Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

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anothereye
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Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby anothereye » 21 Sep 2009, 11:13am

MINISTERS are considering making motorists legally responsible for accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians, even if they are not at fault.

Government advisers are pushing for changes in the civil law that will make the most powerful vehicle involved in a collision automatically liable for insurance and compensation purposes.

The move, intended to encourage greater take-up of environmentally friendly modes of transport, is likely to anger some drivers, many of whom already perceive themselves to be the victims of moneyspinning speed cameras and overzealous traffic wardens.

Many will argue that it is the risky behaviour of some cyclists — particularly those who jump red lights and ride the wrong way along one-way streets — that is to blame for a significant number of crashes.

However, policy-makers believe radical action is required to get people out of cars and onto bicycles or to walk more. Only 1%-2% of journeys are at present made by bike.

Other proposals to promote greener — and healthier — transport include the imposition of blanket 20mph zones on residential streets.

Supporters want such measures to be included in the government’s National Cycling Plan and Active Transport Strategy, due to be published soon.

Phillip Darnton, chief executive of Cycling England, an agency funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) to promote cycling, said four key policy changes were needed. “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.

Such proposals will be seen by some as part of a battle for control of Britain’s roads between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

In London, where cycling has bucked the national trend and increased sharply, clashes are already common.

Last week James Martin, the television celebrity chef, described in a newspaper his joy at running a group of cyclists off the road and into a hedge while test-driving a sports car. Martin was forced to apologise after thousands of angry cyclists protested.

Matthew Parris, a columnist for The Times, was similarly forced to backtrack last year after suggesting that piano wire should be strung across roads to decapitate cyclists. Parris said he was joking, but statistics show that cyclists are actually among the most vulnerable road users, with 115 deaths last year alone.

Last month Harry Wilmers, 25, a mental health support worker, was killed when his bicycle was hit by a lorry in Manchester. Wilmers was the boyfriend of Rebecca Stephenson, the daughter of Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police commissioner.

The government is spending £100m on building cycle routes in 18 pilot towns. Yet motorists and residents are often infuriated at seeing swathes of road space, or the kerbs where they park their cars, turned into cycle lanes. Councils in York, Huddersfield and Cambridge, have all had to deal with anti-cycling protests.

Last week lobbyists for cycling and walking groups met Jessica Matthew, the DfT official in charge of sustainable transport who is drafting the National Cycling Plan. Placing the onus of responsibility on motorists is perhaps the most controversial move under consideration.

Such scheme 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.

If a cyclist were hit by a car, the presumption of blame would fall on the driver, while a cyclist would automatically be blamed if he or she knocked down a pedestrian.

Similar policies — which would not extend to criminal law — have already been adopted by Germany and Holland, where transport campaigners say they have had a significant influence in changing attitudes towards cycling.

Matthew, who has been briefing Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, also confirmed that ministers want to slash speed limits in urban areas.

Her report is expected to recommend that councils should introduce 20mph zones in all residential streets and on other roads with high numbers of cyclists or pedestrians. This would include roads around schools, markets and shopping areas, as long as they are not major through routes.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said it was wrong to see cyclists and motorists as separate and opposed groups. “Many cyclists are motorists and many motorists are cyclists,” he said.

“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.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/p ... 841326.ece

pete75
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby pete75 » 21 Sep 2009, 11:46am

"Government advisers are pushing for changes in the civil law that will make the most powerful vehicle involved in a collision automatically liable for insurance and compensation purposes."

Mr A has a 1 litre VW Polo 50 bhp, Mrs C has a 1.4 litre Polo 60 bhp. Mr A drives to the pub, drinks 8 pints of Stella, gets into his car, drives out of the car park without looking and rams Mrs C. If these changes go through that extra 10 bhp will make Mrs C liable to pay Mr A's damages.

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Si
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby Si » 21 Sep 2009, 12:07pm

pete75 wrote:"Government advisers are pushing for changes in the civil law that will make the most powerful vehicle involved in a collision automatically liable for insurance and compensation purposes."

Mr A has a 1 litre VW Polo 50 bhp, Mrs C has a 1.4 litre Polo 60 bhp. Mr A drives to the pub, drinks 8 pints of Stella, gets into his car, drives out of the car park without looking and rams Mrs C. If these changes go through that extra 10 bhp will make Mrs C liable to pay Mr A's damages.


Not really. AIUI the more powerful only becomes responsible if there is no other evidence to show who was at blame. I think that the descriptions of what happened, witness statements and a breath test ought to show who was to blame in this case and thus override the SL default.

