Insurance for cyclists is not the answer

I read with interest the article on May 1st in the Edinburgh Evening news “woman hit by cyclist on pavement blocked from claiming damages

It’s very sad as the injured pedestrian may have life-changing injuries and yet will not be able to claim damages for her injuries and loss. Cyclists should not cycle on pavements but I confess I have found myself in the odd situation where I have mounted a pavement in a balancing act for my own safety. It’s simple common sense as long as you “watch out for pedestrians and dismount.”
I am surprised by the comments from “legal experts” who say “dozens of people across the capital are missing out on compensation after being unable to make an injury claim due to cyclists not having insurance." Who are these legal experts and can we please have accurate figures, as in 30 years of specialising in personal injury for all vulnerable road users, I have yet to encounter a single case of an uninsured cyclist hitting a pedestrian on a pavement.
Gordon Dalyell is a respected lawyer and his experience differs from my own but to suggest that “this is a really common issue faced by pedestrians,” is astonishing as “the issue” specifically relates to pedestrians struck and injured by uninsured cyclists on a pavement.
Many cyclists are insured and the premiums are small due to the low risk they pose to others. Also, many individuals have public liability insurance under their household contents insurance that may provide cover for third party claims. For example, I represented a cyclist injured when a young teenager on a BMX, showing off to his friends, pulled across the path of my client who was cycling on North Berwick High Street. The teenager was covered under a policy of household contents insurance and the claim was settled by the insurers.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Dalyell that insurance for cyclists should not be compulsory. The risk cyclists pose to others is low. It would be difficult to police it's questionable whether it should extend to all cyclists, for example, children on balance bikes?
Common sense should prevail; any cyclist would know that. We must look out for each other and respect one another.
I don’t like headlines and content that vilifies cyclists. Equally, I will never condone the behaviour of some cyclists who do cycle on pavements and don’t consider the safety of pedestrians.

It’s so easy for the media to whip up a frenzy, especially as this comes hot on the back of the Edinburgh West End pavement scandal which appeared in the EEN on 25/04/18.

However, if we look at common causes of cycle and pedestrian injuries, the statistics speak for themselves. In 2010, there were 268 pedestrian casualties in Edinburgh (30 serious and 2 fatal), 73% of these were assigned to car drivers. In the same year, there were 209 injured cyclists (30 serious and 1 fatal), 72% of these were assigned to car drivers.

Many drivers are not insured as evidenced by figures published (see below) in February from one weeks’ plan of action by Police Scotland.
Published 02 February 2018
Police Scotland seized 179 vehicles and detected 262 drivers for driving without proper insurance or licences during last week’s week of action to tackle the problem.
My message is clear; let’s have accurate reporting, a more balanced view and for each of us on our bicycles who take refuge on a pavement, 'watch out and dismount.'

We must always respect those vulnerable to injury by our actions and by our mode of transport.


Brenda Mitchell - Cycling Lawyer

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