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Grey Whyte, SolicitorWhen Scottish Olympic cycling hopeful Jason McIntyre died while cycling in Fort William in 2008 the dangers of road cycling were highlighted for the world to see.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the 33 year old’s death offered little in the way of satisfactory explanation but one conclusion that we can’t help but draw is that many of us are uneasy or unsure what the protocol is when a cyclist is on the road.

The number of Road Traffic Accidents involving cyclists is rising as the cost of motoring and our environmental awareness increase.  On top of this is the worrying statistic that some 70 to 90 per cent of cycling casualties are not reported as the need to inform insurance companies and the police is less important.

Of course the problem is double-sided as cyclists, unlike drivers, require nothing in the way of training or certification before they can take to the open road.  This leads to an ambiguity as to what cyclists are allowed to do and to what extent drivers must give way.

Firstly and perhaps rather obviously, cyclists must obey all traffic signals, such as red lights, just like cars - even if the road is quiet.  The Highway Code is clear on this and punishment can be fines of up to £500 for the cyclist.

Drivers must overtake cyclists only when it is safe to do so.  An indicator of when it is safe is to ask yourself: “would it be safe to overtake if the bike was a car?” if the answer is no then you should not overtake – you must give way to a cyclist to the same degree you would a car.

With all of the above the problem is that these laws do not seem to be enforced and it is this non-enforcement which leads to sloppy habits and poor knowledge of the law. 

Until penalties for motorists and cyclists alike are brought into focus by the Government and local councils it is up to each individual driver and rider to look out for one another’s safety and be Highway Code aware.

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