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Sunday, 1 June 2014

So why should drivers pay for self imposed danger?

From Local Transport Today (LTT)

Revising accident liability law will make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians

Now (Here) Chris Boardman is lobbying for this against drivers. 

More Blog on Boardman & Here

Brenda Mitchell, of the cyclists lobby, in LTT is demanding automatic civil liability for UK drivers. See her submission below.

Firstly it is irrelevant what other countries do since we have our own parliament and hope that it will listen to a majority before it imposes such damaging sanctions and liability on essential infrastructure. It is a false premise for the cycle lobby to attach itself to pedestrians since without walkers we would all die very rapidly and that is not so with cyclists.  It is when cyclists make such demands that the rest of us are entitled to ask how crucial road cycling is to the community. A very fair and reasonable question.

I am a cyclist and have been cycling for at least 66 years and have never made any demands at all; I suspect most cyclists are just like me and Ms Mitchell is but a minority of a minority.

Yes of course road cycling is very risky. By definition, it is to place oneself on a slender frame on two flimsy wheels among and mingling with large pieces of heavy moving essential machinery operated by complete strangers of varying skill and mental capacity. If someone suggested it now in 2015, we would send for the men in white coats.  I know the risks and accept them. Ms Mitchell’s letter is based on total subjective judgement of drivers from a cyclist’s perspective for starters. But there are now only two essential road users society must have and cannot sustain without and that’s walkers and drivers.  So all proposals like that of Ms Mitchell must commence on that basic reality surely; not on the premise that we must have road cycling or that they are as crucial as drivers.  

So drivers wake up. This would not only bump up your insurance and be bad for the economy but would give cyclists some kind of priority on the roads too. 

The answer is simple. Cycle or don’t cycle; it’s a choice but don’t keep moaning and demanding changes or more will realise we are far safer and better off without you. In the meantime let’s have all court claims on their individual merit please. Politicians please get your priorities right on this. 

Brenda Mitchell, Cycle Law Scotland
Putting my head above the parapet to champion presumed liability for Scotland’s cyclists and pedestrians has not been particularly comfortable at times. It is a subject that can arouse intense debate and even anger in many motorists. I am, however, a passionate believer that by adopting presumed liability in civil law we can fundamentally change our culture to one of healthy road share and away from destructive road rage.

For me, the 6,000 who have signed our petition, the MSPs and celebrity supporters of our campaign, presumed liability is about protecting the vulnerable against the more powerful and, if introduced, will be the catalyst needed to encourage greater mutual respect between all road users.

In 2012, 902 cyclists were injured on Scotland’s roads, 167 of them seriously. Nine cyclists were killed that year, and 13 were in 2013. Independent research found that cyclists are the victims of bad driving with collisions dominated by drivers’ poor turning manoeuvres. Most motorists walk away unharmed, while the cyclists can be seriously affected by their injuries. The roads are simply not a level playing field.

So let’s deal with the myths, bluster and posturing that comes my way up front.  Presumed liability does not affect the principle of innocent until proven guilty, which is part of Criminal Law. We are seeking a change in Civil Law so that if a motorist collides with and injures a cyclist or pedestrian they are liable to pay the injured cyclist/pedestrian compensation. The protection of the vulnerable already operates in many areas of civil law, for example, those injured by dangerous animals and faulty goods can recover compensation by the mere fact they have been injured by a dangerous animal or faulty consumer product. Civil Law can operate to protect the vulnerable and make it easier for them to seek redress for injury sustained at the hand of another.

Cyclists – and I readily admit that not all of us are perfect – will always come off worst in any collision. Presumed liability places the presumption of negligence and consequent liability to pay compensation on the motorist because they have the control of the powerful vehicle, but that presumption is rebuttable.

At present we have a fault-based system in which the cyclist must prove negligence. Presumed liability simply shifts that burden of proof and presumes the motorist has been negligent as they should take into consideration the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads. The same is true, if a cyclist injures a pedestrian.

If the cyclist has caused or contributed to their injury, any award of compensation can be reduced even down to nil.  Scotland does not have a compensation culture and insurance premiums for motorists will not necessarily rise as presumed liability encourages early settlement, avoiding litigation costs.

Our European neighbours have for decades been able to protect vulnerable road users with civil laws and it has engendered a culture of road share. And like them, we see presumed liability as one of a kaleidoscope of measures that will not only change driver behaviour but is also integral to creating a culture that recognises that the roads are not just for cars. 