If, however, there was a crash between two vehicles where there was no evidence to show whose fault it was, no witnesses and the two involved produced contrary stories then perhaps rather than having to share blame, the most powerful one might have to shoulder the insurance responsibility?

wjfg72
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby wjfg72 » 21 Sep 2009, 12:10pm

This discussion point just came up on The Wright Stuff this morning, except Matthew Wright seems to have deliberately got hold of the wrong end of the stick. "Should motorists pay for cyclists' mistakes?" is what he asked his panel and the people at home. The answer to that is obviously 'no', so a not very enlightening discussion followed where everybody said the same thing. This is just another example of highly damaging negative publicity that the CTC should do everything its power to counter. I sent them this email, but would highly recommend that CTC follow it up in an officially capacity.

Dear Matthew,

I love your programme. It's great.

Sadly your deliberate misrepresentation of Cycling England's proposal was not great. Their proposal is that motorists will be *presumed* guilty if in collision with a cyclist. That is the law that operates so successfully on the continent. I tried to call through to your programme to correct this misunderstanding, but sadly the lines were busy.

Obviously if it turns out that the cyclist was at fault, then all the motorist has to do is prove that, and neither they nor their insurance company will pay a penny. Therefore the headline "should motorists pay for cyclist's mistakes" is a total lie. This is just another attempt to cast cyclists as the bad guys. Shame on you.

Please read this next paragraph, it is important.

I am a member of a cycling club [name of club removed] where the President was killed five years ago by a driver who changed neither speed nor direction, and even admitted afterwards that they could not see where they were going due to low sunshine. The lawyers and the driver's insurance company fought through the courts for four solid years to avoid any kind of payout, putting the bereaved widow and her family through years of torment. Sadly, this experience is absolutely typical of what we cyclists can expect at the hands of the legal system. The lawyers pick over every last detail, and cynically imply that the cyclist is at fault because they deliberately put themselves in harm's way. Case after case, and judgement after judgement simply reinforces the perception that on the whole judges simply don't believe that cyclists should be on the roads. You can't win when the deck is stacked against you.

A presumption of guilt on the part of the motorist goes some way to redressing the inherent imbalance that occurs whenever a motorist and a cyclist collide. One party is travelling in a reinforced metal box, and is completely immune to the consequences of their actions. Repeated suggestions that cyclists are just lemmings, and will willingly throw themselves under the wheels of moving vehicles are self-evidently wrong and highly insulting.

Finally, the £100m Cycling England receive is largely to pay for training school children to cycle safely on the roads, via the Bikeability scheme. I would have thought you might be highly supportive of any measures that would help ensure that the next generation of cyclists will be better than ever!

Bill Gannon,
Swansea


If I've got any of my facts wrong, please let me know. Thanks!

james01
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby james01 » 21 Sep 2009, 12:27pm

There is an underlying "moral"issue here.
Every time I take my car out, I am a potential killer. However cautiously and skillfully I drive, I may kill a child. (The same could be said to apply to a bike, although to a hugely lesser degree). This new law would recognise the additional responsibility of operators of potentially lethal pieces of equipment in public places, and would impose liability accordingly.
Put another way, if you run over somebody with your car, even if it is shown that the pedestrian was 100% at fault, the law is saying to you: "you must take a share of blame just by using this vehicle. You knew that cars kill people, and you still exposed the public to danger by driving it".

pete75
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby pete75 » 21 Sep 2009, 12:50pm

You're right there is a moral issue which is that apportioning of fault, blame, guilt( call it what you like) by any legal system should only be determined by evidence or proof not by assumption.

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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby kwackers » 21 Sep 2009, 1:03pm

pete75 wrote:You're right there is a moral issue which is that apportioning of fault, blame, guilt( call it what you like) by any legal system should only be determined by evidence or proof not by assumption.

One wonders how many cyclists are deliberately knocked off bicycles due to road rage - quite a few I reckon especially considering the number of cases that have been proven then you'd have to assume there are many more that lack witnesses and without any evidence ("he wobbled me-lord, I couldn't avoid him") how do they get what is morally theirs?

Justice is a two way thing, absolute proof doesn't work because often the victims can't provide it - hence 'reasonable doubt', in my view the current system is biased towards the motorist and so I think having compensation paid by the car owners insurer even if you can't prove anything from a criminal point of view is a step in the right direction.

I'd presume (as now) that if you can prove that the cyclist was to blame then you could pursue damages the other way too.
Anyone who's worried they may be unfairly caught out could always fit a cctv system to their car - much easier with all that space than fitting them to bicycles.

