May is blossoming as I write this article and, wherever you go, you can’t miss noticing the number of cyclists on our roads, both country and urban. I thought it would be a good idea to remind cyclists of certain legal issues that affect them from racers to folding bike commuters to BMXers.

The recent revamp of the Highway Code provides us with the ‘hierarchy of road users’ in descending order with larger vehicles such as lorries and buses, going down to cars and to motorcycles and scooters, then to cyclists and to pedestrians. Cyclists, you will note, are second bottom of the ladder. There are crucial new parts of the Code. There are new rules about cycle tracks and shared spaces; cycling positioning and riding in pairs and riding in the centre of the lane, together with passing and overtaking, action at junctions and roundabouts and not riding on the pavement. Part of the Code also states that car drivers opening car doors onto cyclists use the ‘Dutch reach’, i.e. the driver looks over their right shoulder when parked and reaches round to open the door with their left hand rather than opening with their right hand, forcing them to look over their shoulder into their blind-spot.

This should be reflected in court decisions on proof of liability in claims and in criminal prosecutions for driving incorrectly.

There is nearly a ‘must’ in the Highway Code at Rule 59 for ‘cyclists should (my underlining) wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, a cycle helmet…appropriate clothes for cycling. Light coloured or fluorescent clothing (which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light)… reflective clothing and/ or accessories in the dark.’

What’s the effect of not abiding by Rule 59? It doesn’t say ‘must’ but says ‘should’. I see arguments against the cyclist for not abiding by the Highway Code. Does this mean that a cyclist will not get the benefit of the doubt of a Judge in proceedings?

The old Rule 163 stated that cyclists should be given at least as much space as you would a car. Now, the Code says when you pass a vulnerable road user you have to give at least one and a half metres safe passing distance in speeds up to 30 mph and two metres for horses and pedestrians. Another big change is for cars turning left at a junction, to give precedence to cyclists going ahead on their nearside.

This is a risky scenario for cyclists.

Another particular problem for two-wheelers is highway defect claims. Potholes are a particular hazard. Two-wheelers approaching a pothole on an already wet road are unable to see that there is a pothole under what appears just to be a bigger puddle of standing water. This requires a careful consideration of the depth, width and length of the pothole and the inspection regime of the highways authority normally the local council, depending upon the frequency of inspection intervals (often six months) but can be daily on a motorway or yearly on a country road. I include negligent ‘banding’ and/or linear gullies as cyclists can tram line along them. These are often bitterly contested cases especially if the injuries of the cyclist are severe. Witnesses at the scene, immediate and detailed photographs with measurements, enquiries of the nearest householder to the scene as to the level of complaint/inspections, are essential.

These are a few topics that I felt would interest cyclists (and other two- wheelers). Cycling is a healthy, gregarious, inspiring and very enjoyable pastime (or way of life) and you can argue that the UK is miles behind our friends on the continent in how we look after our cyclists. How long will it take for the UK to reach a similar situation on our overcrowded islands? Keep pedalling – and gan canny!

Mark Hipkin is a Partner/ Head of the Personal Injury and Civil Litigation department. He welcomes your e-mails or calls on the law (or your biking experiences) at wbay@aldersonlaw.co.uk or call 0191 2533509.

Chris was originally a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives from 1997 and qualified as a Solicitor in 2001.

He has over 25 years experience in private client work comprising Wills, Trusts, Probate, Powers of Attorney and other Court of Protection Work such as Deputyship applications. Chris has been a Partner in several firms in the North East, being Head of Wills, Trusts and Probate.

He brings a wealth of experience to his role and works closely with clients, providing them with a service tailored to their needs

Susan was born and bred in the North East, spending all of her working life in Blyth. She qualified in 1981 and, after some years at Alderson Law, began to specialise in family law, covering both private and legal aid. Susan was a member of the Law Society Family Panel and an accredited Resolution specialist, specialising particularly in private children law and domestic violence.

