Leading Cycle Accident Solicitor Jan Canter comments on the upcoming law changes that will help to protect one group of Vulnerable Road Users: Cyclists.
In March 2019, new legislation will make it illegal for motorists in the UK to drive too close to cyclists when overtaking them on the road.
A failure to give a berth of at least 1.5 metres will result in a criminal sanction of a £100 fine, and may also include points on the driver’s license.
The Highway Code does already makes it clear that the recommended distance to give a cyclist when passing them in a car is 1.5 metres and that this must be adhered to at all times, but with motorists ignoring this guideline all too often, the law is now changing to help enforce this higher standard of driver behaviour.
The statistics are there for all to see how cyclists are far more likely to be injured on the road and killed than other road users. This is brought home to me on a daily basis, through my contact with injured cyclists and the negligent behaviour of motorists, which only seems to be getting worse.
For all those incidents of negligent motorists knocking cyclists off their bikes that are included in the statistics, how many more incidents are there of near misses, which go completely unreported? In my daily bike commute to Warrington I am taken through the back roads of Halewood, Cronton and Widnes. On this commute there is barely a day that goes by without a car, van or heavy good vehicle speeding past me leaving only a couple of feet or event just a few inches between their vehicle and my bike.
“You can literally feel the wind go by as they brush past, and particularly with larger vehicles the width margin is often less due to their larger and wider wing mirrors protruding out.”
It could just be me, but I do often get the impression that sometimes when overtaking the car drivers deliberately build up their revs with extra bursts of accelerating as they overtake, as if they are trying to make a statement to the cyclist. Hopefully the new criminal sanction will be able to reduce this kind of behaviour.
I recently represented a cyclist who was badly injured precisely because of this close-passing by a man driving a van. The driver initially denied causing this cycle accident, having fled the scene, and the claimant has suffered life changing injuries. We achieved a 6 figure settlement for this claimant.
Of course, road accidents like these, which are caused by negligent behaviour, are one of the most powerful arguments for having segregated cycle lanes, although action on constructing these types of lanes nationwide still appears to be very slow.
The poor state of our existing cycle lanes means that many cyclists have no choice but to use the road instead, adding even more to the problem of close passing accidents.
We hope that this positive step in changing the law will be a catalyst for more consideration between all road users, and better infrastructure for alternative modes of transport.