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Scottish Road Share campaign steers presumed liability law towards Parliament

Road safety group look to introduce European-style strict liability legislation to Scottish civil law

Cycling campaign group, Road Share, is drawing on expertise from organisations including CTC, Scottish Cycling and Pedal on Parliament as it steps up its campaign for Scotland to adopt a law of presumed liability against motorists involved in collisions with people on bikes.

Road Share’s Campaign for Stricter Liability is targeting the introduction of liability laws that would deem motorists automatically liable in incidents with cyclists, unless it can be proved that the cyclist was at fault.

As it stands, the UK is one of only five EU countries that do not have a presumed liability law in place, which are based on a hierarchy of road users, with the most vulnerable afforded the greatest protection.

Under the system there is a presumption of liability against a lorry driver involved in a collision with a car, for example, or against a cyclist involved in an incident with a pedestrian.

A petition calling for a change in Scottish liability legislation has been active since April last year and has attracted 5,500 signatures.

In order to focus its efforts on lobbying the Scottish Parliament for the legislation, Road Share has set up a steering committee.

The committee has been tasked with analysing the benefits of civil law reform on road safety while also lobbying MSPs for a Member’s Bill for presumed liability in traffic collisions to Holyrood in the near future.

According to Glasgow-based newspaper The Herald, the steering committee is made up of 14 individuals from a number of key cycling organisations, including CTC, Scottish Cycling, Cycle Law Scotland and Pedal on Parliament which is coincidentally due to hold its third annual ride to Holyrood in Ediburgh this weekend to call for cycling-friendly Scottish roads.

Under the principle of presumed liability that Road Share wants to see introduced, in a collision between a car and a cyclist, the driver would be deemed liable and must pay full damages if the collision was unintentional by both parties and the cyclist cannot be proved to have been at fault in some way.

Similar laws operate in the majority of European countries, including in the Netherlands since the early 1990s.

Road Share references the continental cycling experience in a Q&A on its website where it cites strict liability laws as one of the contributing factors to the positive cycling culture in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

It says: “Those of us who have cycled on the continent know that there is a very different relationship between motor vehicles and cyclists, one based on respect that was brought about in part by stricter liability.”

The campaign’s steering committee is to be chaired by national cycling charity CTC councillor Dr Chris Oliver, while other prominent Scottish cycling supporting councillors Frank McAveety and Jim Orr are due to join him.

The founder of  Cycle Law Scotland, Brenda Mitchell, who established the Road Share campaign last year, spoke to The Herald about the formation of the steering committee.

She said: "I am very pleased to see representatives from a number of different key organisations come together to work on this very important campaign."

You can keep up with Road Share's progress via its Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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