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Cyclists on roads: obeying the rules or not? 

Well with Christmas gone and a New Year here we are going to be seeing more and more of the drivers most favourite people …. cyclist. Now let’s start by saying that in the main they are courteous and respect the rules of the road but increasingly here in Tenerife this seems not to be the case. Sometimes they appear to use all the road at the exclusivity of other road users and this brings the question, is this legal? After all a car cannot legally “choose” to use all of a two-way road because they “want” to, so should cyclists be allowed to?

Well there are many ways to look at this. Firstly, yes Cyclist have just as much right to use the roads as cars and other vehicles however they should and must respect the highway code and the rules and laws of the country in which they are cycling, and not those of their home country which often differ.

Spanish Driving Laws states that a vehicle should allow 1.5 metres distance between the cyclist and their vehicle when passing/overtaking them, however this is not always possible as the size of the road simply does not permit this. You should always allow adequate distance between your car and the cyclist when passing BUT for their part cyclist should not be riding more than two abreast and of course they should be courteous and aware of other road users. Sadly, here in Tenerife, more especially in the winter, cyclist of all nationalities converge on the island and almost take over the roads, this of course causes frustration amongst other road users, which is quite understandable.

Despite talks and calls for it there is still no legislation that requires a cyclist to hold a valid liability insurance, i.e. public liability at the very least, to cover any damage they may cause, but to date this has not been passed by the Government. If you are unfortunate to be involved in an accident which was caused by a cyclist or group of cyclists then at present you would have to take private legal action against him/them to recoup your costs, and this of course is very difficult.

An equally frustrating incident is when a cyclist uses a pedestrian crossing whilst cycling and this by law is not permitted, after all the name says it all, it’s a PEDESTRIAN CROSSING, not a bicycle crossing. The law states that if you are a cyclist on a zebra crossing you are considered as a vehicle if riding and are treated as such. Therefore, in order to use a zebra or pelican/light controlled crossing the rider must dismount and walk across the crossing. Failure to do so can land the cyclist in hot water. If a cyclist is riding across a crossing at speed and the driver did not have enough time to see them and brake accordingly then the incident is the fault of the cyclist and not the car/vehicle driver.

A case last year was reported in Spain where a cyclist was crossing on a zebra crossing to then follow the flow of the traffic. This was at a light controlled crossing where the vehicle had a flashing amber light, meaning he could proceed with caution if safe, and the pedestrians had a green light to walk across. The cyclist however deemed himself to be a “pedestrian “and rode across”. The car was hit in the side by the cyclist, with initially the fault being placed on the driver. At Appeal the Judge ruled that it was in fact the fault of the cyclist as the green light was for the passage of pedestrians and as the bike was being ridden it was considered a vehicle and therefore at fault. The cyclist was ordered to pay over 500 euros to the driver of the car for damages and compensation and also has been ordered to pay the court costs. This should serve as a strong message to cyclist that they must respect and adhere to the rules and laws of the road and respect the safety of other road users.

Some House Insurance policies have cover for cycles but you should check whether this provides third party liability cover should you damage another vehicle or injure a person whilst riding, or if it is merely for theft when at your home. If not then it is advisable to take out a small insurance to cover yourself, this is not as stated currently a legal requirement but it is an option that is available. You would not drive your car without insurance, why should your bike be any different?

This article is meant merely to highlight the position regarding cyclists and the use of our roads in a safe and secure manner. In no way does it reflect a personal or professional opinion.