Fears have surfaced that insurance companies could use proposed new wording in the Highway Code as an excuse to avoid paying compensation to cyclists involved in road accidents. The seemingly innocuous addition to the new Highway Code, which tells cyclists to ‘use cycle facilities… where provided’, may have serious legal implications for those who choose to cycle on the road, according to cyclists’ organisation, the CTC. The CTC fears insurance companies are likely to use the wording of the new Code, which has recently been re-drafted, as an excuse to reduce the amount of compensation that they pay if a motorist hits a cyclist that has chosen to use a road rather than a nearby cycle facility. CTC campaigns and policy manager, Roger Geffen, said: “Cyclists have the right to choose a direct route using roads rather than the meandering, badly-designed and poorly-maintained paths that often pass as cycle facilities. This wellintentioned but highly prejudicial Highway Code rule must be changed before it’s too late.” A similar rule in the existing Highway Code, which states that cycle helmets ‘should’ be worn has already caused serious problems for cyclists, including 9-year-old cyclist Darren Coombs who was left permanently disabled after being hit by a car. Darren’s parents then had to face the claim that they themselves were guilty of ‘contributory negligence’ for allowing him to ride unaccompanied and without a helmet. There was no legal requirement for Darren to wear a helmet _” the actions of the insurance company stemmed entirely from the Highway Code wording. The CTC believes it will be almost impossible to argue against contributory negligence defences based on non-use of a cycle facility. However strongly the cyclist might argue that their decision not to use the facility was a rational one, the courts are almost bound to conclude that the collision would have been avoided if the cyclist had been in a different place at the time. If you want to support the campaign to have the wording of the Highway Code changed, you can do it online at www.ctc.org.uk/ campaigns. The Highway Code consultation ends on May 10, 2006.