Parking in bike lanes

Parking in bike lanes

On one section of road that I use regularly, there’s a cycle lane at the side of the road. It’s also marked with double yellow lines. Yet cars often park here. If I were to run into the back of one of these cars by accident, who would be liable: the illegally parked driver or me?

Geoff Stanmore

In 2001 the Court of Appeal considered the case Foster v Maguire, which involved a cyclist colliding with a parked trailer in a cycle lane on a dual carriageway. Maguire parked his van-and-trailer at the side of the road after performing a U-turn. The nearside of the trailer was 15cm from the kerb so it blocked the cycle lane (which was 1.22 metres wide) and took up about 1.2 metres of the nearside traffic lane.This left about 2.2 metres of the left lane free for traffic, as well as the offside lane.

Maguire saw the claimant, Tracy Foster, riding along the cycle lane both when he was waiting in the central reservation and when he got out of his van. On the first occasion, she was not more than 383.5 metres away from him‚ and on the second‚ she was still some distance away.

Foster did not notice the trailer until it appeared in her 5-10 yard, head-down riding vision. She hit the trailer head on. It is relevant to note that it was raining at the time and that both carriageways alongside the cycle lane bore heavy, fast moving traffic.

The trial judge held that the parking of the van and trailer did not present a hazard or danger to other road users, and that the sole cause of the accident was the claimant’s own failure to take care of her own safety. The action was dismissed.

Foster appealed to the Court of Appeal. Giving the lead judgment, Sir Anthony Evans stated that Maguire owed a duty of care to other road users, when deciding whether and where to park his van and trailer, and to Foster in particular. Maguire saw her approaching, using the cycle lane, and if he chose to park there she would be forced into the nearside carriageway unless she chose to dismount and wheel her bicycle on to the grass verge. If she decided to overtake the parked vehicle, with the road and traffic conditions as they were, he said‚ then she was certainly exposed to some risk of injury if the driver of another vehicle failed to appreciate the situation in good time, perhaps from momentary inadvertence or perhaps because of limited visibility due to spray.

He added: ‘Moreover, he [Maguire] was required by the applicable Code of Practice (Safety at Street Works and Road Works and the Clear Way Regulations) not to obstruct the cycle way if it was not necessary for him to do so. I find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that he was careless of her safety, in the face of a reasonably foreseeable risk that she might be exposed to injury.’ The appeal was therefore allowed.

However, there was a sting in the tail: Sir Anthony Evans made a very heavy finding of contributory negligence of 70%. As Foster was held to be 70% to blame, she only received 30% of the full value of her claim.

In conclusion, whether or not there are good prospects of pursuing a claim arising out of a collision with an illegally parked car in a cycle lane (or anywhere else for that matter) depends on all the circumstances of the case. The key consideration is whether or not the defendant exposed another road user to a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury.

Paul Kitson

 

This was first published in the December 2014 / January 2015 edition of CTC's Cycle magazine.

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