Cities are for cars - and The Road Share campaign criminalises motorists, says Scots commentator

Drivers have training and safety equipment - and "pampered Scottish cyclists" should have to take similar precautions

by Sarah Barth   April 28, 2013  

Scottish Parliament Bike Stands (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

A Scottish commentator has condemned a campaign to have the country’s civil law changed to introduce a system of ‘strict liability’ liability in incidents involving motor vehicles and more vulnerable road users such as cyclists, saying that cycling in Scotland is the preserve of the middle classes and that the move risks 'criminalsing innocent citizens."

In an opinion article published in today's Observer and online at, Kevin McKenna says that a move by "antisocial" cyclists and devised by Cycle Law Scotland, under which a hierarchy is established that places a presumption of liability that favours the more vulnerable road user, would force motorists "to chug along permanently in second gear" - causing pollution and traffic jams.

Mr McKenna writes that cyclists, being middle class eco-warriors in any case, should stick to the countryside to ride, as "doing so in built-up areas is the height of irresponsibility and displays an arrogant and high-handed attitude to the concerns of other road-users."

Cycle Law Scotland, of course, says that the UK is one of just five of the 27 European Union member states – the others are Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania – where in such cases there is no ‘strict liability.’

According to the firm,

As a consequence, our current system expects those injured or the families of those killed to go through an often harsh and protracted process to gain much needed treatment, care or compensation. On the Continent, strict liability is seen as an integral factor of cycle safety and Scotland has the power to introduce this principle into civil law to demonstrate its credentials as a civilised, cycle-friendly nation.

The ultimate aim is to introduce a private member’s bill into the Scottish Parliament, designed to protect the most vulnerable road users and to reflect a hierarchy of road users. To that end, the campaign sets out to highlight the dangers cyclists face from motorists and help facilitate a change in attitudes amongst road users to one based on mutual respect and understanding. Over the course of the next two months, we are running an online petition and forums to share knowledge and advice.

And given that thousands of cyclists are set to Pedal on Parliament next month for more safety infrastructure, it seems that the community might welcome such a move. Many of those cyclists will also, of course be motorists - most adults who ride bikes also hold a driving licence.

It also might be worth pointing out to Mr McKenna that he's mixing up criminal guilt and civil liability when he writes: "I can't believe that the government would seriously consider making any new legislation that automatically presumes the guilt of thousands of motorists in accidents with cyclists. Haven't the SNP criminalised enough innocent citizens with their sinister Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act?

"In the overwhelming majority of road incidents involving cars and bikes, the driver will be in possession of thousands of pounds' worth of training, car insurance and safety apparatus. The cyclist will have nothing but a daft helmet, diving goggles and spandex shorts. Cyclists need to be put through a stiff proficiency test before obtaining a licence and they ought to be taxed and insured."

Richard Lyle, Member of the Scottish Parliament representing Central Scotland, has lent his support to the campaign however, saying: “The laws around strict liability should be looked at as we work to make Scotland a cycle-friendly nation.

“For too long, strict liability for road users has been dismissed as too difficult or too contentious a law, but in a modern society that sees cycling as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and sustainable economy, it is important to put this debate back on the agenda.

“If strict liability can be shown to help improve road safety and provide protection for those injured, then Scotland should not be afraid to take a lead and change the law.”

21 user comments

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I suggest you peruse the other offering by that bloated blow-hard and you'll see exactly why McKenna is a man whose contribution to the debate is unlikely to have a serious impact

And FYI - "today's Scottish Guardian" ???

There's no such thing - it is created in London and that is all too obvious to the dwindling readership north of the border

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
28th April 2013 - 10:53


It's in the Observer. It isn't his first Moirish anti-cycling rant there. A despicable little turd.


posted by Edgeley [173 posts]
28th April 2013 - 11:31

1 Like

They are beginning, no wait...they are sounding like a broken record.

posted by northstar [1107 posts]
28th April 2013 - 11:56


Oh, how I love those people taking the car to drive their SUV 30 miles into the countryside to ride 10 miles on the bike. Sad

Wasn't the bike invented get one from A to B? Aren't cities ideal for the bikes because of shorter distances?

posted by Dr. Ko [109 posts]
28th April 2013 - 12:37


"Cyclists Should be Taxed and Insured"

If only I had £1 for every time someone said that I would be a very rich man !

posted by gazer117 [26 posts]
28th April 2013 - 15:08

1 Like

I was hit by a car last November when they tried to overtake me on a bend. and it left me in need of an operation on my shoulder, and I cannot cycle until June. Also, being a big rower as well, it stopped me completely from doing that, as I had no cartilage left undamaged in my shoulder.
They got away with it.
This Kevin McKenna seems to not know anything about what he is on about. I have never encountered him before, but he appears to me, to be the kind of person who deliberately budges past you in public, and accuses you (if you know what I'm on about).
Anyway, he is more than entitled to give his opinion on this, but in no way, shape or form, should be given the right to have his opinion made out to be some kind of "fact", as the article perceives it as.
His idea of kicking bikes out of cities would go against every modern idea:
1) Make people more unfit and promote obesity
2) Increase pollution
3) Discriminate against a group of people (cyclists)

Anyway, just needed to get my thoughts out; so angry response = over

blago's picture

posted by blago [4 posts]
28th April 2013 - 15:16

1 Like

Not quite sure what the Observer is playing at giving space to this idiot and his barking views!? Sadly, there will be plenty of not too bright chumps out there in complete agreement with his rant. Depressing. Angry


posted by pastaman [220 posts]
28th April 2013 - 16:10


Well this guy's clearly a moron, but I'm not surprised at this reaction to the 'strict liability' proposal - it's a really bad idea from what I can see and reinforces the 'them and us' feeling.

