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When a 'group' should become a 'club'?

Petty VagrantPetty Vagrant Posts: 96
edited March 2012 in MTB general
Hi all,

I ride with a group that has grown to having up to 30 riders at a time. We have a Facebook page, a name, shirts, banner, our rides have been advertised in the local papers and our councils website etc. We set out with the aim to have of encouraging new people into MTBing, something we have been pretty successful in! We're also quite well known in the area as we're quite visible being such a large group heading out on Saturday mornings.

It has been suggested that whether we like it or not we have in effect become a 'club', even if we claim that we are not on our FB blurb and as such should be operating as one i.e. insurance, trained ride leaders etc. With that comes all the boring admin stuff that not many people are keen on doing.

Have others encountered this kind of problem with their own groups? If so what have you done? Is the advice we've received correct and if so what are our options?

Any opinions and advice would be welcome............basically we just want to get out and ride, not have to worry about club subs etc!

Thanks

Pete
Trek Top Fuel 9 2010, Stumpy Pro 2009 ,Giant XTC3 2009, Qu-ax Penny Farthing,
Elswick Hopper Model M delivery Bike 1960

God Shave The Queen!
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  • edhornbyedhornby Posts: 1,780
    if it ain't broke don't try to fix it :-)

    you could have a specific disclaimer on the facebook site (if this is your primary point of contact) with a disclaimer on that all riding is personal responsibility etc and that joining the facebook group is acceptance
    "I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel, how good is that"
    --Jens Voight
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    Provided there is no fee to join and a clear information statement denying responsibility and nobody acts contrary to this then you should be fine. You also want to avoid having people "in charge".

    The issue comes when memberships and other fees are paid or there is a small group who are the leaders/organisers. You want to avoid anything which implies a duty of care.
  • benpinnickbenpinnick Posts: 4,148
    DIY's advice is good - if you want more information, or maybe still think you should at least cover your butts insurance wise, the CTC offers alot of information for organising clubs, as well as insurance options. If you track down Ian Warby, he would be the best person there to speak to.
    A Flock of Birds
    + some other bikes.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    Something like:

    You are deemed to be responsible for your riding and safety at all times. You acknowledge that riding a mountain bike carries inherent risk of injury and death and you agree that you participate in these rides knowing and understanding these risks. We suggest you take out appropriate insurance to cover any eventuality that you feel necessary to insure against. We further suggest you carry all necessary equipment, food, water and first aid supplies to deal with eventualities which may arise.

    We will not be held responsible for any loss, theft, damage, (accidental or otherwise), to property or injury to person, in particular those arising from an accident involving you or a third party including but not limited to other people on the ride.

    You undertake this ride with the full understanding of your limitations and ability as a rider and agree that you will not take risks that you deem to be beyond your riding capability or do anything to endanger others.

    As you are ultimately in control of your bicycle, you take full responsibility for your actions. We select routes that we perceive are within our riding ability only, you agree that you will not attempt anything that you feel is beyond your ability.

    If in the opinions of others your riding is thought to be dangerous to yourself or others, we reserve the right to ask you to leave the group and make your own way home.
  • sandy771sandy771 Posts: 368
    diy - that is interesting but does it not go a way towards indicating that there is some sort of organisation i.e. someone/some people have sat down and thought up/borrowed/plagiarised the form of words that they eventually use and taken the trouble to publish them on FB... The implication that someone might decide that a member is a danger... We will not be held responsible implies that someone possibly could be...

    Not trying to be contrary, just non-professionally interested in the law and you seem to have a better grasp of the law than most (including me).
  • Thanks for the thoughts so far.

    We would rather continue as we are - no membership, fees, leaders but we don't want to leave ourselves open to litigation if someone injures a dog walker, gets involved in a road accident. I've been told that just because we say we are not a club and have a disclaimer that doesn't alter the fact that in the eyes of the law we will be seen as one.

    British Cycling also has quite a good section on how to set up a club and the insurance is very reasonable. There are a couple of worrying bits like we have to have a a fully trained ride leader - currently it's just lead by whoever is at the front!
    Trek Top Fuel 9 2010, Stumpy Pro 2009 ,Giant XTC3 2009, Qu-ax Penny Farthing,
    Elswick Hopper Model M delivery Bike 1960

    God Shave The Queen!
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,601
    Sounds horrible. I think I'll stick to riding in a bunch.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    I must admit I didn't spend long drafting the above.. Could certainly tighten it up. But not sure how important that is. I'm really only focusing on the organisers role.

    I'm basically trying to deal with the following.

