I live in a city in the UK that has an extensive network of foot/cycle paths, and make use of these paths for exercise by cycling on them. I share these paths with pedestrians and other cyclists, which means I have to take care to not become involved in a collision with those walking on said paths. In the winter months this becomes particularly difficult because it becomes dark before 16:00, and:

  • many of the paths I use are not illuminated by any sort of lighting
  • many walkers on these paths wear dark-coloured clothing
  • many walkers do not wear any sort of illumination

In contrast, in order to ensure I am adequately visible when cycling after 16:00, I:

  • wear a retroreflective/high-visibility vest
  • have front and rear lights on my bicycle that I turn on before I start my ride and turn off at its end

Assume now that during one of my post-16:00 cycling trips on an unlit path, I collide with a completely unlit walker while travelling at a relatively low speed (that I personally would consider "safe") of 15 km/h or 10 mph*. What sort of legal liability could either party expect to be accountable for, given that I am objectively making every attempt to be safe; while the walker objectively is not?

* There does not appear to be any sort of published law in the UK for bicycle speed limits on non-roadways; I'm using 15 km/h here for the sake of the argument.

  • 2
    Your speed is always limited. You are not allowed to cycle faster than is safe. No fixed number. And if you drive in a pedestrian then it is arguable that your speed wasn’t safe.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 31, 2022 at 17:21
  • @gnasher729 Then why do we have maximum speed limits on roads? Why does the argument of "safe speed" not apply there?
    – Ian Kemp
    Dec 31, 2022 at 17:26
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    Why is it problematic? Don't you have a powerful front lamp? Dec 31, 2022 at 17:34
  • 3
    "in order to ensure I am adequately visible when cycling after 16:00, I ... have front and rear lights on my bicycle": first, I hope you use the lamps when it's dark without regard to the time, and second, consider investing in a headlamp that illuminates objects in front of you sufficiently for you to see them, not just one that makes you visible. Also make sure the lamps are aimed correctly so as not to blind oncoming pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Also, in many places it is a violation to drive a motor vehicle faster than is safe for the conditions even if below the posted limit.
    – phoog
    Dec 31, 2022 at 21:09
  • 1
    See gov.uk/speed-limits "The speed limit is the absolute maximum - it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive at this speed in all conditions."
    – phoog
    Dec 31, 2022 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


The person that causes the collision has liability for any damage

First, cyclists are not permitted on footpaths - there is a rarely enforced penalty of £500 - they are only permitted on designated cycle paths or roads. So, if the “foot/cycle paths” are not designated for cycle use, the cyclist in the collision is almost surely liable as they were riding illegally in the first place.

If cycling is permitted, then the circumstances of the collision will determine liability. One or both of the parties has clearly been negligent because absent negligence, there would have been no collision. If one party is negligent and the other isn’t then the negligent party will be liable to damages to the innocent one. If both are negligent they will each be liable in proportion to their blameworthiness.

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