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Vulnerable road users could gain new protections in Scotland under 'strict liability' law...

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to consider a change in the law to give cyclists and pedestrians extra protection under ‘strict liability’ laws this week.

On Tuesday, MSPs will debate a motion stating that the level of cyclists being killed on Scottish roads is ‘unacceptably high’ and that motorists should be presumed at fault in the event of a collision, unless they could prove otherwise.

The legislation would bring Scotland in line with many other European countries that already have similar laws.
The motion, proposed by Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Green Party, has already achieved cross-party support.

It reads:

That the Parliament believes that the number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland's roads, including in the Lothian region, is unacceptably high; recognises that the Scottish Government has funded a number of national cycle safety initiatives; notes that versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries; notes that a number of walking and cycling organisations support the introduction of such a law in Scotland; understands that a petition by Cycle Law Scotland on this topic has secured nearly 5,000 signatures; considers that a stricter liability rule could have positive benefits for the safety of more vulnerable road users as part of a package of measures, and would welcome further debate on this proposal.

Ms Johnstone told STV: "The number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland's roads is unacceptably high. Versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries and it could make a difference here as part of a package of measures.

"It is heartening to see MSPs from all parties agreeing that it deserves debate."

She added: "To date the Scottish Government has dismissed the suggestion of looking at the idea; hopefully Tuesday's debate will persuade ministers to think again."

Earlier this year we reported the news that a firm of solicitors in Scotland had launched a campaign to have the country’s civil law changed.

The Road Share campaign, devised by Cycle Law Scotland, is backed by organisations including CTC Scotland, Pedal On Parliament and Lothian cycle campaign group Spokes, among others.

A connected petition has over 5,000 signatures in support of a change in the law.

Under such a system - more accurately termed 'presumed liability,' although 'strict liability is the one used in the campaign - a hierarchy is established that places a presumption of liability that favours the more vulnerable road user – for example, where a cyclist has been struck by a car, the motorist is presumed to be liable, unless they can prove that the cyclist was at fault. The system only applies to civil cases, not criminal ones.

The firm says that introducing the system it proposes would meant that victims would receive compensation more quickly, the burden on the courts would be reduced, and road users’ attitudes would change, with a consequent improvement in safety.

Edinburgh-based Cycle Law Scotland 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.’

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

19 comments

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Initialised [324 posts] 3 years ago
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About time, adopting this would do more for road safety than a truckload of paint poured in the gutter.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 3 years ago
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Despite my locale, I regret this is only being addressed in Holyrood - the change needs to be nationwide for it to have real effect

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bendertherobot [1457 posts] 3 years ago
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This is capable of being one of the biggest changes to cycling safety.

Unfortuntately it will take Westiminster to legislate for England and Wales, even if Wales were to want to follow Scotland. And it's unlikely that Westminster would do so.

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antonio [1168 posts] 3 years ago
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And this government of ours infers Scotland is of little consequence!

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nebz [4 posts] 3 years ago
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If only Westminster could see sense too. I'll keep dreaming!

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clayfit [102 posts] 3 years ago
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here's an interesting discussion on the topic:
http://ukcyclerules.com/2010/11/16/strict-liability-and-legal-protection...

But having lived in the Netherlands (and the UK, and Germany and Switzerland), it's the infrastructure that has the biggest effect. And of that, the biggest difference is that Dutch cycle paths retain the same priority for cyclists that the road they are cycling along has: side roads entering a main road have to give way to the cycle paths along the main road. It sends a message that cyclists have the same value as other road users. That's not the case in Germany or the UK.
All it takes (more or less) is to move the give-way paint to the other side of the cycle path...

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a_to_the_j [118 posts] 3 years ago
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give us cycle lanes to commute on, not having someone prosecuted for my death as i avoid the congested A roads of scotland and go the long way round on unlit, ungritted, unpainted - single track roads and hope the car driver using the road as a quick cut through to work, see's me early enough.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 3 years ago
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Although a great idea for receiving more just compensation for cyclists harmed in accidents, I fail to see how it would help change road users attitude. I don't think most people are aware of the differing legal standards for liability or take them into account

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Jack Osbourne snr [680 posts] 3 years ago
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If it goes through, the inevitable tabloid outrage will be all the publicity required to get it into the minds of most drivers.

There will still be casualties, but this is the only way I see to start getting people to "think bike".

