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Proposal intended to encourage more people onto their bikes

A proposal from cycling groups to see motorists become legally responsible for all crashes involving cyclists whether they are at fault or not has been put forward as part of the consultation process for the government’s National Cycling Plan and Active Transport Strategy.

The proposal would place the presumption of blame against whoever was driving the most powerful vehicle involved in an accident, so they or their insurers would be liable for costs or damages.

Where a cyclist was hit by a car, the presumption of blame would fall on the driver. Cyclists would automatically be blamed if they hit a pedestrian. The proposals would not apply to the criminal law. Cyclists' groups say the reforms would encourage people to get out of their cars and make more journeys by bicycle or on foot.

Indeed similar policies have already been adopted by Germany and Holland, where transport campaigners say they have had a significant influence in changing attitudes towards cycling.

Phillip Darnton, chief executive of Cycling England, an agency funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) to promote cycling, said: “I would like to see the legal onus placed on motorists when there are accidents; speed limits reduced to 20mph on suburban and residential roads; cycling taught to all schoolchildren; and cycling provision included in major planning applications,” said Darnton.

The move could fuel tensions between motorists and cyclists, and Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Many cyclists are motorists and many motorists are cyclists. Simple changes in the law that assume one party is in the wrong because of what they drive will not help harmony on the roads.”

Last week TV chef and car critic James Martin described in a newspaper his joy at running a group of cyclists off the road while test-driving a sports car and was forced to apologise.

But a spokesman for the Department of Transport said the proposals were not being considered by ministers and added: “Cyclists are traffic and are subject to the same laws as other traffic. They are responsible for their own actions and whether insured or not are liable for the consequences of their actions.”

The government is spending £100m on building cycle routes in 18 pilot towns, while other proposals include the imposition of blanket 20mph zones on residential streets, to increase the 1-2 per cent of journeys currently taken by bicycle.

It comes after the government announced last week that cyclists will be permitted to ride the wrong way along one-way streets under a change intended to encourage more people to give up their cars and get on their bikes.

The DfT is authorising a trial in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in West London, in which a small plate saying ‘Except cyclists’ will be attached to poles carrying no-entry signs, and if successful the department intends to extend the policy to the rest of Britain and permit thousands of one-way streets to become two-way for bikes.
 

10 comments

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OldRidgeback [2769 posts] 7 years ago
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It'll really set the cat amongst the pigeons if it's introduced. I'm not in favour of it to be honest.

The person responsible for an accident should be the one responsible for an accident legally. It's a nonsense to suggest otherwise.

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bandigo [1 post] 7 years ago
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This strikes me a sheer lunacy. All that will be achieved by this sort of stupidity is that the bike becomes the the insurance scammer's tool of choice .. and before you know it, every accident involving a bike will a suspected scam. Far from making things easier for us, it will make things ten times worse. Whatever plonker thought up this nonsense should be banned from the road.

And before anyone tells me that it works abroad: it doesn't - all it has done is cause hostility.

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OldRidgeback [2769 posts] 7 years ago
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So all I need to do to get a new bike is to throw the old one out into the road in front of a car, truck or bus. The vehicle driver's insurance picks up the tab and hey presto, I get a new one!

What sort of moron dreams up this type of proposal? I presume they don't live in the real world?

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wild man [297 posts] 7 years ago
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Sounds like my old headmaster who automatically blamed the bigger boy for starting any fight.

Cyclists just want respect and awareness, not bias.

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Simon E [3040 posts] 7 years ago
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"morons"? Give me a break. Anything that gets drivers thinking about cyclists instead of SMIDSY or Gerroutofmyway is going to make life (and remaining alive) better for cyclists, peds and anyone.

Compare it to the situation where a following driver tail-ends another is automatically at fault. Where is the difference between this and anticipating cyclists' behaviour?

Highway Code rules 204-225, Road users requiring extra care. This entire section is highly pertinent. Read it. If more drivers did these things (and the other stuff they are supposed to) there would be many fewer RTCs.

The roads are increasingly a no-go zone for anyone not inside an NCAP 5-star safety cage and driver behaviour demonstrates that. They're cut off from the world, they just want to get on so give more vulnerable road users little or no time or space. If Strict Liability goes some way to redressing the imbalance and improves sharing (rather than dominating) the road would be a good thing, and long overdue.

Roadpeace has a brief page and PDF about strict liability:

http://www.roadpeace.org/index.asp?PageID=157

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OldRidgeback [2769 posts] 7 years ago
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If implemented, the new rules would become a rich source of funds for scammers. People would be able to make fictitious claims for accidents that never happened backed up by 'witnesses' taking a cut of profits. These rules will make things worse for most cyclists as they'll antagonise motorists all the more. And for those cyclists who also own cars (say about 90%) it'll be a matter of luck whether they get hit for spurious claims.

The person responsible for an accident is the person responsible for an accident. The current laws give adequate protection for all road users. What is required instead of a scammers charter is a programme of proper enforcement and driver education.

Perhaps if the naive soul who suggested this idiotic move was hit by one of the inevitable scams there would be some sense seen soon. As baroness Scotland so recently found out, impractical new laws have a habit of backfiring rather disastrously.

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Simon E [3040 posts] 7 years ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

If implemented, the new rules would become a rich source of funds for scammers.

I don't think it's anywhere near as simple as that.

Quote:

What is required instead of a scammers charter is a programme of proper enforcement and driver education.

Nice idea but the experience of UK cyclists shows that something more than 'education' is required, otherwise more people would already drive safely and considerately, within the speed limit without using a mobile phone.

If this kind of system can be used effectively in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark then why not here?

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OldRidgeback [2769 posts] 7 years ago
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As Bandigo said:

"And before anyone tells me that it works abroad: it doesn't - all it has done is cause hostility."

These proposed new rules are naive in the extreme.

Yes, anyone who rides on two wheels can agree that 'something needs to be done'. The guy in the VW Passat who changed lanes without bothering to check his mirror this morning, nearly taking me out in the process, could certainly do with relearning his basic driving skills before he cripples/kills someone. But these proposed rules are not the right way to go.

Tell you what Simon, if these proposed new rules are implemented, tell me where you're going to be driving your car and I'll pop up and chuck my oldest bike into the road in front of you. As the car driver it'll be your fault and I'll be able to claim a nice shiny new bike off your insurance.

Ok, so I'm joking. Most law abiding people will not stoop to these depths but there will be a small minority who will and who will cause great annoyance and expense to their many law abiding victims until these naive and ill-thought out laws are subsequently repealed. Aggravating car drivers further will not result in them being more amenable to cyclists.

Don't say that scammers won't pop out of the woodwork to make money out of fraudulent insurance claims, because they will. And when your car/motorcycle/bicycle insurance claims start climbing in price as the insurance firms try to offset the increased payouts, it'll hit you in the pocket whether you suffer a claim against yourself (possibly even as your vehcile is parked) or not.

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Tony Farrelly [2893 posts] 7 years ago
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So can you give us some examples of where it has increased hostility abroad?

This rule is in force in the rest of Europe now - I'm riding around italy at the mo and while I'd have to say that Italian drivers seem to have a different take on personal safety they don't seem particularly hostile towards cyclists.

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Simon E [3040 posts] 7 years ago
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"OldRidgeback" wrote:

Most law abiding people will not stoop to these depths but there will be a small minority who will and who will cause great annoyance and expense to their many law abiding victims until these naive and ill-thought out laws are subsequently repealed.

That line is trotted out all the time.

Dodgy types who are on the make / screwing the system / exploiting others are a permanent fixture, it's human nature. Avoiding legislation like this on such weak grounds will not help anyone.