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Cycling and Brain Injury

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The growth in the popularity of cycling continues, not just as a form of exercise and leisure activity, but also as a form of daily transport. Latest figures show that 8% of the population of Great Britain now cycle three or more times a week, equivalent to just over five million people.

Cycle traffic has increased every year since 2008,  partly because of various campaigns to promote the benefits of cycling, and partly because of the enthusiasm generated by the success of the British professional cycling team. The Government’s “Cycle to Work Scheme” has seen an impressive take-up by employees with over 183,000 people purchasing a new bike through the scheme in 2014. In London, there has been an explosion in the popularity of cycling in recent years with the number of cycling journeys increasing by 5% to 610,000 a day in 2014.

While most welcome the growth in cycling, with it comes concern over the risks arising from the increased numbers of cyclists on Britain’s roads. This must also be viewed in the context of increasing numbers of motorised vehicles.  The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) provides figures revealing that the total number of cyclists injured in reported road traffic accidents in 2014 was 21,287. This includes 113 fatally injured cyclists and 3,401 who were seriously injured. But these figures exclude accidents that are not reported to the police and those accidents that happen away from the road. RoSPA estimates that the true number of accidents resulting in injury to a cyclist may be two or three times higher (c. 40,000 – 60,000).

With the increase in the numbers cycling and road traffic generally, it is sadly no surprise that the number of cycling casualties has also increased in recent years. Most cycling accidents happen in urban areas (including 75% of serious or fatal accidents), with accidents at T-junctions the most prevalent, but roundabouts also being particularly dangerous for cyclists. RoSPA lists the following as the most common cycling accidents:

  • Motorist emerging into path of cyclist
  • Motorist turning across path of cyclist
  • Cyclists riding into the path of a motor vehicle, often from off the pavement
  • Cyclist and motorist going straight ahead but too close
  • Cyclist turning right from a major road and from a minor road
  • Child cyclist playing or riding too fast

Police investigation into the causes of cycling accidents shows that “human error” is identified as the main cause, with a failure to look properly, either by the driver or cyclist, recorded as the main contributing factor.  In London there is particular concern over the involvement of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) in serious and fatal accidents. Around 20% of cyclist fatalities involve HGVs, with the lorry turning left or passing too close to the cyclist highlighted as particular dangers.

There are some positive developments though. London, for example, has seen a fall in the number of seriously injured or killed cyclists (432) in recent years.  While this is very welcome, it is still an alarmingly high figure. It must be hoped that with ongoing road safety campaigns, wider public awareness and improved cyclist-friendly road schemes this figure will continue to fall, and the trend will be seen in other parts of the country.       

The nature of these accidents means that the cyclist is particularly vulnerable to injury.  Most cyclists will suffer some degree of injury if they are involved in a collision with a vehicle, and a very high proportion of cyclists will suffer a head injury. Hospital statistics show that over 40% of cyclists and 45% of child cyclists will suffer a head injury following an accident. The vast majority of serious or fatal cycling accidents involve head injury. Even if the cyclist takes the sensible precaution of wearing a helmet, this cannot always prevent a brain injury following a heavy impact, where the cyclist may firstly impact with the vehicle before being thrown to the ground and striking their head for a second or third time.

The structure of the skull and brain means that even if the cyclist does not suffer an open wound they are still vulnerable to suffering concussion, a cerebral contusion (bruising the brain) or a haematoma (where the brain bleeds under the skull). A direct blow to head can cause the brain to violently “rattle” inside the skull, which can in severe cases lead to bruising, swelling and a bleed to the brain. Fortunately, most head injuries are minor and the victim will make a full recovery but cycling accidents are the cause of a disproportionately high number of serious and life-changing brain injuries. In these cases, the injured person will require treatment, rehabilitation and long term care and support to cope with the physical and emotional effects of their injury.  

How to claim compensation for a cycling-related brain injury

Our expert team of brain injury specialists have extensive experience in assisting those who have suffered significant brain injury arising from cycling and road traffic accidents. Our specialist lawyers will advise you from the outset on how to bring a successful claim but will also work to secure the appropriate rehabilitation and support that the sufferer and their family need. Our approach is to seek the earliest possible interim payment to fund our client’s immediate needs, whether this is to supply therapy, vocational training or accommodation needs. 

Please contact a member of our team on 0333 123 9099 . Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the child brain injury claim and the injuries sustained to PI@ibbclaims.co.uk or complete our online form

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