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Hire Bikes: Riding to or from Liability?

Hire Bikes: Riding to or from Liability?

Were you injured while riding a hire bike? Were you injured by a rider? Did you trip over one of these bikes? Or did one of these bikes cause damage to your property? Ride no further.

30th January 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What are these bikes appearing everywhere?

The numerous branded bikes which you are seeing all around the streets such as oBike, Reddy Go or Ofo, are hire bikes which users can generally hire for one-off use or as a subscription through their mobile applications. Once payment is processed, the bike, which has incorporated GPS tracking, unlocks for your use. The bikes are essentially ‘dockless’. This means that they can be picked up and dropped off nearly everywhere!

Due to the sharing of these bikes, the continuous change of user and the lack of a ‘dock’ to return them to, there is likelihood that this action can lead to possible injuries to riders or third-parties, or damage to property. The existence of these risks raises great concerns as to who is liable for them.

Terms and Conditions

Some common terms you should consider before using these services are:

    • That they are generally for individuals who are over the age of eighteen, or have a legal guardian who registers with the service;
    • That you will wear a bicycle helmet that complies with the Australian safety standards at all times;
    • That you agree that you have the ability to assess the safety and condition of the mechanical aspects of the bike;
    • There is an obligation on you to inspect the condition and operating components before the ride, and that you will not ride the bike if there is any mechanical problem, safety concern or other issue;
    • You will not use a mobile phone or mobile electronic device while riding;
      You will follow all local laws and road rules; and/or
    • Not only that you will not use under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, but also under the influence of legal medication or other substances that may affect the safe operation of the bike.

These are a number of common terms and they may or may not be in the terms of the service you choose to ride with, or there may be additional terms. It is important that you seek legal advice to understand your legal rights and responsibilities through subscribing or using these services.

Common Situations

Injury to yourself while riding

Unless the injury is caused due to the fault of another, such as a driver on the road, where you could pursue the driver or their insurer for damages, you will most likely be liable for any loss.

If however, the injury arises due to an issue with the service, you may be able to bring an action against the service provider.

Causing injury or damage while riding

If you do not have insurance, it is likely that you will be liable to cover losses, damage or injury caused by your use of the service. To avoid this, you will have to understand your obligations while riding and also have an insurance policy in place.

Damage or injury caused after a ride

Due to the bikes being left around the streets, there is a compelling question that must be answered; who is liable for injury or damage caused by a bike after it has been used? For example, a third-party may trip over and injure themselves due to the bike being left in an inappropriate location. In such a scenario who is liable? The service provider? The most recent rider? The council? No-one?

It is possible that the last rider who placed the bike in that location will be liable as the agreement with the service provider generally requires the rider to take this responsibility and release the service provider liability to any damage or injury caused through their use of the service. It is imaginable that use of the service will extend to where the bike is left. This demonstrates how careful and cautious you should be when using such services.

Final thoughts

In light of all the above, it is evident that there is many grey areas in determining who is liable in certain circumstances. It is thus important that you understand your rights and liabilities while using these hire services, or in the event of an injury caused by a rider or bike. There are numerous parties involved in a simply bike ride, raising numerous questions as to who is liable for what.

Who do you think should be liable? How do you think governments, local councils and service providers should solve these issues? We would love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts by tagging us #lawpath or @lawpath.

Mikail Mermi

Mikail is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for increasing access to justice and how technology can enhance this, his research explores how the law is adapting to emerging technologies and how this affects consumers and businesses alike.