Bicyclists are at particular risk from road accidents and this is recognised by the Road Safety Authority which includes cyclists in the group of road users they class as ‘Vulnerable Road Users’.

Without the bulk of a car or even of a motorbike to make them more visible, cyclists can be hard to see especially in poor weather conditions or at night. Lacking the protection of a car’s outer shell, any collision between bike and car is potentially fatal.

In 2008, 13 cyclists were killed on Ireland’s roads. In the same year, 27 cyclists sustained serious injury and 308 were lucky enough to walk away with relatively minor bumps and scrapes.

In general, cities and towns are more dangerous for bicyclists with an overwhelming majority of all accidents occurring in built-up areas. However, those accidents that occurred in the countryside had a larger potential to be lethal.

To be precise, there were 299 bicycle accidents in Ireland’s cities and towns in 2008 compared to only 50 accidents overall in rural areas. Sadly, of these 50, 7 accidents were fatal compared to only 6 cyclist deaths in the towns.

Dry statistics do not make guesses but could it be that these figures are drawing a picture of speeding motorists on country lanes?

There is another statistic that stands out quite starkly against the backdrop of numbers when looking at the Road Safety Authority’s Road Collision Report for 2008: of the fatal bicycle accidents that year, 30% involved a goods vehicle. Does that tell us that the vehicle body of a van or truck designed to carry goods and products is constructed in such a way that it co-incidentally creates a wider blind spot, one that is tragically just wide enough to mask a vulnerable cyclist from the driver?

According to Volvo Trucks this is indeed the case. They introduced a safety initiative in their native Denmark called Traffic Safety at Eye Level which aims to help reduce accidents caused by the cyclist getting lost in the blind spot of a turning truck. According to a Volvo spokesperson, “60% of all accidents in which a truck collides with a pedestrian or cyclist can be blamed on the driver’s blind spot…”.

In 2004 the National Safety Council proposed a mandatory helmet law for children and cited a series of five reports including studies of the effects which bicycle wearing laws had in Canada and Australia.
In response, the cycling community uncovered many opposing reports which showed the methodology of those cited by the NSC to be flawed. Subsequently the Irish Government decided against the mandatory helmet law.

Today, the government’s interest in developing a stronger and safer cycling culture in Ireland goes much further than any helmet law could have done a few years ago. Considering the positive impact that a cycling nation would have on national health and environmental statistics, the government are committed to encouraging a large increase in the number of people who use bikes to commute to work. Their target is to see 10% of all trips to work being made by bicycle by 2020.

In 1986, 7% of commuters cycled to work but for various reasons this figure dropped to only 2% by 2006. In a document titled Ireland’s First National Cycle Policy Framework, the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, introduced a collection of 19 objectives towards this 10% goal including the improvement of the urban road infrastructure to be more cyclist friendly.

One of the interventions mentioned specifically in this report is the retro-fitting of Cyclops mirrors on older HGV’s to reduce the danger of blind spots and the likelihood of bicycle accidents in Ireland.

Bicycle Accident Compensation

As with any other road related accident, a traffic collision involving a cyclist can be a shocking and traumatic event. Though most people walk away from a bicycle accident with minor bumps and scratches, the vulnerability of the cyclist compared to that of a driver or car passenger makes it almost inevitable that the cyclist will come off the worst in any crash.

Without the shell of a car body or the safety restraint of a seat belt, a cyclist can be thrown from his bicycle and whether he hits the road or an obstacle like a tree or a wall, the impact can shatter bones and cause major injuries or even death.

Even a momentary lapse in the concentration of an otherwise careful driver can result in him not being aware of the cyclist before the bike reaches the car’s blind spot. At that point, whether the driver brakes suddenly, turns or simply opens the car door, the cyclist can sustain serious injury while the car itself will hardly be scratched.

Cyclists are recognised as vulnerable road users and many measures are in line in Ireland to make the roads safer for them, to educate drivers and to make cycling in Ireland a more pleasant experience.

Until then, people are still being injured and killed on Irish roads.

If you have been involved in a bicycle accident in Ireland you may wonder if you have a case for injury compensation. Unless you, through your own negligence or recklessness, were responsible for the accident, the chances are that you are entitled to some compensation.

Although in most cases your case for compensation will be brought against another road user, it is also possible that you could make a claim against the local authority or private land owner if your accident was caused by a poorly repaired road or public thoroughfare.

Bicycle Compensation Cases in Ireland

Bicycle compensation cases are treated no differently in Ireland than any other personal injury cases and are dealt with by the Injuries Board of Ireland. Although it is not necessary to engage a solicitor in order to bring an injury case, you are advised to do so, not least because the driver or landlord against whom you are bringing the claim will have the support and defence of experienced insurance lawyers.

In order to make a successful claim you will need an assortment of supporting documentation. A claims solicitor will assist you in preparing the papers you need and be able to make an educated estimate of the value of your claim.

After a Bicycle Accident

Immediately after an accident, the last thing on your mind will be the eventual process of a compensation claim. As soon as the dust settles, checking yourself and the other parties involved for injury and seeking medical treatment is the first priority.

Even if no injury is immediately apparent, you should make an appointment with a doctor or attend the casualty department for a check up. Some collision injuries can be silently deadly; a hairline fracture of the skull, concussion or internal bleeding for example. Others may be masked by shock but show up in the week or so following the accident. A check-up will set your mind at rest and the medical examination report will be used later in making your claim.

Unless there has been significant damage or physical injury, the Gardai might decide not to attend the scene. In this case, again make a point of going to the local station and making a report detailing events as you experienced them. This report may also be called upon later.

When you lodge a compensation claim, it may name an individual as the Respondent but you are actually laying a claim against the driver’s insurance company. In order to be eligible for insurance company coverage the driver must abide by the rules set out in his insurance policy and one of these often is not to admit liability at the scene.

For this reason, you are best not to get into discussion of fault or blame. Simply make sure everybody who needs medical attention receives it, exchange your personal details with the driver, take some snaps on your mobile phone if you can and let the case be handled by your solicitor and the Injuries Board Ireland.

Summary

  • The Road Safety Authority is amongst the number of bodies who recognise that cyclists are particularly vulnerable in bicycle accidents in Ireland.
  • Although most bicycle accidents in Ireland occur within built-up areas, the ones resulting in the most serious injuries occur in rural areas.
  • Nearly a third of all fatal bicycle accidents in Ireland involved a collision with a goods vehicle and initiatives are being introduced to reduce these occurrences.
  • Despite the number of bicycling accidents in Ireland, the Government have introduced the First National Cycle Policy in an attempt to encourage 10% of all trips to work to be made by bicycle.
  • Victims of bicycle accidents in Ireland are entitled to claim compensation for their injuries when somebody else has been responsible for the accident.
  • The procedure for making bicycle accident claims in Ireland is the same as any other form of road traffic accident, and it is advisable to speak with a solicitor for further guidance once any threat to your physical wellbeing is eliminated.