Update: I'm not really looking for any legal advice here, more looking for pointers to articles or whatever covering these topics.

Last year I was involved in a road crash whilst riding to work (linky). I'm mostly OK now. I am, however, hitting a brick wall when it comes to the insurance company. They are trying to avoid liability and are now seeking some form of contributory neligence on my part on the grounds I was cycling too fast. So my questions are:-

  1. Could they really succeed with that argument?
  2. Is there any previous case where this was used?
  3. Does it mean anything to other cyclists in a similar situation?
  4. If they succeed, would that imply a "safe speed" for cyclists?

I can't imagine how they could prove I was going too fast. The car I hit had just overtaken me and wasn't that far ahead of me. Needless to say I have no memory of the crash but I am familar with that stretch of road and there isn't much distance in which to overtake and pull away any significant distance.

I do understand that as I'm in the UK it does make this country specific but it would be interesting to hear how this is dealt with in other countries (just remember to mention this).

  • @PeteH: I do have a personal injury lawyer involved but he's not a cyclist specific lawyer so I was just seeing if anyone had experience of something similar. It does sound lame to me too, especially given the circumstances. The British Cycling is worth a look, thanks.
    – Skizz
    Apr 14, 2015 at 8:42
  • I've seen something online written by a UK lawyer about speed and other legal issues related to cycling. Can't find it at the moment with a weak phone signal. CTC have something as well iirc. I'll try to have a look later on.
    – Chris H
    Apr 14, 2015 at 9:13
  • But note that in the UK is always the responsibility of the overtaker to choose a safe opportunity. What happens when they stop or crash immediately after is rather harder because it relies on defining immediately.
    – Chris H
    Apr 14, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    This is not the place for legal advice. Apr 14, 2015 at 11:59
  • 1
    @Criggie: Not really, the defence team seem to be able to come up with new and interesting ways to drag their heels and try to avoid responsibility, even proposing doing a laser scan and an ARAS thing, not that'd I think it'd help! It might be another year before this is resolved.
    – Skizz
    Dec 4, 2015 at 17:28

2 Answers 2


Bikes were the first rubber wheeled vehicles on the road, they're even the reason why paved roads were first layed. I've been pulled over by police while riding my bike here in Canada. They straight up told me that the same rules apply for bikes as they do for cars. Those include speed limits and traffic laws.

I don't know UK laws, but I wouldn't expect to get anything out of rear ending a vehicle on my bike, because they would have had the right of way, if the same situation had happened here, I would be considered to be the party at fault, and therefore would be liable for the damages.

As far as the speed claim, as long as you were doing the posted speed limit, then they shouldn't be able to touch you with that one, unless there's a different limit for cyclists in the UK. In response to their claim that you may have been exceeding whatever limit they claim you were, all you have to say is, "Prove it." They will then be required to launch an investigation to determine how fast your were going based on impact forces, which is determined by examining the damage sustained by the vehicle, and you.

In your situation though, I'd consider myself extremely luck if I got anything out of this, because like I said, when you get into an accident on your bike on the road, they treat you like another vehicle, so you need to think about the whole situation as if you had been in a car. Had you been going the same speed and been in the same situation while driving a car, then what would you expect the outcome to be?

Edit: After reading the comments and learning more about the pileup being caused by an oncoming vehicle, the only thing I think you could possibly be found guilty of is not maintaining a safe following distance. Obviously the oncoming vehicle is at fault, you should feel lucky that the car overtaking you softened the blow, had you been the one that hit the other car head on, chances are you wouldn't have woken up in the hospital at all.

  • The safe distance thing is tricky as the car had just overtaken me so it was possibly closer than I would have usually liked. Would this then lead to the case that I should have slowed down when being overtaken and by how much? And what could this mean to other cyclists? Would this be setting a precedent?
    – Skizz
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:25
  • @Skizz - A safe following distance is considered to be 2 seconds (3 seconds if you're driving a bus) this is because anything less will not give you the reaction time you need to safely stop in the event that the vehicle in front of you suddenly stops (as you've been unfortunate enough to experience first hand). The answer is yes, if someone overtakes you or cuts you off, it's still up to you to maintain a safe following distance. Yes it is annoying to have stupid drivers pulling into the safe gap you leave in front of you.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 15, 2015 at 16:20
  • @Skizz - But it's better to arrive at your destination a little late because of idiots in traffic rather than spend a couple days in the hospital because of them. Tailgating causes accidents, you could have avoided injury had you backed off when the car overtook you. I'm not trying to cast blame on you, just saying that as a cyclist you can't really afford to drive offensively like you're surrounded by a steel frame. Cars are bigger, doesn't matter who has the right of way, when I'm on my bike on the road I automatically assume everyone driving is an idiot and trying to kill me.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 15, 2015 at 16:23
  • I'm well aware of tailgating and I do usually slow down when being overtaken. I've been commuting by bike for 20+ years, I do take great pains in making sure I'm safe (hivis, regular maintenance, etc). The scenario was: car pulls out, accelerates and overtakes, pulls in, hits oncoming car (oncoming car on wrong side of road), I can't stop in time. All this in 150m on country lane (two lanes though). The car came to a really sudden stop (0mph) so the 2 second rule is probably not enough - can you come to a absolute stop with reaction time in 2s?
    – Skizz
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:08
  • I think what I'm trying to say there is: do you leave 2s or enough space to come to a complete stop? In the latter case you'd have to slow down a lot. I sometimes feel that had I been in a car, this wouldn't be an issue.
    – Skizz
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:11

You might find some useful advice here ETA Cycle Insurance however, as mentioned by some commentators this is no substitute for expert legal advice.

Can cyclists be booked for speeding?

Cyclists can’t be booked for speeding, but might be fined for ‘cycling furiously’ or ‘riding furiously’ which is an offence under the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act. However, cyclists can be convicted for ‘wanton and furious driving’ under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1948 (c. 58), s. 1(2)) if they cause bodily harm to any person. They are then guilty of a misdemeanour and could, at the discretion of the court, be imprisoned for up to two years.

I'd like to see somebody prove you were "riding furiously"! What a strange concept.

Remember, too, that insurance companies make profits by trying to avoid paying out claims, so this is often just standard procedure by them. Stick to your guns, and good luck.

  • The speed limit was 60mph which I've never been anywhere close to (even going down the final hill on the London to Brighton ride). I feel like saying no to any compromise and letting them try to prove I was going too fast (whatever that means), maybe they'll back down when they see the cost of doing that.
    – Skizz
    Apr 15, 2015 at 8:28

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