Frequently Asked Questions

In general, our legal advice applies to England only. Legislation while very similar, may vary in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland & Eire. For brevity, we will refer here to the UK, but we do also have member groups in the other regions as well as Eire and this advice may also be useful to them. The ETA has a page on legal questions relating to cycling.  

Find the answers to the questions cycle advocacy groups often get asked here.

Contents

 

I have had an accident on my bicycle and require legal advice.

Firstly we are sorry to hear about any accident and offer our sympathies.

Make sure you get the other party’s insurance details, address, phone, & name. You should report the accident to the police and insist they fill in a STATS19 form.

Cyclenation cannot offer legal advice but some Cyclenation groups do offer these services to members, as does the Cyclists Defence Fund. If you are a member of the CTC contact them for free legal aid.

There are a number of lawyers and solicitors blogging about legal matters relating to cycling - here are the ones we know about:-

The Cycling Silk

Should cyclists have compulsory insurance?

No. Many cyclists do already have insurance, as they are either members of the CTC, or are covered under their motoring or household insurance. However, in most collisions involving a cyclist and another road vehicle it is the cyclist who comes off worst. It is therefore up to them to decide whether they should take out insurance, not the state. The introduction of a Proportionate Liability law would however provide a measure of protection for cyclists, as the driver of the heavier vehicle would automatically be assumed to be liable (which is not the same as culpable) Note also that this would mean that a cyclists would automatically be assumed to be liable if they collided with a pedestrian, which would deter them from riding dangerously on pavements.

According to the Daily Telegraph there are 1.2 million uninsured cars on the road and this seems to us to be a far greater cause for concern. 

If I decided I did need insurance, where can I get it?

Cyclenation does not offer insurance as part of its membership.

Groups can affiliate to the CTC and get insurance cover for events by this means.

As an individual, the best way to obtain bike insurance is also by joining the CTC -

www.ctc.org.uk

You automatically get 3rd party insurance on joining and can upgrade if you wish – see

www.butterworthinsurance.co.uk/

If you think you may want to try racing or time trials you may be better joining the British Cycling Federation

www.britishcycling.org.uk/web/site/BC/bchome/home.asp

If you are a student, you should ask your parents whether your bike can be covered on their home insurance.

Many Cyclenation groups are CTC affiliated and can offer affiliate membership of the CTC which includes third party insurance - contact your local group for details. 

Where can I get cycle training?

Most UK areas now offer Bikeability training and your local authority should carry details of courses on its website - if it doesn’t ask them why not. Your local cycle campaign group should also know about training - if you don’t have one in your area, we can help you get one started.

How can I find out about bike maintenance courses/workshops?

There is no consistency about this, but a bit of Googling may help. Your local authority should carry details of courses on its website - if it doesn’t, ask them why not. Your local Cyclenation  campaign group should know about local courses - if you don’t have one in your area, we can help you get one started. Bike Shops are often a useful source of information about what’s going on locally.

Should cyclists be made to wear helmets by law?

Cyclenation is against compulsion, but not against the wearing of helmets per se, which should be a matter of informed choice on the part of the cycle user. The evidence that wearing a helmet makes you safer as a cyclist is far from clear, and in some countries with a mandatory helmet law the incidence of head injuries has actually gone up. Additionally, the nuisance factor of having to find your helmet every time you go out cycling, even for short journeys, acts a deterrent to cycling and therefore the health benefits, reducing obesity and health disease, are lost, leading to a greater burden on health services. The safest countries to cycle in Europe are Holland and Denmark, and helmet wearing is practically non-existent in these countries. Strict liability legislation, slower traffic speeds and high-quality infrastructure are the key to safe cycling.

Head injuries account for less than a fifth of relatively minor injuries, e.g. where someone attends hospital but is not admitted.  This rises to 39-42% for those admitted to English hospitals with more serious cycling injuries – that is unsurprising, as head injuries are more likely to be serious.  Yet this figure is still lower than for pedestrians, for whom head injuries account for 48% of hospital admissions.

“For fatal injuries, the picture is more complicated. Around three quarters of cyclists' deaths in England involve a lethal head injury. However only around one quarter involve lethal injuries solely to the head - the others all involve lethal injuries to other body parts too, most commonly the thorax.  And as with less serious injuries, cycling fatalities are no more likely to involve head injuries than fatal injuries from other activities.

Should cyclists be forced to wear hi-viz vests by law?

Cyclenation is against the compulsory wearing of hi-viz for much the same reasons as we are against mandatory helmet wearing. Hi-viz is useful in darkness but less so in broad daylight. More emphasis should be placed on safe driving rather than making cyclists dress up like beacons. Cyclists should always have lights at night – that’s the law. In the main safety equipment should be attached to the cycle rather than the rider, as is the case with cars and drivers.

