I am far from convinced anyone moderates their riding style for long and as I know only too well, when it comes to ‘offs’ we are not the masters of our own destinies.
When it comes to riding gear the law is simple enough; you must wear a type approved helmet and have it buckled.
If your gear thereafter is board shorts and flip-flops the criminal law has no interest. But consider this scenario: our rider is on a scooter heading down to the beach wearing a CE approved open face lid, board shorts and flip flops. He/she has a low speed ‘off’ when a car knocks him/her over, and he/she loses skin and one foot is ruined beyond repair.
Same rider in Kevlar jeans and a light CE boot would have walked away. Does the law punish our minimalist, unwise rider? The answer is ‘no’.
There can be an argument that goes like this – as the rider is not wearing ‘stout’ footwear he/she is therefore not following Highway Code advice and if they had been the foot injury might have been reduced.
In my opinion, and as the veteran lawyer of numerous lower limb injury cases with, ahem, sub optimal footwear, this argument is rarely raised and has never got anywhere. The burden is on the defendant driver to show that the injuries would not have been caused had the rider had on ‘stout’ footwear and then satisfy the court as to what ‘stout’ footwear actually is – a hiking shoe? A solid brogue? And had the rider been in a nice brogue would his/her foot have been markedly less impacted? That is one hell of a test for a defendant to get over and judges are very reluctant to get into ‘what ifs’. Additionally medical experts equally loath to say, ‘had he/she been wearing formal stout shoes his/her injuries would have been x not y,’ because it is so speculative.
CE motorcycle boots have crush resistant soles and specific abrasion and impact absorption zones. A pair of stout walking shoes have none of these. And there is no scientific material for the medical experts to determine outcomes. Medical experts need to base their findings on medicine and science and judges their findings on the evidence.
I might fall off
There is no compulsion in law to wear an abrasion resistant layer therefore the law would have nothing to say about abrasion to the skin. However, I ride on the basis that I might fall off or be knocked off. My experience has taught me to be obsessive about protecting my feet even on the shortest ride.
I have not ridden a bike without proper boots, on the road, for 30 years. The most devastating low speed injuries I see are foot injuries in soft shoes. When my two kids got their 125s it was on the strict basis that they always rode in boots and an abrasion resistant jacket with a back protector and gloves.
It is a matter of degree how ATGATT you go. The law is much more relaxed, but my rule is simple enough – if you are going to be riding at more than 30mph a good level of abrasion resistance could save you a skin graft.
Bike Magazine September 2021