Say a car narrowly overtakes a cyclist who at that moment starts to signal that they want to turn by extending their arm outwards toward the car. The car left so little room that the cyclist inadvertently contacts/scrapes the car. Depending on angle and what the cyclist was wearing (gloves, rings, wristwatches) there might be damage to the cyclist or the car (or both).

Who is liable for the damage? Or is blame shared somehow? Does someone get a fine?

(one of the many things going through my head as a cyclist in dense adversarial city traffic. It never happened to me, but it could)

  • Instead of punches say "scrapes". You could inadvertently scrape a car or someone but you could not inadvertently punch a car or someone.
    – Brandin
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


For a different jurisdiction, in Australia, motor vehicles are required to give cyclists 1m clear berth on roads with a speed limit of 60km/h (~ 35 mph) or less and 1.5m on roads with higher speed limits (and are required to pass any vehicle safely - which also applies to cyclists). The driver of the motor vehicle is at fault for the collision if the vehicle is passing the cyclist.

  • How is 1 m measured? More precisely, from what point is it measured? Is it from some point on the cycle itself, or the outermost point of the cyclist's body (the elbows, perhaps) in a normal riding posture? It seems quite ambiguous to me, but if it's one meter from any point of the cyclist's body, wouldn't the car be required to compensate for the cyclist's extended arm?
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 16:54
  • @phoog it is from the cyclist - I have amended the answer
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 19:46

If a cyclist beats on a car, he is responsible for damage that he causes. If a car is in imminent danger of striking someone, the potential victim can take reasonable action to protect himself, but bashing a car is not a reasonable protective action. However, "punching" describes a deliberate action, whereas what you describe is an accident where the cyclist was lawfully signalling a turn (and accidentally contacted the car). Current Swiss law does not mandate a wide berth for vehicles when overtaking a bike, but there is discussion of a 1.5 meter space requirement.

  • If you can come up with a short and pregnant title not involving the word punch feel free to edit. :) When I signal I tend to extend the arm as far as possible in a fast motion that is physically pretty much a punch, but the intent is obviously not the same.
    – Nobody
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 22:18
  • 1
    How would the 1.5 meter space requirement be relevant in analyzing the hypothetical? The driver obviously did not leave 1.5 meters of space. Does that make the driver liable?
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 23:33

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