    Duty of Care

    This is the key one, there could easily be a duty of care implied, so this is the main thing that needs to be dealt with. Its quite hard to establish a duty of care where there is not contract/service. Hence best to avoid fees. But there can still be an implied duty by someone who takes an organising role (i.e. a few people in charge) Disclaimer needs to establish that No duty of care owed by the organiser or ride leader, you could go further to say there is no duty of care owed by anyone, but I don't think that is necessary and probably wont even stand up. There could be a situation where an individual on a ride owes a duty of care to someone else. That duty of care should not undermine the organisers disclaimer and vice versa.

    Warning of risk of injury

    The legal concept of volenti non fit injuria

    Not under instruction

    There are few cases of voluntary instructors owing a duty of care to their students even when no fee has been paid. Having the rider deemed in control and responsible at all times makes it clear that the only one in charge of their safety is them. It also goes someway to placing a duty of care on themselves to check they are up to it.

    Suggestion of Insurance.

    All sorts of different people would suffer different losses depending on Job etc., so obligation is on them to insure what they can't afford to lose.

    General advice.

    Always good to tell people to come with what they need.. could go further and add safety gear - probably should in fact. The bit about asking people leave is just a way of saying we reserve the right to tell you to P*** off

    The important bit is to make sure you are one thing or the other.
  • I've been told that just because we say we are not a club and have a disclaimer that doesn't alter the fact that in the eyes of the law we will be seen as one.
    I'm not a person that's ever read law, or anything like that, so I'm probably wrong with this. But surely, if nobody is 'in charge' of your group, who could the law sue? In the event of an accident with someone such as a dog walker, that would be between the rider and the dog walker. The rider couldn't then say "Oh, it's Joe Bloggs group" as he can then deny it, or pass the blame on, in a kind of "I'm Sparticus" way.
    I can't see how one or two people can be blamed and held responsible, if you remain as a group, regardless of numbers.

    Personally, I'd hate to be in a group of that many riders though. It seems far too many!
    It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.
    Join us on UK-MTB we won't bite, but bring cake!
    Blender Cube AMS Pro
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,601
    This^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    On both points.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • Under the dreaded elf safety rules we are all responsible for our own safety and those around us
    Therefore the person "leading/organising/ route planner/web site owner/Facebook page owner" may be deemed the "responsible" person? Whoever plans the route should have done a risk assessment and taken into consideration the ability of the participating riders

    Been, there, done it and have given up because of all of the above if's, but's, jobs worths etc. used to love a Sunday morning group ride but it became too much once the SMBLA award came along and all the politics started. It was so simple 20yrs ago :lol:

    Go to CAB or a solicitor, have yet to see anyone on a cycle forum agree on any real way forward on this.

    One of the groups I ride with has a web site, list of ride dates where those who can make it turn up, ride, eat drink and have fun for a weekend a month. This group comprises of people from the length and breadth of the country. Rides are agreed by "committee" decision and posted on site.

    In April I will be "leading" a group from down south around my local trails returning the "favour" from last year when I met up with them on their patch :D

    Coincidentally I was having a read at my local road clubs web site and all the old who is in charge issues are starting all over again, always does when new members not used to riding in a bunch start creating havoc. Similar issues to above rear their ugly head as to who is "leading/responsible" etc :roll:
    However I am a qualified MBL leader all licenced up etc :wink:
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,601
    We post on here and facebook so I guess Future Publishing or Mark Zuckerberg are responsible for us.
    Excellent - deep pockets.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    The problem comes when someone has injury insurance which is triggered by an accident. The insurer will have to pay out and then have a look at who they can take a bit off in return. If they found even a hint of someone they could pin a duty of care on, then they would seriously look to recover some of their losses.
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,601
    We arrange regular rides here and on Facebook. Just random suggestions though, meet up and ride. No one is a leader or anything, just like mates riding.
    Seems best just to keep it as informal as possible.
    And avoid team lycra.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • gezebogezebo Posts: 364
    When the members of the group decide that they'd like to form a club that is sustainable and they have people who can be bothered to become chairman, Secretary etc. Until you reach this point the question is meaningless as a club could not form anyway...
  • Mr Vagrant (or should I just call you Pete?),

    I write as a teacher of Law who has taught the Law of Tort, especially Negligence, to degree level in a College of Further Education. I have also consulted the CTC Advice Sheet on Law and Liability for Cycling Activities and Events in order to answer your question.

    It is in your own legal interest to become a club with insurance. Should an accident happen during a ride resulting in a rider or walker being injured and/or damage to property, negligence could be proven against an individual as well as an "activity provider". An activity provider can be a ride leader and/or organiser and does not have to be a registered organisation. It is possible to bring an action (court case) against more than one person, in which case the defendants will be joint tortfeasors (wrongdoers).

    Experienced but unpaid volunteers (which applies to unofficial ride organisers) would be expected to act the same way as any paid person of his/her particular experience and expertise. Also, if an organisation (eg, your local Council) or an experienced person is involved, the formal status of the group is irrelevant. If it could be proven that group members knew good practice, had access to advice but ignored it then negligence could be proven.

