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Cyclist starts strict liability petition - calling for drivers to prove they weren't at fault in a collision

“It will say to motorists 'if you choose to use one ton of metal you need to be extremely careful in every manoeuvre you take"...

A cyclist has begun a petition calling for a strict,  or presumed liability law in England.

Sam Savage, a cyclist, has begun the campaign through the 38 Degrees site, saying that: “This law will help make Britain's roads safer for cyclists by increasing the awareness and caution of motorists. 

“It will say to motorists 'if you choose to use one ton of metal that can move at some speed to transport yourself, then you need to be extremely careful in every manoeuvre you take'.”

Strict liability is an oft-debated topic at road.cc, with a movement in Scotland in particular to bring in the law.

Recently we reported how relatives of two cyclists killed on Scotland’s roads have added their voices to the campaign calling on the Scottish Government to bring in presumed liability under the country’s civil law for road traffic incidents including those in which a bike rider is the victim.

The system, which operates in all but five member states of the European Union, provides for a presumption of liability on for example a motorist involved in a collision with a more vulnerable road user such as a cyclist, unless the latter can be shown to have been at fault.

In the absence of such a system under Scots law, the families of Andrew McNicoll, who died in Edinburgh in January 2012 following a collision with a lorry, and Sally Low, who lost her life after a collision with a car in Moray last year, have to show the driver was at fault in the civil cases they have brought.

The petition in full reads:

Dear Department for Transport,

Please pass a strict liability law between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

It would mean that motorists are presumed to be at fault in civil actions after an accident with a cyclist or pedestrian, unless they can prove they were not to blame.  It would also mean that cyclists would be presumed to be at fault for accidents involving pedestrians.

It would NOT mean motorists are criminally liable, it would just be for the purposes of compensation.

We are only one of a very small number of countries across Europe (Romania, Cyprus, Malta and Ireland) that do not have this law.

In accidents where a cyclist was killed or badly hurt the cyclist was presumed to have committed an offence in just 6% of cases [1], the vehicle driver was assumed to have done so 56% of the time.  Although Boris got this massively wrong, this disparity is just common sense because motorists have no fear of injury or death if they collide with a cyclist. The fear is great visa versa, therefore there will be a disparity in the caution used and who causes the accidents.

This law will help make Britain's roads safer for cyclists by increasing the awareness and caution of motorists.  It will say to motorists 'if you choose to use one ton of metal that can move at some speed to transport yourself, then you need to be extremely careful in every manoeuvre you take'.

It’s a law that appears popular with road.cc readers; just this week we reported how concerns about the danger from traffic are often cited as the reason adults are reluctant to cycle. Road safety charity Brake says that safety concerns deter children and teenagers from cycling too — and their parents from letting them.

Brake surveyed 1,301 11-17 year olds in secondary schools and colleges across the UK, finding almost half (47%) said parental worries were preventing them from starting cycling or cycling more.

Brake also found:

  • Two in five (38%) 11-17 year olds cite a lack of safe routes as a barrier to cycling
  • Four in ten (41%) think traffic in their area is too fast for the safety of people on foot and bike

The law could potentially be used in cases such as that of a driver who hit and killed a 73-year-old cyclist but walked free from Ipswich Crown Court after being found not guilty of causing death by careless driving.

Retired planning officer Colin Crowther was hit by the car being driven by 29-year-old Sam Burrows on January 16, 2014. Mr Crowther hit the car's kerbside windscreen, rolled over the car and landed on the ground.
Mr Burrows said he had been blinded by the sun "without warning" and then heard a bang as his car hit Mr Crowther.

He denied causing death by careless driving and was unanimously found not guilty by a jury after a three-day trial.

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.

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