Last autumn, The Queen was a visitor to New Street station where she officially opened the new station. I gather she arrived by train. It is not reported whether she brought a bike with her. If she had done so, and if she had looked for somewhere to park it, she might have been disappointed (OK, the Queen is 90 years old. However, if you think it is preposterous for members of the royal family to cycle, you might like to read this article).
As part of the redevelopment of New Street station there is a new drop off area for motorists wishing to pick up and drop off at the station. It is here where Network Rail decided to site much of the bike parking. Unfortunately there is no physical protection for cyclists or their bicycles. Cars drive up a ramp from Hill Street and then through a passageway. To the right there are bays for cars to pull in so as to be able to pick up and drop off passengers. On the left of the passageway is where bikes are to be parked. Sheffield stands have been installed for the purpose. However, there are no barriers and no kerb to give any protection to cyclists or their bikes, only a painted line.
There is a clear risk that as drivers are watching out for car doors and pedestrians on the right, and affording plenty of room on the right to avoid a collision there (especially if a car door is open or may open at any moment), they may not notice the protruding wheel of a parked bike on the left, or worse still, a cyclist who just happens to be in the right place but at the wrong time.
Push Bikes have asked for my view on the potential legal issues if a cyclist or their bike is hit.
If a driver fails to notice a cyclist or his bike and the cyclist and/or his bike is hit by the car, the driver of the car will be liable. Assuming the driver complies with their legal duty and stops and details are exchanged, the cyclist will be able to make a claim against the driver. If the driver fails to stop and was not identified at the time, there may follow a lengthy and expensive battle with Network Rail as to whether or not they will release CCTV – and that assumes that you are lucky enough to get a clear view of the offending vehicle on CCTV.
So the question remains whether Network Rail could be liable. Imagine this scenario. You leave your bike in the bike parking area. It is properly locked and appears to be secure. A few hours later you return to your bike to find that the wheel has been bent as a result of a heavy impact. The motorist is long gone. He decided to drive away hoping that nobody saw what happened or noted his vehicle registration.
There are some legal arguments that you will be able to deploy if you pursue Network Rail. First of all, there is an argument that Network Rail was negligent to position the bike parking in a position where there is a significant risk of damage from a vehicle being driven through the drop off area. I understand that Birmingham City Council have raised their concerns but action has not yet been taken (as of 31st March 2016). It is a defence to a negligence claim if the damage was not reasonably foreseeable. If Push Bikes and the Council could foresee it, then clearly Network Rail should have done so too. If the Council has pointed out the problem to Network Rail, then even if they did not spot the problem themselves, they have had it pointed out to them.
If a claim is made against Network Rail, the court could order that they disclose all documentation relating to the planning and design of this area – minutes of meetings, letters and emails, submissions by interested parties and the public generally would all, potentially, be documents that would have to be disclosed and could be produced in court. Some of this may well be in the public domain already. I imagine that they would not be all that keen on this documentation coming to light.
The second argument is based on the point that cyclists are specifically invited to park their bikes there and have an implied licence to use the premises for this purpose. It is not as if the cyclist has made the choice that this is a suitable place to park – the choice has been made for them. This is the area in which they want you to park your bike. The least they could do would be to provide an area that was properly planned and designed. I would argue that there must be an implied term of the licence that the area is suitable for bike parking and that this term has clearly been breached.
It is time that those who design infrastructure for the use of cyclists realise that paint has no special magical quality about it. A painted line may or may not be seen by the motorist, but even if it is seen, if it is just a painted line, motorists will drive over it. What is needed here is an Armco barrier or a large kerb (which should be painted brightly so that everyone can see it) so that there is physical protection for the cyclist.
It is to be hoped that Network Rail implement a proper solution before an incident occurs.
Partner, Levenes Solicitors