Aren’t cyclists just a bunch of inconsiderate law-breakers who are continually running through red lights and cycling on the pavement?

The statistics don’t bear this out. There are inconsiderate cyclists as well as inconsiderate motorists and we do not condone irresponsible behaviour by anyone. However, the number of collisions and injuries caused by irresponsible cycling is very low. 

Even in London, seen as the home of inconsiderate cycling (one might say, inconsiderate everything) a TfL study showed that about 16% of commuter cyclists jump red lights at peak times and this drops outside the peak. So it is hardly the case that a majority of cyclists jump red lights (We don’t condone doing this as it is illegal, but we would like the government to look at ways of making it legal where it is safe to do so, e.g. turning left on red and there is some work being done on this)

Should cyclists be forced to register their cycles and have licence plates?

No. Cyclists are readily identifiable because you can see their faces and other physical characteristics. This is not the case for example with cars that have tinted windows. We want to encourage people to cycle, not put barriers in front of them.

Should cyclists pay Road Tax?

You ought to know by now that there is no such thing as Road Tax. There is a Vehicle Excise Duty, which is a tax on the vehicle you are driving, not on the road. If VED was applied to cycles, as zero emissions vehicles the tax rate would be zero. Thus the cost of administering a scheme to tax cycles would cost plenty and recoup nothing.

Aren’t the British Isles roads too dangerous to cycle on?

Cycling is a safe activity. Statistically, you have to cycle a very long way before you are likely to have a serious collision. However, the issue of subjective safety  - people feeling safe when they are cycling – is a very important factor in encouraging people to cycle.

Isn’t cycling too slow? 

When you take average road speeds into account, over short distances cycling is a fast way to get about. Much of the time when you are driving in an urban environment you are stopped at junctions, or in traffic jams while cyclists can just keep going.

Isn’t building Cycle Routes just a waste of time and money?

No it isn’t. Cycle Routes pay for themselves very quickly in terms of reducing congestion and air pollution, obesity heart disease. However, for cycle routes to work they have to be built properly - there is a lot more to it than putting a white line on the road and hoping for the best. Building quality routes does cost money, but we’re worth it!

Why do Cycle Routes seem to stop and start all the time?

There are many reasons for this. One is that many cycle lanes and paths are paid for by “planning gain” – a developer puts money in the pot to help pay for a section of route that goes near his development, and the rest of the route has to wait until more money becomes available.

However, sometimes people misunderstand the nature of cycle routes in the British Isles. Cyclenation does not believe that segregated off-road paths are always essential. Where speeds are slow and traffic is light cyclists can normally be catered for on the road. Dedicated cycle routes are fine when they take you where you want to go by a reasonably short route, but we do not believe that cyclists should have to take circuitous routes just because they might “hold up the traffic”.

Off-road routes if poorly designed can be more dangerous than cycling on the road, and can lead to cyclists losing their road skills, and motorists failing to be bike-aware.

So when you are cycling and you leave a cycle lane, don’t assume you have left the “route”. All roads are potential cycle routes, although some are plainly more suitable for cycling than others. However, cycling off-road requires a different skill set from on-road cycling and you should take particular care when switching from on to off-road routes and v.v.

Why are the UK’s  road surfaces so awful?

It’s a age-old question! The short answer would be “because they always have been” but there’s a bit more to it than than. Chronic under-funding has left local roads in a very poor state, and although they have improved a bit, severe weather has been taking it’s toll. You can report specific problems via a number of means - the CTC’s Fill That Hole, via Cyclescape, by Fix My Street or direct to the relevant local authority. If the road surfaces were better cycling would certainly be a lot easier!

Isn’t the UK too hilly for cycling?

Most cities and towns in the UK are relatively flat. Perversely, some of the hillier places have high levels of cycling. Modern bikes can have a wide range of gears that will help with the hills if you use them properly. If you are unsure how to use them get some training.

So hills are only a problem if you are overweight and smoke. Give up the coffin nails, start eating proper food (this includes vegetables) get a decent bike and possibly go to the gym or swimming pool now and again. You will soon find yourself zooming up and down the hills.

Alternatively, I would suggest you might consider an e-bike.  Research in the Netherlands indicates that use of an e-bike typically lengthens the distance that people are willing to commute (to an average of 14km) whilst still giving fitness benefits.  

Why do cars park on bike lanes & drive in bus lanes?

This is due to selfishness, lack of consideration and respect for cyclists, and laziness on the part of a minority of drivers. Report them to your local police or parking authority.

How can I plan a route from A to B?

Use www.cyclestreets.net/

How long does it take to cycle from….?

An averagely fit cyclist can cycle about 12 miles an hour but this would entail cycling on busy main roads at times. For cyclists with more time, there are quieter routes,mostly on the National Cycle Network, but these can take substantially longer. Visit Cyclestreets.net for journey planning.

If your question hasn’t been answered please get in touch