Posted by Mark Hambleton, Senior Associate
What happens if you are knocked off your bike without lights?
Every winter, when the clocks go back and the country is propelled into darkness, we all notice the immediate change. But for those of us that commute by bike, this transition is particularly sharp and when it comes to reduced visibility and our safety, it has the potential to make cycling more dangerous.
Not being seen in the dark is a concern of many cyclists, and most of us respect the risk by using appropriate lights. Some people also wear high-vis clothing but there is no legal requirement to do so. But what if you are not using lights and you are knocked off your bike? Or the lights were not up to standard? Who is really to blame, and how does this affect the assessment of blame?
In the UK it is a legal requirement for our bicycles to display illuminated white front and red rear lights at night / in the dark. This is stated in rule 60 of the Highway Code which goes on to say that flashing lights are permitted, but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
But what if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident when you are cycling without illuminated bicycle lights? Tough luck right? Well not necessarily. It all depends on context and whether the driver was being negligent in their actions.
I have recently represented a client who was knocked off his bicycle by a motorist in Somerset. There was a dispute about whether my client was displaying illuminated bicycle lights (as well as whether he was cycling on the footpath, contrary to the Highway Code).
In cases like these you can still claim compensation if the driver was negligent. You are likely to have to address the visibility point with evidence. If you do succeed with a claim, you may suffer a significant deduction in your damages for personal injuries and financial losses to account for the absence of lights.
In this particular case I was successful in obtaining compensation for my client’s injuries. However it was necessary to concede a proportion of liability and therefore a deduction in his overall payment because he was not using lights.
Our visibility on the roads is crucially important. It will only go a small way to achieving mutual respect for other road users, but it is vital to use bicycle lights for our own safety as well as promoting compliance with the law. We’ve all probably been in a car where passengers have made disparaging comments about cyclists riding at night without lights? We should avoid giving non cyclists the opportunity to criticise us on something like this which is very easy to rectify.
It is worth bearing in mind, especially during the winter months, that you should be carrying your lights as a matter of course, but even in the summer you should have a spare pair in your bag, in case you have to stay late at work and cycle home in the dark.
My particular favourite lights at this time of year for city riding are these Macro Duo front lights and Micro Drive rear lights and for riding on country roads and for cycle paths are the Blinder Road R70 lights and these Cateye Volt 1200 lights. There are many different types of light to suit all riding styles and budgets, but I found this review from Bike Radar particularly useful.
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Mark Hambleton is a specialist personal injury lawyer and a keen cyclist – in his own words, “solicitor and cyclist in equal measure.” He has cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 9 days and completed the Bike Bath challenge. Not to mention that he also cycles to work every day - 29 miles round trip! Mark is a keen advocate of cyclists’ safety and regularly speaks up on safety-related matters. Contact Mark now for specialist advice on your cycling injury claim.
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