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Cycle Law

The Law

Britain’s transformation into a nation of cyclists has been nothing short of remarkable.

Over the last decade, cycling has gone from very much a minority pursuit to an important part of daily life for many of us. It’s now estimated that around two million Britons are regular cyclists and this is having a major impact on our urban life.

You only have to stand by the side of a major road leading to the centre of our cities at rush hour to watch the constant stream of bicycles passing as commuters forsake the car, bus or tube to use their bikes to get to work.

It’s a pastime that has boomed in recent years, whether the increase is measured by participation or by our spending on bicycle-related produce. Cycling is boosting the economy as well as our fitness levels.

The rise in cycling participation has been fuelled in part by our outstanding success in the Tour de France and the London Olympic Games. Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Laura Trott, Chris Froome and Victoria Pendleton are among the most recognised names in British sport, modern day icons inspiring a new generation of young cyclists.

As cycling participation has increased, it should follow that UK cycle law would evolve to reflect the increasing importance of cycling in our everyday life. It would not be too much to ask for sensible legislation to have developed over the years and it would be nice to say that we have a properly codified set of rules that clearly set out the law that governs cyclists and their interaction with others.

Regrettably, that has not happened. The law that governs cycling cannot be found in any one document or specific statute. There are a number of different sources of law which makes assessing rights and duties very difficult.

The main sources of cycle law are…

1. Statutory law

2. Common law

3. The Highway Code

4. By-laws and local provisions

Statutory Provisions

These are Acts of Parliament which deal with cycling. The main relevant Act is probably the Road Traffic Act 1988. It defines dangerous cycling and also deals with concepts of careless and inconsiderate cycling. It also makes it an offence to cycle when under the influence of drink or drugs. Also relevant is the Highways Act 1980 which, among other things, defines the duties owed by a local authority to keep roads and cycle ways in a proper state of repair.

Common Law

Common law, or “judge-made” law, runs alongside the statutory provisions. The law is developing all the time through decisions made by judges, particularly in the higher courts of England and Wales.

Highway Code

The Highway Code was first issued under Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act 1930. It is not actual law but provides guidance and instruction for road users, including cyclists.

By-laws/Local Laws

In addition to laws that are applied on a national basis, local areas have their own rules which can complicate the duties owed by cyclists to each other and other road users.

These various sources of UK cycle law interact with each other in a complicated way, so that providing a definitive view on the duties owed to, and by, cyclists is very difficult.

It’s unfortunate that as cycling has increased in importance as both a hobby and a mode of transport, UK cycle law has not developed at the same pace. For example, there has still been no definitive case on the issue of wearing cycle helmets and whether the failure to do so in an accident should deprive the cyclist of a percentage of their compensation if the wearing of a helmet could have prevented or reduced their injury.

Cycling in this country is continuing to increase and develop. The relationship between cyclists and other road users is evolving over time. New safety developments have been proposed with a view to protecting cyclists from motor vehicles and cycling has become very much a political issue.

It’s important that our politicians and the judiciary realise that the law governing cycling must adapt so that it provides our increasingly cycle-obsessed nation with the UK cycle law we deserve.

Cycle Compensation

Our specialist lawyers have recovered millions of pounds on behalf of injured claimants and will guide you through your cycle claim.

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Recovering the full cost of getting your bike repaired or replaced, so you can get back on the road as soon as possible.


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