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Compulsory insurance may put a spoke in the wheel of any careless cyclists

By Lindy McDowell

Published 02/12/2015

Pedal power: there are growing numbers of cyclists on our roads
Pedal power: there are growing numbers of cyclists on our roads

Which of these two would you think is likely to be unpredictable — a small, excitable dog on a retractable lead or an oncoming cyclist wheeling past the little beast? In a case which has just been settled out of court, the answer appears to be neither.

The small, excitable dog predictably enough darted out into the path of the bell-ringing cyclist. The cyclist equally predictably blamed the dog’s keeper for the ensuing accident.

What most observers may not have foreseen, however, was the payout in this particular case. A startling £65,000 agreed in an out-of-court settlement between the injured party and the elderly lady who was out walking her friend’s dog.

It has to be said the cyclist was seriously injured — he fractured his skull, his collarbone and ribs and still suffers from the side effects.

The elderly lady with the dog (she’s described as being in her 70s) apparently wasn’t used to operating the retractable lead the dog’s owner had supplied and so wasn’t able to get the pup under control in time. She appears to have accepted she was the one in the wrong.

Or as the cyclist put it: “Thankfully it didn’t get anywhere near going to court. I’m glad she saw sense before then.”

The man, who is in his 50s, added: “I can’t quite believe that all of this has been caused by someone who could not control their dog or be aware of their surroundings.”

Hmmmmm ... failure to take into account their surroundings?

Surely something the same could be said of a cyclist riding past an elderly lady and a small dog, ringing his bell as he went. Did it not occur to him that the bell might startle the wee dog? Or that it would take a little time for the woman holding it on a lead to get it totally under control?

What if it had been an equally unpredictable small child?

The case raises all sorts of questions. The old lady was covered by insurance. But what sort of insurance? Ordinary household insurance? Are we all covered for being sued by a cyclist?

If she’d had the dog on a tighter lead would the woman still have been held responsible? Or could she have sued the cyclist? Would he in turn have been covered?

In this particular case, the accident happened on a public walkway not a city street.

But it does once again highlight that big question many people have been asking for a very long time — should it be compulsory for cyclists to be covered by insurance the same as car drivers and motorcyclists?

As more cyclists take to the streets the more pressing this issue becomes. Cyclists are indeed very often endangered by other arrogant road users. There are motorists out there who seem to think anyone on two wheels is fair game. But in terms of disdain for the pedalling punter they are — shockingly — matched by some cyclists who don’t seem to give a health and safety guideline for their own well-being.

The other evening I saw a gentleman pedalling down the Ormeau Road in Belfast on the wrong side of the road, into oncoming traffic. He had no lights, no helmet, nothing. Neither did the small boy balanced on the bike handlebars.

An extreme example granted. But I bet most drivers have a similar (recent) horror story. The vast, vast majority of cyclists — and I totally accept this — are responsible and careful.

But the proliferation of bikes on the road has also brought out a free-wheeling minority who don’t think the rules apply to them. And why should they when those rules and their enforcement seem to be such a woolly area? Frankly the system doesn’t seem to take cyclists seriously.

So, yes, compulsory insurance does seem like a sensible step towards better regulation.

More to the point, given the way our claims culture is gathering speed, I’d say it’s pretty much inevitable.

We need a Norn Iron colouring-in book

Colouring-in books for adults are having a bit of a moment.

And they’re not just aimed at bored housewives anymore.

There are now also colouring in options for men.

Perhaps not surprisingly involving outline drawings of girls in their underwear. Tasteful.

So what next? I’m thinking of the Norn Iron colouring-in book.

This would provide an outlet for creatives wishing to express tribal allegiance without stooping to anti-social behaviour.

Colour in your own kerbstones?

That’s why the Lady is... great viewing

You just know that even now the producers of I’m a Celeb are aiming to sign up Tyson Fury for a future series of the show.

Gobby and controversial, he has the making of an ideal contestant.

A bit like Lady Colin Campbell. Although without the same aggression.

Lady C with her razor tongue has been very much the star of this year’s series, demolishing her not always undeserving rivals.

A vain old goat she called Duncan. Bonkers he called her.

Possibly fair comment from both. And undeniably brilliant television.

Online Editors

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