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When do you have to give your details?

8 February 2011

My usual bike is a roadie. It seems to have its own way of encouraging me to ride faster and faster, so that regardless of where I’m going I’ll arrive in a fit state for nothing more than a shower, a couple of bananas and a rest.

So recently I’ve started taking a BorisBike to work occasionally, for a more leisurely experience. My only problem with the BorisBikes is that, with alarming frequency, my bum slides off the seat. I’ve tried setting the seat at different heights, and wearing different trousers, but nothing can stop the slide. I haven’t yet called the TfL helpline about it, mainly because I’m worried that, in truth, the problem isn’t with the seat.

BorisBikes have one special feature that normal bikes don’t: an identifying number on the side. I’m no expert, but I presume this means that anyone who knows the number of the bike you were riding, and the time they saw you riding it, could (if TfL helped) trace you.  

Obviously tracing the rider of a normal bike, which doesn’t carry an identification number, will be much harder. This made me wonder what the rules are in this area. If you ride a bike, when are you obliged to give your details?

Rather unexpectedly, it turns out that the rules on exchanging details are different, depending on what kind of vehicle you’re driving or riding.

This post looks at the obligations which apply to cars as well as the obligations applying to bikes, because, let’s face it, you might need to know both. If you’re riding your bike and involved in a crash with a car, it might help you to know what the driver of the car is obliged to do afterwards, just as much as it might help to know your own obligations.

This post is about the rules of exchanging details. It’s not a substitute for practical advice for what to do after an accident, which is also easily available on the internet.

Mechanically propelled vehicles

Car drivers have a series of obligations to stop and give details when they’re involved in accidents.

The details are complex. At a basic level, where an accident occursowing to the presence of a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road”, and the accident causes injury or (loosely) property damage, the driver has to:

  • Stop; and
  • Give their name and address and the car’s registration number to anyone who requests it with reasonable grounds (for example because they witnessed or were involved in the accident). (RTA s. 170(1), (2))

If someone requests those details and the driver doesn’t give them, the driver will commit an offence. (RTA s. 170(4))

If there’s no-one around who asks for details, or for some other reason the driver doesn’t give their details at the scene, they have to report the accident to a police station as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event within 24 hours. (RTA s. 170(3))

Failing to comply with these obligations is a serious matter, and can lead to disqualification from driving or even a prison sentence. So if you’re in an accident with a car driver and you ask for the driver’s details and are refused (but you got their registration number, for example) you may want to report it to the police. (RTOA Sch 2)

These obligations only apply to the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle. This doesn’t include regular (pedal-powered) bicycles, so these obligations don’t apply to you if you’re riding a regular bike.

It does include things like cars, trucks and motorbikes. It also includes e-bikes (i.e. electrically-assisted pedal cycles) – so if you ride an e-bike, you have the same obligations to stop and give details after an accident as a car driver.

Bicycles

If you ride a bike, the rules require you to give your name and address if:

  • You are alleged to have committed an offence of dangerous cycling or careless/inconsiderate cycling; and
  • You are required by any person with reasonable grounds for asking to give your name and address. (RTA ss. 28, 29, 168(b))

So if there’s an allegation and a request for details, you have to give your name and address. If this happens and you don’t comply (or you give false details), you’ll commit an offence, for which the maximum penalty is £1000 (you can’t be given a FPN). (RTOA Sch 2, 3)

The law doesn’t offer much help understanding how these obligations work in practice. But the conclusions below seem to follow.

First, the person who asks for your details doesn’t need to be a police officer. Anyone can require your details.

Secondly, before you’re obliged to give your details, someone needs to have made an allegation that you were cycling dangerously or carelessly/inconsiderately. But they probably don’t have to mention the specific offences. So:

  • A simple “oi, that was dangerous, give me your name and address” would probably be enough to mean that you’d commit an offence if you didn’t comply.
  • Similarly if they said “you just crashed into my car, give me your name and address”, they might be implicitly alleging that you cycled carelessly. You’d probably be risking an offence if you refused to answer. This means that if you’re in a crash with a car and ask for the driver’s details, you’re probably obliged to give your details too.
  • You might find the police relying on this rule to ask for your name and address if they see you cycling while talking on your mobile (which might be careless cycling).

There are some other practical points to bear in mind too:

  • Obviously if you’ve been hurt it’s not a good idea to ride off. But there doesn’t seem to be any obligation on a cyclist to stop after an accident. If you’re gone before anyone alleges or requests anything, it’s difficult to see how you could commit an offence by not giving your details.
  • If you do ride off and haven’t given details, then (depending on the circumstances) it might be hard for the requirement to give details to be enforced (unless the police or a witness catch up with you).

Of course a police officer in uniform can require you to stop, and the police seem to have a general power to require your name and address (they can arrest you if they think you’ve committed an offence and can’t ascertain your details).

Hopefully you’ll never need to know any of this. Keep safe, keep your mind on the traffic (and not on the sandpaper contraption you’re going to have to stitch to your jeans to keep your bum on the seat) and happy cycling!

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Photo by spelio from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spelio/3886112341/

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6 Comments
  1. MarmiteCyclist permalink
    9 February 2011 18:38

    I wonder if there is still an exception to the law that you have to give your details? I was involved as a passenger in a collision between two vehicles. The other driver was completely at fault and admitted this but would not give their name and address. The other driver was a traffic warden and said that personal details didn’t have to be given because the details could be used for nefarious purposes e.g. people don’t like traffic wardens and may put a brick through their windows if their address was known. Believing, as you’ve said, that this was against the law we called the police. The police, who knew the traffic warden driver, confirmed what we were being told.

    This incident took place a few years ago so the law may have changed. No bikes involved either, but I thought this might be relevant.

    • 10 February 2011 09:08

      thanks MC – i’ve never heard of this, but will check it out.

      did the traffic warden give any info at all – e.g. his badge number and employer’s details – or did he completely refuse? and when you called the police, did you only have the car’s registration number? might make a difference.

  2. MikeC permalink
    16 April 2011 12:37

    What do you think about this video? http://youtu.be/jzIKXC7QAdg The cyclist insists that he doesn’t have to provide his details to a police officer but it would seem that he has been alleged of dangerous cycling (jumping a red light). To me it seems like the cyclist is in the wrong.

  3. Andy permalink
    20 April 2011 21:20

    I would NOT give my details (name and address) to a member of the public, it leaves you open ‘retribution’ , surely privacy laws come into force in this issue.

    If I was involved in an incident I would provide my CTC membership number, in a serious incident I would call the police.

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