Club run crash

Club run crash

During a recent chain gang, a crash occurred when the third rider in the near side line ran into the back of the second rider after the first rider braked. The third rider fell off and sustained fractures to wrist arm and elbow. Rider three is now suing rider one for damages.

I was not involved, but if rider three wins it will surely be impossible to ride in bunches or road races. Is the claim likely to succeed?

M Weaver

Cyclists do need to take care when riding in a bunch. The slipstream effect is greater the closer you are to the rider in front, but riding too close leads to greater risk. It is sensible to keep your hands on the hoods and to position yourself slightly offset so that you can see ahead. Sudden movements, often over-reactions, can cause pile ups. Make a clear signal to riders around you and remember to look over your shoulder. Each member of the group must be vigilant.

Riding close together can also enhance the safety of the group as they will be more visible in traffic. Motorists are frequently unaware that the law permits cyclists to ride two abreast and many readers will no doubt have been on the receiving end of abuse from motorists in these circumstances.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an ongoing case, particularly if the cyclists are Cycling UK members and if Cycling UK is supporting one or more of the injured cyclists in a claim through Slater & Gordon. Occasionally, we are instructed by cyclists injured in a pile up. Whether or not it is possible to pursue a claim depends on the individual circumstances of the case, and whether we can identify and prove negligence on the part of one or more cyclists.

There have been very few reported cases in relation to injured cyclists riding in a group. In a recent High Court case, Thomas v Warwickshire County Council, Mr Thomas, an experienced cyclist, sustained a serious head injury when he fell from his bike during a group ride when he struck a defect on the road surface. Mr Thomas was travelling at 25mph, riding two abreast with 20 other cyclists, 15cm from the rear wheel of his fellow rider when he struck the defect. The judge held that it was reasonable to assume cyclists would ride two or even three abreast but significantly, and very harshly in my view, he held the Claimant to be 60% contributory negligent on the basis he was riding closely behind the bike in front.

When riding in a group it is particularly important to have third party liability insurance in the event that there is a pile up and you are identified as the culprit. As a Cycling UK member, you will have up to £10 million of indemnity cover. Affiliated clubs also have the benefit of indemnity insurance. If you are the innocent injured party you may, of course, pursue a claim through the Cycling UK Legal Services scheme.

The outcome of the litigation referred to in Mr Weaver’s question will not impact on the future of group cycling. Incidents will occasionally happen but as indicated above, riding in a group has the dual benefit of being energy efficient as well as safer as a group is far more visible than a solo rider.

Paul Kitson

 

This was first published in the April / May 2014 edition of Cycling UK's Cycle magazine.

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