Case forces cyclists to consider insurance options

23 Mar 2011

A Commons Bill is to be heard in the House of Commons in a fight to change the criminal laws relating to cyclists. Rhiannon Bennet, 17, was walking on a footpath when she was hit by a cyclist. Shortly before hitting her the cyclist had shouted at Rhiannon to “move because I’m not stopping” before crashing into her. Rhiannon died of head injuries six days later.

The cyclist was convicted of dangerous cycling, and fined £2,200. Under the charge there was no penalty of imprisonment. Following the verdict, Rhiannon’s father said “Its laughable – when we first heard about this we thought it would be manslaughter, or perhaps even murder, but this is Britain.” Since then they have campaigned for the introduction of more serious penalties for cyclists who cause death, and the Bill is expected to propose that deaths caused by cyclists should be treated in a similar way to those caused by motorists or motorcyclists.

Rhiannon’s parents have a right to bring a civil action, however any judgment will remain unsatisfied unless the cyclist has the means to pay the damages awarded. This case and many others involving cyclists highlights the ongoing concerns about cycling without insurance. For many cyclists insurance will be as necessary as car insurance is for motorists – they face exactly the same liability should they cause an accident injuring a person or damaging their property, so the consequences could be financially devastating.

The arguments in favour of at least compulsory Third Party insurance for cyclists are persuasive, however the counter argument is that a change in the civil law in this regard would be disproportionate to the risk posed by cyclists and could dissuade people from taking to their bikes in the first place. In a country with over 5 million people who cycle regularly and 1.1 million cyclists who commute daily, the arguments regarding insurance are pertinent and developments will no doubt be hotly debated by Personal Injury Claimants, cyclists and insurers alike.