The trouble with kids and horses…

The trouble with kids and horses…

In English law there are classes of road user defined by The Highway Code as vulnerable. We are one of them along with cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and children. The concept extends to the elderly, the disabled and learner drivers.

The law, common sense and The Highway Code all sensibly coalesce around treating vulnerable road users with care because they are not in a big steel box. So far, so simple. But what does it mean in practical legal terms. Because the law extends special care to these groups (even though my experience in Court is that judges are slow to extend a higher duty of care to motorcyclists) then other road users need to accommodate their vulnerabilities.

Horses and cyclists are perhaps the most contentious. It will not get you very far in law if you run the argument that horses should be able to cope with an Akrapovic pipe and you riding past them at 60mph in a 60mph zone. The Highway Code and the law of negligence say much the same thing. Go steadily and quietly by horses, whilst offering them a wide berth. The Highway Code says you should also pay attention to hand gestures given by equestrians to slow down.

Technically, under a non-repealed section of an early Victorian Act of Parliament a horse rider who blocks your path is committing an offence but the fine is, literally, in shillings. Squeezing past them on a bike is fraught with danger for everyone and if the horse rider is being a dick, it doesn’t mean you reciprocate. You will also be in a whole load more legal trouble. You have all kinds of statutes you will be breaking which our equestrian friends can ignore as they are almost entirely ungoverned. The law gives protection to those road users who use the roads by right (ie unlicensed and uninsured) as opposed to users by licence i.e. us.

Likewise the peloton of Sunday cyclists is owed a duty of care by you to pass them all safely. Be patient. The law is more on their side than yours.

The big one is kids: the law almost expects you to anticipate them dashing out in front of you. Because you are relatively invulnerable, and they are supremely vulnerable and also daft, you have to make reasonable attempts to accommodate kids being, well, kids. I summarise the law thus: if it is something that a kid might be expected to do, and kids are unguided missiles who do stupid things, then if you don’t anticipate it, you are at least partially liable.

Finally, a word on drunkards. The law is less sympathetic to drunks but they are still owed a duty of care. If you spot one staggering about, the law does expect you to expect the unexpected. If you are the rider who hits him, some small amount of blame may affix to you if you could reasonably have expected him to wander out into the road.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine – May 2018

Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.

Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: May 21, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.


  1. Nicholas KotarskiMay 25, 2018

    I’m fully aware of the dangers of kids having had one 7.30pm on a November night laying up to the Angel at Islington when a 10 year old boy runs across a pelican crossing whilst it was red for pedestrians but surrounded by stationary cars and headbutted my right mirror giving him a nasty gash on the forehead. He is now claiming against my insurer with a complete set of lies via a law firm with a claim of getting the most for their clients. So far it has been over a year and nothing has happened other than I changed insurers. The police didn’t take any action as they were happy I had done no wrong.

  2. Andrew DaltonJune 11, 2018

    I would say if you were stationary and the kid ran into you then no liability will affix. I had a similar experience with 2 kids crossing a busy road – they dashed out in front of me, I managed to avoid them as I was aware they were looking ready to dash, but then they panicked in the middle of the road and dashed back, this time the older of the 2 kids (wearing a parka hood pulled right up over his head) clipped his head on my fairing mirror on my old CBR 600. The claimant will have to prove negligence against you and if you were stationary at lights and he was the only moving thing, then you have done nothing negligent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts: