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Law firm launches campaign for 'strict liability' in Scotland in cases involving cyclists

Cycle Law Scotland's initiative has backing of CTC Scotland, Pedal On Parliament and Spokes...

A firm of solicitors in Scotland has launched 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. 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.

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.’ t

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.

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.

The campaign also has the support of Richard Lyle, Member of the Scottish Parliament representing Central Scotland, who says: “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.”

You can find out more information about the campaign here, and a dedicated Facebook page has also been set up to support it.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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