Vulnerable Road Users and Liability

Written by Zoe Adamson

As part of the Bike Team, I handle personal injury claims for cyclists and motorcyclists, who are at greater risk on the road than drivers. The Highway Code emphasises their vulnerability, instructing other road users to exercise extra caution around them. However, case law indicates that cyclists and motorcyclists are not automatically favoured in accidents and must follow the same rules as everyone else.

The Highway Code

The Highway Code includes several rules to protect cyclists and motorcyclists:

    Rule 160: Road users should be especially aware of cyclists and motorcyclists, as they might filter through traffic.

    Rules 211-213:

        Rule 211: Cyclists and motorcyclists are often hard to see, especially when coming from behind, out of junctions, or filtering through traffic. Road users should look out for them, particularly when turning right across a line of slow-moving or stationary traffic.

        Rule 212: Road users should give cyclists and motorcyclists plenty of space to pull out, turn right, or change direction.

        Rule 213: Cyclists and motorcyclists might need to change direction suddenly to avoid road hazards like uneven surfaces, drain covers, or oily patches. Other road users should give them ample space.

These rules highlight the dangers cyclists and motorcyclists face and establish their right to filter through traffic. However, those who are filtering must also be aware of the risks involved and take care to avoid accidents.

Key Cases

Powell v Moody 1966

In this case, the motorcyclist (Plaintiff) was riding along a road with two lanes of stationary traffic. He tried to pass the traffic by riding on the right side (offside). A car driver (Defendant) was trying to turn right out of a side road and collided with the motorcyclist. The driver had been allowed to turn by another driver who left a gap in the traffic.

The court decided that both the motorcyclist and the car driver were at fault for not paying enough attention. However, the motorcyclist was found to be more at fault because riding on the right side of stationary traffic is especially dangerous. Additionally, the court felt the speed of the manoeuvre was too high. The responsibility for the accident was divided: 80% to the motorcyclist and 20% to the car driver. This decision was upheld on appeal.

Jason Moffat v Zenith Insurance Plc 2018

In this case, the cyclist (Pursuer) was riding at the speed limit of 30 mph on a street in Edinburgh. He tried to pass a car (Defender) on the left side (nearside). The car driver had signalled and checked mirrors before turning left, but still collided with the cyclist. The cyclist claimed he did not see the signal.

The court decided that the car driver had done everything reasonably expected to ensure safety, such as signalling and checking mirrors. The cyclist was found entirely at fault for the accident. The ruling emphasised that there should not be a general assumption that cyclists are always favoured in traffic accidents with cars. This decision might be different now due to updates in traffic rules after the case.


The Highway Code is designed to protect all road users, especially the most vulnerable like cyclists and motorcyclists. It permits filtering and instructs other road users to be cautious around cyclists and motorcyclists. However, the vulnerability of these road users does not mean they are less responsible for accidents. They are expected to follow the same rules as other road users. When handling bike cases, we cannot assume that the other party is always at fault simply because cyclists and motorcyclists are more exposed. Each case must be evaluated based on its specific circumstances to determine liability fairly.

Gildeas Solicitors have offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh and specialise in personal injury cases, including motorcycle and cycling accidents. We go the extra mile for our clients by providing services such as roadside assistance, vehicle repairs, and hire vehicles.Customer satisfaction is our top priority. According to customer reviews , among civil law firms with over 200 reviews, we proudly hold the second highest rating in Glasgow. We currently have a stellar rating of 4.9 on Reviews Io and 4.7 on Google [June 2024]. If you require any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our dedicated New Claims team at 0141 331 6070.