CTC calls for law change on compensation for cyclists

Cyclists' organisation reveals plans for far-reaching review of cycling and the law

by Rebecca McIlhone   April 9, 2009  

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The CTC says the case of 12-year-old injured cyclist Sam Scott highlights the need for a law change bringing the UK’s compensation system in line with the rest of Europe.

road.cc yesterday reported on the plight of the 12-year-old, from North Shields, Tyneside, who was sent a letter from an insurance company demanding £150 after a collision with a car resulted in a broken windscreen and left him with cuts and bruises.

The story, which originally appeared in the Daily Mail, reported that the schoolboy was at home recovering from the accident when the letter landed on the doormat, asking him to pay the cost of the driver's insurance excess.

According to the story, Sam was knocked off his bike after riding into the path of the car. His parents ignored the first letter and then the youngster was sent another, threatening legal action.

His mother Tracey told the Daily Mail: “I'm really furious. I have never heard anything like it before. It's terrible that people are asking children for money.”

Insurance isn't a legal requirement for cyclists, but they can be held liable for damage if an accident is their fault and this is where Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy manager for the CTC, says the law needs to change.

Geffen says apart from cases where a cyclist has done something stupid or criminal, they should have an automatic entitlement to compensation.

He says: “We wouldn’t push for it to go as far as Holland, where the cyclist can do no wrong, but certainly there should be an assumption that injured cyclists should be able to claim compensation from a driver unless it can be shown a cyclist has done something criminal or stupid.

“It’s this principle of entitlement to compensation which, in different ways and to different extents, applies in every Western European country apart from the UK, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.”

He says such a law-change would offer protection to cyclists in the common situation where they have no memory of the circumstances of the accident, because of their injuries.

The CTC attempted to get the law changed when the Road Safety bill was going through Parliament in 2006 but, Geffen says, encountered very little support.
He told road.cc: “Later this year we will be launching a long-term strategy looking at all aspects of cycling in the law. The way it’s enforced in Britain is scewed against the cyclist.

“The strategy will start with the police and how their failings can undermine cyclists’ entitlement to justice. Then we’ll work through the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to highlight the situation at each stage. We’ll be encouraging cyclists to report their experiences of failings at each of these stages to highlight the many ways cyclists are let down by the system. We think a fundamental shift of public, media and political opinion is needed.

“By highlighting a few of the more acutely problematic elements we aim to show how a European-style compensation entitlement is needed. It’s not going to be a quick win.”

Despite this push for a law change, the CTC still recommends cyclists should have insurance to protect them in compensation claims as the law stands, and from third party incidents where no-one is at fault.

Visit www.ctc.org.uk for more information on the CTC's insurance schemes.