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Cyclist Casualties Caused By Misunderstanding Of ‘Right Of Way’ Entitlement

Cyclist nearly getting hit by car
3rd October 2013

Two cycling accidents, one fatal, are currently in the press headlines. The reactions of the drivers involved demonstrate that the journey to reforming attitudes towards the cyclist may indeed be an uphill struggle, with many a bicycle accident claim along the way. 

In the first tragic accident, which killed a 21 year old female cyclist, the motorist was travelling between 40 – 50 mph on a bend while also trying to overtake the cyclist and her partner who was cycling ahead. He slowed down, fearing a collision with the car approaching rapidly from behind. The female cyclist lost control after she hit the back wheel of her partner's bike and careered at a ‘right angle’ across the motorist’s path. She was fatally injured when she struck the ground.

Car overtook on the bend

At the court hearing, the victim’s partner described how the oncoming car overtook them on the bend, which forced him to aim for a “tiny gap”, and also felt his girlfriend’s wheel touch the back of his bike. 

The motorist, a 51 year old female doctor, said in her defence that she was “surprised” to suddenly see the two cyclists as she rounded the curve in the road, adding, “I can’t help it if a cyclist, with respect, falls over as I’m approaching them and comes into my line of travel.”

It seems highly likely that the 21 year old was instantly unnerved and lost control when becoming aware of the attempt by a car to overtake from behind at high speed. 

Yet at the same time, and with respect, there appears to be little in the way of understanding or sympathy expressed by the motorist beyond a sense of a motorist’s ‘right of way’ entitlement. 

A 'right of way' that now means a car driver who is positioned on the wrong side of the road and driving into a bend without slowing down should not 'expect to see' another road user? 

Incredibly, it seems the jurors felt the same way and found the motorist not guilty. 

Perhaps the second cycling accident may paint an even more vivid picture of the contrasting hues and tones that distinguish one road user from another. 

A 31 year old motorcyclist failed to be aware that he hit a female cyclist and drove away from the incident without stopping on his 1948 Harley-Davidson.

Unaware of collision

According to the defendant, the “roar” of the motorbike engine may have drowned out the sound of any contact, which didn’t leave any marks on the 1200cc vintage motorbike but did damage the cyclist’s back wheel. 

The bike rider, a stockbroker, said that “as a cyclist he was aware of the risks involved” and that he took “full responsibility” for any damage to the bicycle. He did “remember a big group of cyclists in traffic,” and “an incident while on my motorbike in the area”. 

However, the rider claimed  “...right of way as the zebra crossing was 60 metres away” and “...kept going when one of the cyclists came ridiculously close to me.” He added that he drove away from the scene of the accident because he was “unaware he had collided with the cyclist.” 

At the subsequent court hearing, the Harley Davidson was described as being “large enough to knock a cyclist over at five miles an hour.” The defendant pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention, and failing to stop after a road accident was given five penalty points, a £200 fine and told to pay £105 compensation. 

A small price to pay for not being aware that a potentially dangerous contact could be made when a large motorbike is travelling close to one or more pedal cyclists. 

It’s also interesting to hear that the defendant thought “right of way” ahead of motor vehicles, which is granted to cyclists and motorbike riders positioned in the ‘cycle box’ at the front of pedestrian crossings, also extended to the approach to the crossing."