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Should motorists face fines for driving too close to cyclists?

Speak to any cyclist who faces the daily commute to and from work in busy city centre rush hour traffic and they’ll tell you drivers have little concern for their safety on the roads.

However, on the other side of the coin, if you speak to vehicle drivers, they’ll no doubt refer to cyclists as an increasing nuisance, holding up their journeys and causing further delays with inconsiderate positioning on roads which are already frustratingly congested and slow.

Currently, the UK Highway Code calls for motorists to give cyclists ‘plenty of room’ – guidance left open far too much to interpretation and opinion.

Speak to a cyclist and I can bet their opinion of ‘plenty of room’ is vastly different to that of a London-based double decker bus driver!

Cyclists are by the very nature of their mode of transport in a very vulnerable position, and from my own experience, I know they often have to deal with aggressive driving styles from motorists who are simply keen to get from A to B as quickly as possible. It can be very intimidating, causing many to ditch the bikes and get behind the wheel and further add to congestion!

Now, Transport minister Robert Goodwill has confirmed the Government is reviewing the success of a change in approach in South Australia, where the law now says drivers must always remain at least a metre away from cyclists on the roads.

It comes as the latest statistics released by the Department for Transport underlined the need for change over here.

It revealed that cyclists were 17 times more likely to be killed on the road than those travelling in cars, and that for every one billion miles travelled on UK roads, 35 cyclists are killed in collisions, compared to just two motorists.

Many new cyclists are taking to the roads – fuelled by a drive for healthier lifestyles and with the aim of helping the environment – and probably have little experience of riding amongst busy traffic. This is only going to result in an increase in accidents and injuries without significant change.

We’ve recently seen superhighways launched in London and a ban on lorries entering the capital without the required safety equipment. Now this could be the next step nationally.

Talk at present is of drivers facing maximum fines of up to £5,000, if their infringement is viewed as careless driving, a figure which seems a little high given mobile phone use at the wheel – the biggest danger of the roads at present – is £1,000 for car drivers and £2,500 for drivers of buses or goods vehicles.

I’m sure the introduction of a new law over safe distances, no matter what size the fine, would make an immediate impact on the attitude of drivers towards cyclists, further educating them of the serious injuries they can cause.

As an expert in supporting people injured in road accidents to secure compensation and vital rehabilitation and treatment through my work for Hudgell Solicitors, I know accidents involving cyclists often lead to serious, long-term and life-changing injuries.

Injured parties need a great deal of support to help them not only recover physically, but often financially too, as they can face lengthy periods off work due to the injuries they suffer, or maybe left unable to work again.

Therefore any moves to improve safety are to be welcomed, openly debated, and if we think they will save lives, introduced.

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