When it comes to the UK’s country roads the law places some particular duties on users.
The most obvious is we all have to share the rural roads network. This means farmers with large machines have to share the road space nicely with us, car drivers, equestrians and cyclists. So, the first rule of the rural road is to expect rural things; if you bowl into a blind corner and end up fishing yourself out of the pointy bits of a tine harrow the Courts will be unsympathetic.
The fact that an agricultural vehicle may be taking up both sides of a road, does not make its presence negligent or unlawful. Where the law does help us though is that drivers of ‘large and invulnerable vehicles’ do owe a high duty of care to other road users, so in a finely balanced case, the mere size of a farm vehicle can tip the scales to a favourable outcome for the vulnerable road users – and we are defined as vulnerable road users.
Put succinctly the driver of a large and fast super tractor, with a crop sprayer, cannot belt around a blind corner and say, ‘you should have expected me. It was a country road.’ He or she needs to guard against the possible repercussions stemming from a bike coming in to the same corner, a fast closing gap and an unusually large farm vehicle with attached accoutrements.
We expect a spike in claims against farmers every late summer as the harvest comes in. Agricultural workers are exempt from tacho restrictions and I am well aware of farm workers working 20 hours a day in the harvest season. While it is no defence to claim that the driver of a large and potentially dangerous vehicle is knackered, I work on the basis that farm vehicles driven at dusk or later are going to have a less than totally alert driver.
Be aware that agricultural quads are largely exempt from insurance requirements, so colliding with one can be an insurance nightmare. But, as to that other uninsured danger on the highway – horses – agricultural quads are at least predictable.
The Courts take a pragmatic view of horses in that they are lawfully using the road despite not having to have a licence like motorists and motorcyclists. That is to say horse riders, pedestrians and cyclists use the road by right. Motorists – whether on two wheels or four – are expected to show restraint and careful driving around horses.
However, even applying a modicum of self-preservation, half a tonne of stupid and unpredictable flight response animal near you is more dangerous for a motorcyclist than it is a car driver.
So, even if you are just motivated by self-interest, give horses a wide berth, at a slow pace and with minimum volume. If you have your race cans on, give serious thought to diverting away from horses or killing your engine and letting the hones come by you.
Noisy or close passing of horses is likely to finish up badly, both legally and physically, for the motorcyclist and equestrian alike.
Bike Magazine January 2020