I'm looking at it as stage one of a process that might allow the infrastructure to work rather than being an infuriatingly counterproductive waste of public money.

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giff77 [1275 posts] 3 years ago
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a_to_the_j it's all about civil law. If someone knocks you down they (hopefully) will have the book thrown at them. Not guaranteed if recent results are anything to go by.

This will hopefully go through and make people think twice how they interact with vulnerable road users. Not just motorists but also cyclists with pedestrians. The onus will no longer be on us to prove the motorist was at fault. And it will make the whole civil process much easier and less traumatic for the victim. Insurance companies already practice this when apportioning blame in a shunt to the rear most car. So why not apply to the vulnerable as well.

Jack. I can't wait to see the Herald in the morning!!!!

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Cyclosis [73 posts] 3 years ago
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I would encourage anyone in Scotland to use something like https://www.writetothem.com to send a message to their representative MSPs (all of them) asking them to support this motion.

Would be a good step forward!

Jim

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700c [1152 posts] 3 years ago
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Any improvement in cyclist safety resulting from this would be a secondary and indirect consequence of this legalisation, which is mainly concerned with compensation.

What they should focus on instead is proper conviction and punishment of drivers who endanger or kill cyclists and pedestrians

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Jack Osbourne snr [680 posts] 3 years ago
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700c wrote:

Any improvement in cyclist safety resulting from this would be a secondary and indirect consequence of this legalisation, which is mainly concerned with compensation.

What they should focus on instead is proper conviction and punishment of drivers who endanger or kill cyclists and pedestrians

I disagree. The term "strict liability" scares the proverbial out of / enrages any Glasgow taxi driver I have spoken to enough to clearly demonstrate its power. The thought of being "automatically" hit in the pocket sows the seeds in their minds sufficiently to set the ball rolling in the right direction.

The rest will follow in time.

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700c [1152 posts] 3 years ago
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Jack Osbourne snr wrote:
700c wrote:

Any improvement in cyclist safety resulting from this would be a secondary and indirect consequence of this legalisation, which is mainly concerned with compensation.

What they should focus on instead is proper conviction and punishment of drivers who endanger or kill cyclists and pedestrians

I disagree. The term "strict liability" scares the proverbial out of / enrages any Glasgow taxi driver I have spoken to enough to clearly demonstrate its power. The thought of being "automatically" hit in the pocket sows the seeds in their minds sufficiently to set the ball rolling in the right direction.

The rest will follow in time.

You disagree that there should be harsher punishment for car drivers who kill cyclists and escape serious punishment?!  3

On a serious note, surely a very real threat of prosecution with a lengthy prison sentence would deter dangerous driving more than the threat of financial penalty?

If this is about road safety then its not the easiest or most direct way to go about it. Time will tell I suppose, if it is introduced, whether it does result in a change in driver behaviour (and if it does, I'd support it..)

But I just think they should concentrate on the basics first, dealing with the outrageously lenient sentencing given to the 'careless' drivers who kill.

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paulmcmillan [97 posts] 3 years ago
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Lets be clear - no one is saying that this alone is the answer. It does not replace the need for well designed infrastructure, training and enforcement of the law.
It is just one step down a path to help vulnerable road users, but it is still an important step to take.
I hope that the Scottish parliament recognises this too; I'll be watching for news tomorrow!

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Simmo72 [661 posts] 3 years ago
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As long as it doesn't encourage the idiot pedallers amongst us to think they can never do wrong. When in the car I'm often embarrassed to be a cyclist when I see such complete ignorance and lack of respect from some cyclists, it is what gives us a bad name.

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Carl [142 posts] 3 years ago
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So if I'm driving legally, within the speed limit, across a green light and an idiot cyclist jumps a red and I hit him, that's my fault?

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Ad Hynkel [162 posts] 3 years ago
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Carl wrote:

So if I'm driving legally, within the speed limit, across a green light and an idiot cyclist jumps a red and I hit him, that's my fault?

Nope. It's still going to be the f~#kwit's fault. But if it goes through it will probably be good to have a witness to say they saw the deceased jumping the red before he got acquainted with your vehicle.

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Carl [142 posts] 3 years ago
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Thanks Ad, but under strict liability, don't I still have to foot the bill for compensation?

Just an aside, is anyone else thinking 'dodgy whiplash claims'?