Susan took part-retirement in December 2018 but still works as a Solicitor here at Alderson Law. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, walking, reading, and spending time with her family. She has also been a Brownie leader for over 40 years.

Originally from East Yorkshire, Jasmine moved to the North East in 2012 to study at Northumbria University undertaking the M Law Exempting (BPTC) course (the only undergraduate course in England and Wales which incorporates the Bar Professional Training Course), graduating in 2016 with a First Class Honours and a Very Competent in the Bar Professional Training Course. Prior to joining Alderson Law Jasmine specialised in RTA Fraud in a Personal Injury firm, before moving to another firm to work as a Family Law Paralegal.

In 2018 she joined our team as a Family Law Paralegal, and whilst working full time, undertook a two year Legal Practice course at Sunderland University, qualifying as a Solicitor in November 2021. In her spare time Jasmine likes visiting the beach, watching live music and looking after her pet rabbit.

Julie is a highly experienced property solicitor. She studied Law at Northumbria University and, after qualifying in 2000, went on to work at national and international firms prior to joining the team at Anderson Law in 2017. She works alongside her clients, advising on residential and commercial property development, property investment, portfolio management, property finance, landlord and tenant, easements and restrictive covenants.

Fiona is a specialist private client lawyer providing advice and assistance with wills, trusts, tax planning, probate & estate administration, lasting powers of attorney, court of protection and elderly client work. Having previously worked with a number of Newcastle-based firms listed in The Legal 500, Fiona brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. She is a full member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners), the association for specialists in family inheritance and succession planning.

Fiona grew up in Northern Ireland and studied law at Durham University, and has remained in the North East ever since. She enjoys spending time with her family at their cottage in Northumberland.

Mark Hipkin, partner at Alderson Law LLP, has been advising businesses and claimants since he qualified as a solicitor in 1982.

Mark’s passion is for representing claimants on two wheels in complex, serious and catastrophic motorcycle, scooter and cycle injuries, but he also has extensive experience of acting for claimants in many other personal injury areas including occupiers and public liability work and accidents at work. He specialises in challenging and complex cases. Mark always puts the client first, looking from the first day of instruction to obtain the best and fairest outcome for a claimant, no matter how long a case may take. He is a fan of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and early neutral valuation as alternatives to litigation. Sometimes, however, litigation is the best option, together with the necessary drive to see every matter through to a fair conclusion.

Mark also, having started his own business, advises business clients, often with motorcycle-, scooter- or cycle-related businesses and also deals with complex commercial disputes, professional negligence cases, and general civil litigation.

Mark likes to spend what free time he has with his family, his faithful sprocket spaniel, and practising Tai Chi and Tang Too Do (Korean karate – in which he is a second Dan).

Having worked in family law for over 25 years, Julie is a highly accomplished specialist in her field. She has a vast body of experience in dealing with family law, from divorce and related financial issues to complex child-related cases. Julie was the first person in North Tyneside to achieve the status of an accredited advanced family law specialist, and is a member of the Law Society Advanced Family Panel, which demonstrates her experience in complex contested family cases and other subject-specific matters.

Though multi-talented and highly experienced, Julie’s particular speciality is in complex ancillary relief (financial settlement) claims and complex residence and contact disputes.

In her spare time Julie enjoys relaxing and spending time with her family and three grandchildren. She attends clients at our Whitley Bay and Blythe offices.

Tracey is one of our Partners and qualified as a solicitor in 1997. Throughout her career she has had a varied caseload undertaking matters in most areas of civil and private client law. Tracey can assist clients in a wide range of matters including: Wills, Probate, Powers of Attorney, Debt Recovery, Residential and Commercial Conveyancing as well as Licensing and Landlord and Tenant matters.

Tracey is one of our most senior practitioners with over 20 years of local experience, having graduated from both Newcastle University and Northumbria University. When not in the office she enjoys walking, cycling, and cooking with her family.