It was a Winter's evening on the 9th of December 2013 when Ms Dasha Polakova, a former World Champion BMX racer, was involved in a collision with a motor vehicle at Edinburgh’s Crewe Toll roundabout.
The 34 year old from Edinburgh was making her way home from work and had entered the roundabout when a vehicle struck the left hand side of her bike.
After making contact with the car’s bumper, Dasha was knocked from her bike onto the roundabout sustaining injury to her right hand as well as soft tissue damage to her left hand side, shoulder and back.
Following impact, Dasha was assisted by two pedestrians to get herself and her bike off the road.
The driver of the vehicle also stopped and apologised. He even agreed the collision had been his fault and made an offer to pay for the damage caused to her bike which had become lodged underneath his car.
Due to the driver’s compassionate and agreeable manner, and partly because she was in shock, Ms Polakova did not call the police and she did not gather any witness statements.
At the time of the incident, Ms Polakova was wearing black cycling clothing with reflectors and had a total of four lights fitted to her helmet, handlebars and rear. The lights were set to flash and flare mode. In addition, Dasha was riding a hybrid Chris Hoy bike which comes fitted with visibility strips on the wheels and reflector stickers. By her own admission, Dasha was “annoyingly bright”.
Despite her precautionary measures and responsible approach to outerwear, the driver of the vehicle claimed not to have seen Dasha before the moment of impact.
It wasn’t until the next day that the experienced cyclist, who has professionally raced BMXs for 20 years, took herself to be checked over at the Western General Hospital.
Medical staff then advised her to report the incident to the police on the grounds that she would need a case number in future if she was to seek any compensation. Dasha then attended her local station and gave details of the collision.
In the following days, Ms Polakova attempted to contact the driver to provide details of the full cost incurred as a result of the collision. The total amount of £1,050 was calculated to include the price of her 3 month old bike (£550 new), her specialised helmet (£160), and helmet mounted light (£200), ultra night vision cycling tights (£65) and a full day's wages (£75).
After avoiding her attempts to discuss matters, the driver eventually agreed to meet up. Dasha attended this meeting with a friend as a witness and had a very uncomfortable face to face with the driver. At this meeting, he told Dasha that he wasn’t prepared to pay for any damages, that she had no witnesses and claimed she hadn’t been wearing any hi-vis gear so therefore the accident was largely her own fault.
Ms Polkalova then produced her police report details and informed the driver she would be taking civil action.
Dasha had heard about Cycle Law Scotland’s services through a colleague at Evans Cycles in Tollcross where she is Assistant Manager.
Commenting on her experience Ms Polakova said:
“At the time of the actual accident, I was in utter shock and that night was physically sick thinking about what I had survived. Seeing my bike, which was written off, crumpled under his car, was terrifying.
“I took myself to the hospital the following day as when I woke the next morning I was in considerably more pain. By this time I think the initial adrenaline rush had worn off!
“Luckily I hadn’t broken any bones but I did have soft tissue damage and bruising. The nurses then advised me to report the incident to police just in case I needed a report reference number in the future. Thankfully, I followed their advice.
“When I later managed to make contact with the driver, who had initially been really helpful, he told me that as I didn’t have any witnesses, no police report and according to him I wasn’t wearing hi vis, he would say the collision was my fault and he was not prepared to pay anything towards the damage caused. I was then able to show him my police report and advise him that I would be raising a civil case.
“Since passing my case on to Cycle Law Scotland, I’ve never had to deal with him on my own again. They have made the whole process extremely easy and have taken all the hassle of approaching insurance companies out of my hands.
“I am so grateful as the whole experience put me under considerable stress especially as my work don’t pay for sick days so I was getting really nervous about how much money I was going to lose on top of having to pay to fix my bike and kit.
“My experience was perhaps significantly more difficult than it needed to be because I really didn’t know what to do in terms of contacting the police straight away or taking any witness details. But, thanks to CLS my case has now been successfully completed and I have received compensation to help cover the costs.
“My advice to anyone involved in a similar situation would be to make sure you alert the emergency services as soon as possible as you can’t always tell at the time how your circumstances are going to be changed or for how long after.”
Dasha’s case took just under 3 months to complete from opening to settlement.
Brenda Mitchell, founder of Cycle Law Scotland and the Road Share, the campaign for presumed liability, said:
“Dasha’s experience is not uncommon amongst cyclists who are involved in relatively minor collisions in that for most, this is the first time something like this has happened to them and they are unsure of how to handle proceedings.
“I am pleased that my team and I were able to help her reach a satisfactory result and the driver involved was made to take some responsibility for his part in the incident.
“However, it is my belief that there are many people out there who don’t know that any accident between a car and a cyclist can acceptably be reported to the police.
“In Dasha’s experience, she believed that as she was not critically injured and able to walk away from the accident that there was no reason to involve the police either at the time or even later on.
“This concerns me as it suggests there could possibly be many more cyclists being hurt in collisions but, because they are able to get up and walk away, they don’t take further action. If this is the case and accidents are going unreported to the police, the full picture around cyclist safety on Scotland’s roads is potentially being severely overlooked when it comes to reports of official accident figures.”