The Lesser of Two Evils

On the 21st of June 2022, Martin was riding his bicycle south on Minto Street, Edinburgh. He was heading home from work along a route he was very familiar with and was used to riding daily. He was going downhill within a segregated cycle lane and was wearing bright cycling clothing. It was a sunny, summer’s mid-afternoon.

As Martin approached the junction with Blacket Avenue, a lane to his left, he became aware of a Ford SUV travelling towards the mouth of the junction. When he was a matter of meters away, the SUV moved forward across the cycle lane, blocking his path. Martin knew he would have to take evasive action and was faced with a split-second decision to avoid a collision.Blacket Avenue junction

Martin’s first option was to heavily apply his brakes and hope for the best. His second option was to swerve right into slow-moving traffic and hope an vehicle following would avoid a collision with him. His third option was to swerve hard to his left into the junction and aim to get behind the SUV vehicle. Quickly weighing up his options, Martin chose the last option. Unfortunately, he was not able to avoid the SUV and the inevitable collision occurred with the rear of the vehicle.

Martin was thrown from his bicycle and sustained injuries. His bicycle and clothing were also damaged. Not wishing to be out-of-pocket for his bicycle repairs and replacement clothing, Martin contacted Cycle Law Scotland for help. We quickly were able to intimate a claim to the insurers of the Ford on Martin’s behalf. Representatives for the insurers advised us that liability would be denied as their driver had not pulled out and even though they had. They also contended that Martin’s quick-thinking was unreasonable. Faced with a denial of liability, we raised Court proceedings in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Under Scots Law, when a person is forced to exercise judgement under immense pressure, they are not to excessively criticised for this decision or its outcome. This principle is known as “the agony of the moment”.

In this situation, Martin was only given a matter of seconds to change his course of travel. He was presented with a situation, where if he continued straight then in all probability a collision would have occurred. By all accounts, Martin had attempted to do the impossible by making a sharp turn to his left at 20mph on a road bicycle, but given that he was faced being thrown onto a bonnet or into vehicular traffic, we were able to argue that Martin had, in fact, not made an unreasonable decision in taking evasive action as he did. We also set out that cyclists do not change direction at 20mph unless given a reason to do so and the most logical reason was that Martin had swerved when the car moved across his path. 

In the end, with common sense prevailing, the other side accepted liability and a just outcome was achieved for Martin.

At Cycle Law Scotland, we are passionate about representing injured cyclists and do not shy away from difficult cases. Martin’s case is a prime example of how our specialist knowledge of cycling enabled us to build a strong case to get a result for our client.


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