Can I claim if injured when speeding on a bicycle?
Although speeding offences only apply to drivers of motor vehicles - therefore cyclists cannot be prosecuted for breaking speed limits on public roads - there are a number of laws which mean that you could still be convicted for cycling at speed.
The oldest of these is the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, in which, under Section 28, it is an offence for a person to "ride or drive furiously any horse or carriage . . ." and in this case a cycle is classed as a carriage.
If a cyclist causes bodily harm to another road user he may also be charged with wanton and furious driving. Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 - which was amended by the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 states:
Drivers of carriages injuring persons by furious driving
"Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years."
More recent legislation
The Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991) also makes it an offence to ride recklessly on a road or in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner.
Dangerous cycling in section 28 of the amended Act states that a person is regarded as riding dangerously if:
- the way he rides falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist, and
- it would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist that riding in that way would be dangerous, i.e. cause either danger of injury to any person, or damage to property.
A "competent and careful" cyclist is expected to be aware of the circumstances in which he is cycling - and it could be argued that this includes observing road conditions and speed limits.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of £2,500.
The lesser offence of careless and inconsiderate cycling states in section 29 that a person is guilty of such an offence if he cycles on a road without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. This carries a maximum fine of £1,000.
In both cases the maximum fines are rarely issued.
Making a compensation claim
If you have sustained an injury by colliding with another road user or a hazard in the road and you were cycling at speed, the Defendant against who you are bringing the claim may submit that had you been cycling more slowly and carefully you may have avoided the accident, or that your injuries may not have been as extensive.
Your injuries were caused by hitting a large pothole in the road and you lost control of your cycle and fell.
If you were cycling at speed, the impact of hitting the pothole may have caused you to somersault from your cycle and land awkwardly, injuring your neck and dislocating your shoulder. You may have fallen into the path of another vehicle, causing further injuries.
The Defendant (in this case the highway authority responsible for the pothole in the road) could argue that if you had been travelling more slowly (and not been in breach of any of the legislation) you may have had time to avoid the pothole entirely, or even if you had still hit it, the impact would have been lower and your injuries less severe.
If the Defendant's argument is accepted the Court may decide to reduce your compensation award because by cycling at speed you had contributed to your injuries through your own negligence.