    Two defences are available in a possible negligence case:

    Volenti non fit injuria, which means that injury is not done to a willing person, applies to riders injured in the group and is a complete defence. However, it has its limits as sciens non est volens meaning "knowing is not volunteering". The defence only applies to the risk which a reasonable person would consider them as having assumed by their actions. Therefore, a disclaimer may be rendered invalid by a judge depending on the circumstances.

    Contributory negligence is a partial defence and it must be proven that the claimant was partly responsible for the damage that s/he sustained. Compensation will then be reduced by the same level of fault, eg, if a rider or walker was 50% to blame for an accident then compensation will be reduced by half.

    My advice is that if you become a registered activity provider with CTC, you will get public liability insurance of up to £5-million for all cycling activities including the provision of expert advice whether voluntary or paid.
  • Thanks for that Asif (and of course you can call me Pete!)........it also then begs the question that if we became a club we would have to operate 'legally' and by this I mean ensure we have the permission of the landowners to ride on their land and that we don't ride on 'footpaths'. I assume that if not then this would give insurance companies 'wriggle' room if called upon to cough up.
    I also spotted on the BC advice page that all rides must be lead by a qualified ride leader...... we don't have any of these!!

    I can now see why many MTB groups remain small!
    Trek Top Fuel 9 2010, Stumpy Pro 2009 ,Giant XTC3 2009, Qu-ax Penny Farthing,
    Elswick Hopper Model M delivery Bike 1960

    God Shave The Queen!
  • gezebogezebo Posts: 364
    Anyone got any real life examples of cyclists (in a mtb environment) being taken to court over accidents?
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    Asif is correct, I would add that Volenti non fit injuria wont help if you run over a bobble hat, as you'd have to work pretty hard to establish that they had knowingly volunteered to the risk.

    To answer the question regarding riding on private land and footpaths. You'd have to read the specific limitations of your insurance and any terms imposed. It is not illegal to ride on footpaths (those which are not adjacent to a highway and not covered by road traffic statute etc etc.) It is a matter of trespass (which has its own requirements). It could certainly be used against you in establishing negligence.

    The key point here is not that there is a case for negligence, but that there might be and you'd run up some pretty big legal bills defending your assets.

    edit:
    gezebo wrote:
    Anyone got any real life examples of cyclists (in a mtb environment) being taken to court over accidents?

    very, very few, but we wont necessarily know of those settled out of court, which is where the vast majority of negligence claims end.

    I just want to sum up that there is no general duty of care owed by one person to another, for any claim to succeed, the claimant would have to show a duty of care and or negligence. In general people are deemed to be the author of their own misfortune. However, any careless act or failure to predict what might reasonably be predicted will give grounds to a negligence claim.

    Negligence cannot be disclaimer-ed away. The facts are a club, group, gaggle that does not act in accordance with established best practice opens the individual leading the ride to a claim of negligence, even if the person injured substantially contributed to their injuries.
  • gezebo wrote:
    Anyone got any real life examples of cyclists (in a mtb environment) being taken to court over accidents?

    I couldn't find statistics in an MTB environment but by comparison it's interesting to note that according to the Department of Transport, 18 people were killed by cycles and 434 seriously injured between 2001-9 (pedestrian casualties). Have a look at this BBC News article, Is Dangerous Cycling a Problem: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13040607 which highlights one death in particular.

    My point is that an MTB accident could result in a claim being made by one rider against a fellow rider, ride leader and/or ride organiser. A dog walker could also bring a case against a rider/leader/organiser. As diy has pointed out, you don't want to spend thousands of pounds defending a potential court case without an insurance company footing the bill. Most accident claims are settled out of court through the process of negotiation between the claimant and the defendant's insurance company, provided they have a policy, so don't get any media exposure.

    All this talk has now made me think about taking out an individual insurance policy in case of a mishap!
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    you may find you are covered by other policies. You want to avoid duplicating cover as they tend just point fingers at each other.

    The important point here, is that if you do accidentally seriously injure a bobble hat, you need to make sure they are dead, as it will be cheaper ;)

    I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think those Cas Stats cover off-road as they are based on police STATS19 reports.

    KSI is a meaningless statistic as any stats swat will know. You can't combine a low value stat with a high value stat. You could have 4 K, and 500 SI one year and 40K and 400 SI the next, showing a marked improvement in road safety.
  • You know what....all this BS about ring a club etc is nonsense. You are a group of riders saying that you are riding at X place at X time. You dont charge people to come, so you are not their keepers as you provide little to no service.


    You know what.....I blame wiggle of this!
  • gezebogezebo Posts: 364
    You know what....all this BS about ring a club etc is nonsense. You are a group of riders saying that you are riding at X place at X time. You dont charge people to come, so you are not their keepers as you provide little to no service.