Guilty until proven innocent if you are a car driver? Err, I don't think so. You have a responsibility to drive and ride safely whether you're in a car, lorry, on a horse or bike or whatever!

They should focus on getting the penalties and justice system right for cyclists hit by cars in the first place.

posted by 700c [559 posts]
28th April 2013 - 16:18


Insurance for cyclists is a complete non starter.

Impossible to regulate and control and at what age do you start for ins ? I see kids on a daily basis causing more grief with their bikes bouncing up and down kerbs and into traffic flow than any adult cyclist.


dont get started about helmets and the like Wink

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
28th April 2013 - 17:22


700c wrote:

Guilty until proven innocent if you are a car driver?


It's a *rebuttable* presumption of *liability* - not criminal guilt.

It recognises the duty the Highway Code expresses, that the larger and more powerful have a responsibility to drive carefully around the more vulnerable.

It's rebuttable so that if a cyclist throws themselves under your wheels (something many in the anti camp seem to think inevitable, having, presumably, never experienced being hit by a motor vehicle) you and your insurers are not liable.

Err, I don't think so. You have a responsibility to drive and ride safely whether you're in a car, lorry, on a horse or bike or whatever!

This is a massive false equivalence - some of those parties have vastly greater potential to harm others, and so, many would argue, a much greater responsibility to exercise care on the road.

"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [422 posts]
28th April 2013 - 18:34


Motorists seem to cope with the assumed liability of a following car when it bashes a car infront.


posted by Edgeley [173 posts]
28th April 2013 - 19:01


Have just read the article it is clear that the poor man sees himself as a Scottish Clarkson - but fails miserably. It would appear that he is that familiar person who, when distinguishing between their arse and their elbow, always requires two attempts.

posted by matttheaudit [48 posts]
28th April 2013 - 20:25

1 Like

The article by a nitwit posing as a "journalist" (first rule, check your facts) generated 209 comments online. I imagine Guardian online must be very pleased with that. But perhaps not too proud of allowing utter spheroids to appear under their banner.


posted by doc [167 posts]
28th April 2013 - 21:52


Come on, it's just about selling newspapers. When your average tired old hack sees the deadline approaching and realises he has nothing original to say, rehashing some anti cycling tosh is always a safe bet. Middle class 4WD drivers can nod vigorously in agreement over their Sunday croissants before driving to the garden centre, and a few cyclists will post angry messages to the paper, generating some controversy to keep the editor happy. Piss-poor journalistic trolling, that's all.

posted by kcr [66 posts]
28th April 2013 - 21:57


he's just talking without any homework and based on irrelevant preconceptions, the guy is a douche

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koko56's picture

posted by koko56 [333 posts]
28th April 2013 - 22:04


Class warfare? Okay, I'm game. McKenna claims that his "socialist roots run deep". In language that he might understand, get tae Chelsea tractor out of here.

The working class were riding bikes to mill, factory and mine long before he were filling his face with truffle infused baby mash. The bike is - along with nationalised rail and bus services - a quintessentially proletarian mode of transport. Now that we know what sort of socialist he is, he can remove set of silver cutlery, and shove champagne bottle up his fat metropolitan bourgeois arse.

To paraphrase Wolfgang Pauli, it's not even journalism. Clarkson is funnier.

posted by Argos74 [297 posts]
29th April 2013 - 4:19


stumps wrote:
Insurance for cyclists is a complete non starter

I think Swiss had something like this until end of 2011, annual cost around 8 quid. Was cancelled as 90% of the riders were already covered otherwise and 20% was spend on administration.

Not sure, the goverment holds shares in banks maybe also in a insurance company or two, so ask your MP if you could get a free bike insurance out of the deal. Big Grin

posted by Dr. Ko [109 posts]
29th April 2013 - 6:10

1 Like

He was an exec editor at the Daily Mail, says it all really

posted by georgee [139 posts]
29th April 2013 - 7:11


Yawn dodgy angry little jock. Independence soon my son . . . then what? Fried Mars Bars for all? Hahahahahaha . . . . . .

mike_ibcyclist's picture

posted by mike_ibcyclist [36 posts]
29th April 2013 - 12:14


I'll have an ounce of whatever he's on ^

... and hold my calls for the afternoon

posted by mcj78 [21 posts]
29th April 2013 - 13:57


mike_ibcyclist wrote:
Yawn dodgy angry little jock. Independence soon my son . . . then what? Fried Mars Bars for all? Hahahahahaha . . . . . .

Well that's rather offensive now isn't it? One of the very few things I agree with McKenna on is unionism (though as I'm in economic exile in England I get no vote)

posted by Al__S [591 posts]
29th April 2013 - 14:58