Far too often I deal with cases where drivers have failed to pay cyclists the necessary respect resulting in serious consequences.  Jamie Aarons had to fight to obtain her compensation after a taxi driver, parked on her nearside, opened his door into her path. Jamie had no opportunity to take evasive action causing damage to her bike and helmet. After initially helping Jamie to her feet and admitting fault, the taxi driver changed his story, claiming Jamie had simply fallen off her bike and there was no impact between the vehicles at all. 

With the taxi driver backed by a big insurance company, Jamie’s claim for compensation went all the way to the wire. Nearly a year after the incident, the insurance company did a complete about-turn, paying out for Jamie’s moderate claim and her legal costs. Jamie was traumatised by the whole process.

Colin McIntyre was involved in a road traffic collision, which left him unable to work for nearly a month. A taxi turned into his path, knocking him off his bike, causing a fracture to his left elbow and a laceration injury to his leg. Despite the injury being classified by the police as ‘serious’ and the taxi driver clearly at fault, the incident was taken no further and the driver never penalised for his careless driving. [But careless driving is a criminal, not civil offence! MH]

In January 2012, Andrew McNicoll was cycling to work. He was wearing a helmet, bright reflective clothing and his top-of-the-range bike was fitted with flashing lights. A lorry pulled alongside him and in a subsequent collision Andrew was thrown from his bike and into the rear of a parked car. The lorry driver did not stop. Andrew died.

It was 15 months after Andrew was killed before the driver was charged and 26 months before the criminal case was concluded. In all that time, Andrew’s family were not allowed to see post mortem or police investigation reports to know what happened and only once the criminal case was complete could they commence a civil action for compensation for his loss.

For those who have lost a family breadwinner or are coping with life-changing injuries as a result of a road traffic collision, the emotional trauma of this drawn-out process is therefore often compounded by financial worries. With a system of presumed liability in civil law, the driver in such instances would have had to prove why the cyclist was at fault and in all probability the civil case could be settled swiftly, reducing a family’s anguish, or ensuring a cyclist receives the full and proper treatment for their injuries.

It is for all these reasons that I believe presumed liability in civil law is the right response of a society that wants to protect the vulnerable. Enforcing rules of presumed liability on the more powerful vehicle involved in collisions would strongly encourage everyone to take much more care towards their fellow road users, potentially leading to far fewer accidents. It would also mean a far more compassionate, less combative, claim process, which helps, not aggravates, a situation.


  1. presumed liability would put the pedestrian as ultimate top dog followed by horse riders, cyclists, motorcyclists, cars, vans, buses and finally lorries, so in this instance it would be on the lorry driver to prove the car driver at fault and so on but the main thing is it's only to do with civil law not criminal law

    1. Of course it's civil law and it will cost us all via the insurance companies. But this isn't to benefit drivers at all. What's so wrong with the current system each case on its merits? HGVs, Cars and walkers are all essential for our survival now so what's horses and cyclists got to do with it? Both are a liability in their own right and totally superfluous so far as maintaining society is concerned. That isn't anti horse or cyclist by the way but a reality on which all policy must be based to be rational now. So what is the strict liability of someone walking along railway lines being hit by a train?

      This is a totally anti driver move that 35 million drivers should oppose if they have any sense.

  2. If someone is walking along a railway line they are guilty of trespass which carries a £1000 fine whereas the roads are open to all that is why it's called a public highway. At the moment more pedestrians than cyclists are being hit by motorists, presumed liability will stop motorists using the SMIDSY excuse to get off

  3. You miss the point. Cyclists choose to do it and society doesn't need them to cycle on roads. So why saddle important and crucial infrastructure for them or horses. Of course pedestrians do come to grief too but at least they are essential for the community but they should still take reasonable steps for their own safety, especially when crossing the carriageway and so all cases should be decided individually on their circumstances too. But let pedestrians fight their corner on their own merit. Why should cyclists hang on to their skirts. We must have pedestrians and protect them as best we can. But everything must be cost effective. If a scheme will cost so much that the money would save more lives in the NHS or with police or rescue services then we are losing the plot. This would be one such example of that.

  4. so all the people who cycle to work, to the shops, ect do not contribute to the economy? pull the other one

  5. Never ever said that. But the economy and society would collapse very quickly without drivers but not so without cyclists. As a liability on essential infrastructure and slowing it, road cycling doesn't help the economy at all.

    Those you refer to, all depend on drivers even if they don't drive themselves. Oh and how much 'shopping' can a cyclist do? A week's shopping for a family of four? Compost and plants from the garden centre? DIY stuff like heavy tins of paint and adhesive? Why are retail centres surrounded by massive car parks? I don't think retailers would miss people on bikes much. So perhaps you should 'pull the other one' :-).