    You know what.....I blame wiggle of this!

    Ditto- scaremongering by wannabe lawyers.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    OP posted a question, its been answered. you posted a question its been answered. Sorry you don't like the answer, I can't change that for you.
  • You know what....all this BS about ring a club etc is nonsense. You are a group of riders saying that you are riding at X place at X time. You dont charge people to come, so you are not their keepers as you provide little to no service.


    You know what.....I blame wiggle of this!

    The fact that Pete's group don't charge and provide little to no service is irrelevant and simply means that Contract Law (which includes Consumer Law) does not apply to the situation. Pete is part of a group that organises rides, which makes them an "activity provider" and therefore subject to the Tort of Negligence. I'm not scaremongering but highlighting possible civil liability in the event of a possible accident.
  • gezebogezebo Posts: 364
    I'm sorry but I'd have to disagree with the statement that they are 'activity providers'. It simply is not true, if it was then nearly everybody who organised something regularly on an informal basis would on your account become 'activity providers' and potentially become liable.
    I would find it incredibly unlikely that any court would rule against the party leaders in the ways described above, we live in the UK and fortunately our legal system still operates with a degree of commonsense in matters like these.
    I could be persuaded differently if any examples, from any activity could be shown were people who were not directly involved in an incident have been successfully prosecuted in the ways that you have described.
    Also can anyone provide examples of clubs/club members being sued for undertaking club activities- exceptions for actions resulting from gross stupidity!

    Ps. I'm not anti club- OP do what you like. It just infuriates me when people start diving on the legal bandwagon scaremongering when a bunch of people are just out to have a nice time with the minimum amount of time and expence spent jumping through hoops.
  • ricardo_smoothricardo_smooth Posts: 1,281
    gezebo wrote:
    Ps. I'm not anti club- OP do what you like. It just infuriates me when people start diving on the legal bandwagon scaremongering when a bunch of people are just out to have a nice time with the minimum amount of time and expence spent jumping through hoops.

    This.

    Too many people read a book and think that UK law could apply it in any situation.

    If this was the case, then I think we are all in trouble as I am sure non of you have been spending your Sundays within the law. The Archery Law of 1363 afaik was not revised and was still lawful until recently.....so you 'could' be prosecuted according to 'the law'.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    You are asking the wrong question. Whether it has happened or not is the wrong question. I certainly can't be bothered to trawl case database looking for you. The right question is could a person organising a ride get sued for negligence/breach of duty of care in the event of an injury. There are many decided cases on this, which create a framework by which negligence claims can succeed. The key argument you are making, is one of proximity.

    Fwiw I think it would be quite a long shot to pin negligence on a ride organiser, in the event of two people having an accident, particularly if they have been clear about risks etc. I also don't think the creator of the F/b group could be responsible (particularly with a basic disclaimer). Otherwise f/b itself could also be.

    There are 3 requirements

    1. Was the loss to the claimant foreseeable?
    2. Was there sufficient proximity between the parties?
    3. Is it fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care.

    It doesn't take a genius to imagine a scenario where all 3 are met.
  • Asif TufalAsif Tufal Posts: 109
    gezebo wrote:
    I'm sorry but I'd have to disagree with the statement that they are 'activity providers'. It simply is not true, if it was then nearly everybody who organised something regularly on an informal basis would on your account become 'activity providers' and potentially become liable.

    Unfortunately, you're mistaken as the CTC's advice sheet, Law and Liability for Cycling Activities and Events, begins with the following words: "This sheet is for providers of cycling activities to members and the public. This can include CTC local groups, ride leaders, organisers, trainers, holiday operators, offroad or mountain bike activities and event managers, collectively referred to as Activity Providers, or APs."

    You can read the full document here: http://www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Go_Biki ... viders.pdf

    The OP clearly stated: "I ride with a group that has grown to having up to 30 riders at a time. We have a Facebook page, a name, shirts, banner, our rides have been advertised in the local papers and our councils website etc. We set out with the aim to have of encouraging new people into MTBing, something we have been pretty successful in! We're also quite well known in the area as we're quite visible being such a large group heading out on Saturday mornings." How can this group not be an activity provider?
  • Asif TufalAsif Tufal Posts: 109
    Too many people read a book and think that UK law could apply it in any situation.

    Not quite. I graduated with an honours degree in Law from the University of Westminster in 1993. After completing a PGCE in Post-Compulsory Education, I became a Teacher of Law in 1994. Since then I became Subject Leader for Law in a College where I currently work. During my career, I've taught the Tort of Negligence to Legal Executives who work for solicitors. I'm not being condescending but explaining my credentials.

    Also, bear in mind that there are two sides to a negligence claim: claimant (formerly known as plaintiff) and defendant. I believe that I could present a solid case for a claimant.
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