Cyclists caught in the wrong tracks

3 minute read


cycling accident

Sometimes you can take all the right precautions and still find yourself in an unexpected and difficult situation. James Wood recently acted for a cyclist injured in such an unusual set of circumstances.

Mr H was cycling home after having a meal at a local restaurant in London. The route took him to a T-junction where on making a right-hand turn the front wheel of his bike suddenly came to a violent stop, throwing him forward over the handlebars and into the road.

It turned out that Mr H’s front wheel had entered a bridge expansion joint which ran at an angle across the road and become jammed. It took three passers-by to release his bike.
As a result of his fall, Mr H sustained soft tissue injuries and a nasty puncture wound to his stomach requiring surgery.

How we helped MR H

Proceedings were issued and the claim was initially brought against the local authority and bridge owners. An expert report was subsequently obtained from a Civil Engineer whose opinion was that the design of the expansion joint presented a potential trap for cyclists.

Had the design taken cyclists into account the risk could have been avoided altogether or at least reduced by installing cover plates or compressible inserts.

As a result of this report James decided to explore if there was a potential claim in professional negligence against the bridge designers.

The bridge was constructed in 1998 and it was now almost 4 years since the accident. Was Mr H still in time to pursue a claim against the bridge designers?

The limitation period for claims for personal injury is 3 years from the date of the accident or from the injured person’s date of knowledge (as defined by the Limitation Act 1980). Mr H did not know the identity of the bridge designers until the Civil Engineer’s report had been received. Since this was less than 3 years ago he was still in time to pursue a claim against them – which he did successfully.
Mr H’s claim was settled for an amount which enabled him to recover the cost of repairing his bike and compensation for his injuries.


Bridge expansion joints are common but in most cases, they run at right angles to the direction of travel of traffic and pose little risk to cyclists.

The risks posed by the bridge expansion joint in Mr H’s case were similar to those faced by cyclists crossing tram lines in city centres. These are a well-known hazard where cyclists are travelling along the same path as the tram lines. In addition to the risk of a wheel becoming stuck or trapped the metal rails can also present a slip hazard when wet and icy.

The advice for cyclists is to be extra vigilant when cycling near tram lines and where there is a need to cross a tram line to do so at 90 degrees.

If you have had an accident when cycling due to an unexpected obstacle or road design, it is always worth speaking to a personal injury expert. In addition to accessing compensation to support you following your accident you are helping to prevent accidents to other cyclists whilst making those responsible for designing and maintaining cycle routes aware of the dangers.

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