  6. In the past I've managed to get £50s worth of food on the back of a bicycle, a canon pixma mp272 printer, new clothes and even new tyres and I rode perfectly safe and as for slowing traffic down may I remind you of rush hour which converts roads and motorways into car parks, I mean there are zero cyclists on the m25 but at certain times of the day traffic barley crawls along it same goes for other roads oh and what did we all do before the motor vehicle came along how did we manage? pretty good as it turns out if you look at what was invented before the internal combustion engine.

    1. Yes we've all carried daft loads on bikes making them even more unstable. But you miss the point, society must have driving but not cycling. Before internal combustion and steam? The horse, camel, bullocks, carriages, wagons, coaches, traps and so on. Society never expanded on manpowered transport and could not have done either, no matter what that idiot Carlton Reid thinks and writes. :-))

    2. Really? You mean to say the Ancient Egyptians didn't use manpowered transport to move the materials for building the pyramids? They were quite an advanced SOCIETY for their time after all. Venice relied and still DOES rely on MANPOWERED gondola's to transport both people AND goods(though these days it's only for places close to the canals and lagoons), hand carts have also been instrumental in the growth of modern society and even today, some places still rely on them as VITAL parts of socio-economic growth.

      As for society collapsing without cyclists, well, that shows what sort of idiot you are, without people cycling, you would end up with traffic jams that could last for days, such as the one seen in China during 2010 that lasted 9 days and stretched for over 100Km and public transport would be more overwhelemed than it already is, this would be because, if those cyclists didn't use their bikes, they would either use the car or use public transport, just look at what happened during the tube strikes, so face it, motorists and transport companies are basically at the mercy of cyclists but motorists are ALSO at the mercy of those who choose to use public transport, without cyclists nd those who use public transport, it could take a week just to get out of most cities, 2 weeks to escape London, also, nobody said about putting things on the bike itself, there are such things called TRAILERS that you can get for towing behind a bike and yes, I have seen people carrying a full sized fridge/freezer in such a trailer, quite a few times actually, but anyway, please stop talking out of your arse, it's unbecoming of someone at your age to spout such nonsense.

      By the way, I have also saved a copy of everything I have typed here and wll keep posting it until you publish it and finally admit that you're wrong about everything you say.

    3. The Egyptians could only build the large objects locally and most of them were pretty useless. They didn't expand or get their Empire until after they mimicked the Ipsos and their chariots. I am specifically talking of land movement and even boats for distance needed sail until steam or gally slaves for engines in ancient empires. Even our canals ran on heavy loads pulled by horses. As society grew, with faster, long distance, load and people bearing road transport so did population so that now the population cannot exist or sustain without road transport and cars. Do you really believe that all this can now be done by pushbike and manpower? And you call me an idiot? We will let the readers judge who's the idiot.

    4. Society always has and always will rely on some sort of manpower somewhere and society would do FAR better with a few million LESS private motorvehicles(note the word private, meaning cars owned by people like you and me, for personal use), so why would society as a whole, do better without them? For a start, it would severely reduce the strain on the NHS caused by road collisions and obesity, less road collisions would also reduce the strain on the emergency services, traffic jams would be much smaller, allowing public transport and deliveries to get to destinations faster, car parks could be turned into green spaces for people to enjoy and to attract wildlife, did you also know that Brighton has seen MORE trade since more cycle and bus lanes have been put in?

    5. Yes of course but on the roads, only walkers are essential manpower. It doesn't need cyclists. No everything depends on the private car. Unless we sleep at bus termini, airports and railway stations. And all that public transport is operated by people who must have cars. The NHS would fold without cars. It's not 'personal use'. Society is designed around it and depends on it that's why we are 'allowed' to operate these dangerous machines with very little qualification or monitoring. What nonsense? Strain on NHS? With the car we are healthier and live longer. Take cars from the road and society will collapse from lack of basics, including food water and power. Many would die. Of course there will be road death, at the moment after 300 billion driver miles a year, less death on the road from all causes than from accidents in the home. The NHS is killing 30,000 a year from being unable to care. Cars and drivers are keeping sixty million alive so look at the positives from them. Obesity? What's that to do with driving? It's about poor diet, sedentary computer games and tv, and there are much more efficient and safer ways to get exercise than road cycling? It's really not attractive to 90% of the population and only a minority do it or able to do it for very long. Most people don't find cycling viable at all so don't do it. It's like jogging. They may feel superior but most people think it's daft.