
1. Hierarchy of Responsibility/Users
Road users who are at most risk would be top priority: pedestrians (especially children, the elderly, disabled people), cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. Road users in the biggest vehicles would have the greatest responsibility in ensuring their safety.
This idea already exists to a certain degree: if a cyclist is hit by a car, public sympathies are almost always with the cyclist; they will be the one most injured.
Ensuring that drivers take greater care would go a long way to reducing the terrible toll of injuries inflicted on pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
2. Junction Priority Changes
Vehicles turning at junctions with no traffic lights should automatically give way to cyclists and pedestrians going straight ahead (unless signs or markings say otherwise).
We believe this could help to reduce the number of ‘left hook collisions’ that occur when cyclists are hit by lorries or cars turning left.
This is a very big safety issue…as highlighted by the number of warning stickers on the back of lorries. Truck drivers pulling up at junctions find it very hard to see cyclists to their left (and below their field of vision).
3. Give Cyclists More Room When Overtaking Them
Cycling UK wants the Highway Code to stipulate:
- a minimum 1.5 metres of clearance at speeds under 30 mph
- a minimum 2.0 metres at over 30 mph
- for a large vehicle, a minimum 2.0 metres in all conditions
- more space when overtaking in bad weather (including high winds) and at night.
‘Close passes’ are at best unnerving for cyclists and very dangerous if they cause the rider to lose control.
Drivers need to be aware that cyclists must keep a certain distance away from the kerb to avoid drain covers. These can be very slippery in wet weather. This is also where most road debris is located – and these objects can cause punctures.
Update: The new Highway Code being published on Saturday 29 January 2022 stipulates a minimum 1.5 metres of clearance when overtaking.
4. Opening Car Doors – The ‘Dutch Reach’
Drivers and passengers should use the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening a car door – giving them a better view of any approaching cyclists.
Put simply, the Dutch Reach involves using your left hand to open your right car door (or your right hand to open your left car door). Why? It makes you twist your body more so you’re in a better position to see what is behind your vehicle before you open the door.
Cyclists who hit car doors that are opened without warning tend to go over the handlebars – resulting in broken shoulders or collarbones (a very common cycling injury).
The Dutch Reach originated in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Why has it taken the UK half a century to catch up?
Motorists, please use the Dutch Reach – it works!
Update: The new Highway Code states that drivers and passengers should use the Dutch Reach when opening a door to get out of their car.
5. Riding Abreast
Ride in single file when drivers want to overtake (and it is safe to let them do so). Cycling UK also says that larger groups should be allowed to ride two abreast.
This is a tricky subject. Not all cyclists agree. The average commuter cyclist may have a very different view to a club rider more used to pelotons. But it can be quicker (and safer) for a car to overtake five pairs of riders than to overtake 10 riders in single file.
Update: The new version of the Highway Code confirms again that cyclists can ride two abreast and that it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders.
6. Road Positioning
Cycling UK points to a lack of clarity in the Highway Code on road positioning for cyclists. Drivers assume that riders must hug the kerb at all times but this is not always practical due to drains and potholes (though the latter can and do occur anywhere in the road).
Cycling UK wants the Highway Code to advise cyclists to ride in the middle of the lane (for greater visibility) but to move left when faster vehicles need to get past.
Some cyclists tend to ride like this anyway (to avoid potential hazards), especially if they are travelling quickly. So greater clarification in the Highway Code may make drivers more understanding.
There are sound, logical safety reasons why a cyclist may need to move away from the kerb at times (not least when turning right).
Update: The new 2022 Highway Code advises cyclists that it may be better to ride in the centre of the road in some situations, such as when approaching junctions or on narrow sections of road.
Cycling UK said: "This is not to deliberately slow drivers but to increase visibility and ensure cars can overtake only when it is safe to pass."
7. Rules On Cycle Lanes
Cyclists get angry when they are using a cycle lane, need to change lane or turn, and drivers don’t give them way. Motorists must not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line.
Bear in mind that cyclists are not obliged to use cycle lanes or cycle tracks. But our cycling injury solicitors strongly recommend that you do; the more distance you can put between yourself and that line of fast-moving cars, the better.
Proper segregated cycle lanes (not just a painted line) are so much safer than busy highways.
8. Allowing Cyclists And Pedestrians To Cross In Front Of Slow Traffic
Cycling UK wants the Highway Code to clarify to drivers that cyclists and pedestrians can cross in front of them if traffic is moving slowly. And that cyclists can filter through slow-moving traffic.
We agree. Filtering through traffic jams is one of the key benefits of riding a bike. And there are plenty more too – health, fitness, mental well-being, frugality and the environment to name but a few.
But if you’re filtering, please be careful. Always ask yourself: is there a safer, less busy route? That may mean taking a slightly longer route but you’ll avoid the most dangerous roads…and you can seize the chance to ride through leafy parks or along scenic cycle routes.
9. Advanced Stop Lines (Bike Boxes/Cycle Reservoirs)
It annoys cyclists when a car, van or truck fails to stop in time at the first white line of a bike box…and then advances right up to the second white line…ignoring this special area set aside for cyclists.
Cycling UK wants:
- drivers who cross the first white line to be advised to stop as soon possible
- cyclists waiting alongside the drivers to be given sufficient time to move off
- drivers of large vehicles to stop well before the first white line to avoid creating blind spots.
It’s a misnomer that injury accidents occur only at high speed (though excessive speed causes accidents and makes the injuries far worse).
We’ve seen serious injuries caused to cyclists and pedestrians by vehicles moving off at junctions or travelling at low speeds. So suggested rules or guidelines that give cyclists time to move off safely are to be welcomed.
10. Giving Priority To Cyclists At Roundabouts
Drivers should be advised to give priority to cyclists at roundabouts, says Cycling UK. That means:
- giving cyclists lots of room
- not overtaking them within their lane
- allowing cyclists to move across your path as they negotiate the roundabout
- encouraging cyclists to stay in the left-hand lane when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout
- urging drivers entering a roundabout not to cut across the path of cyclists in the left-hand lane.
All these are worthy attempts to improve safety at roundabouts, a real danger area for cyclists. But the safest advice is to avoid roundabouts whenever possible – especially larger ones.
Yes, cyclists have every right to use roundabouts but there’s no point taking your life in your hands to exercise that right.
In some cases, it may be better (and quicker) to get off your bike and push it across the road, as annoying as that may be.
Have You Been Injured In A Cycling Accident?
Have you been knocked off your bike? Our road accident solicitors can help you to claim compensation for:
- your injuries
- damage to your bike and clothes
- lost earnings due to time off work
- any other expenses you may have incurred as a result of your accident.
Coles Miller handles all injury accident claims on a No Win No Fee basis – so there is no financial risk to you. Learn more here.
Get Expert Legal Advice
Contact Coles Miller personal injury lawyer Adrian Cormack for more information about claiming compensation for a cycling accident.