MartinC
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby MartinC » 21 Sep 2009, 1:33pm

pete75 wrote:You're right there is a moral issue which is that apportioning of fault, blame, guilt( call it what you like) by any legal system should only be determined by evidence or proof not by assumption.


Irrelevant. This is only about apportioning civil liability which already works differently to criminal guilt.

The proposal is based on the principle that those who bring the danger to the environment pay the cost of insuring against the outcome. This is only understood by civilised people in civilised countries so is unlikely to happen here unlike in many other European countries.

The only principle that has any currency here is that motorists own the road and all other users must conform to their rules or take the consequences. It's why the UK has accident figures for vulnerable road users (e.g. children) far worse than it's peers and a failed transport system.

kwackers
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby kwackers » 21 Sep 2009, 1:38pm

MartinC wrote:Irrelevant. This is only about apportioning civil liability which already works differently to criminal guilt.

The proposal is based on the principle that those who bring the danger to the environment pay the cost of insuring against the outcome. This is only understood by civilised people in civilised countries so is unlikely to happen here unlike in many other European countries.

The only principle that has any currency here is that motorists own the road and all other users must conform to their rules or take the consequences. It's why the UK has accident figures for vulnerable road users (e.g. children) far worse than it's peers and a failed transport system.

Well said, to the point and succinct.

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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby stewartpratt » 21 Sep 2009, 1:57pm

anothereye wrote:Similar policies — which would not extend to criminal law — have already been adopted by Germany and Holland, where transport campaigners say they have had a significant influence in changing attitudes towards cycling.


Call me cynical but no matter how sensible the proposal is, I think it will be every bit as effective in making British drivers more considerate towards cyclists as patio tables would be in making the British reveller inclined to enjoy a couple of glasses of Sancerre and a Gauloise in place of ten pints of Stella and a happy slapping.

The reaction will be entirely along the lines of that of Matthew Wright, even by the few who don't get the wrong end of the stick. In terms of a hard sell it will be like trying to flog a shipping container full of Reggae Reggae Sauce to a Klansman. If anyone other than avid cyclists support it I will eat a tub of Assos bum cream.

And come to think of it, when I've been in France the one nationality that's given me the most scares has been the Dutch. Maybe they're just enjoying the lack of liability when they're on holiday.

Mm. I guess you can call me cynical.

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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby MikeL » 21 Sep 2009, 4:38pm

stewartpratt wrote:In terms of a hard sell it will be like trying to flog a shipping container full of Reggae Reggae Sauce to a Klansman. If anyone other than avid cyclists support it I will eat a tub of Assos bum cream.


Priceless! :lol:

And come to think of it, when I've been in France the one nationality that's given me the most scares has been the Dutch. Maybe they're just enjoying the lack of liability when they're on holiday.


Or maybe its the unintended consequence of all those segregated cycle paths; they are not used to sharing the road ?

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CJ
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby CJ » 21 Sep 2009, 4:51pm

MikeL wrote:
And come to think of it, when I've been in France the one nationality that's given me the most scares has been the Dutch. Maybe they're just enjoying the lack of liability when they're on holiday.


Or maybe its the unintended consequence of all those segregated cycle paths; they are not used to sharing the road ?

Actually, France has the same law. So it really must be as you suggest! Or else the Dutch don't realise France has the same law.
Chris Juden
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Swizz69
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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby Swizz69 » 21 Sep 2009, 5:03pm

As a driver I have no problem with this.

Anything that works towards getting rid of the 'I'd never pass my Driving Test if I had to take it again' mentality can only be positive.

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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby thirdcrank » 21 Sep 2009, 5:54pm

CJ wrote:... Actually, France has the same law. So it really must be as you suggest! Or else the Dutch don't realise France has the same law.


Actually, as I've posted before, I'm pretty sure we have something similar here as well, at least in civil law. A lot of places on the Continent have leagal systems originated by Napoleon. France is obviously one, but there were many other places which he invaded then put one of his placemen in charge. They have legal codes, what we would call statutes, to cover everything, and more besides. Although we are going that way with the criminal law, our system is claimed to be based on the Common Law, and lot of our civil law depends on precedents. The normal claim by an injured person against the driver of a motor vehicle is founded on the tort of negligence. For this you need a 'duty of care.' There was a case reported in the Times Law Reports (i.e. this now part of the Common Law) a couple of years ago where a pedestrian had survived an attempt at suicide by jumping in front of a car. The judgment made very clear reference to the heavy duty of care owed by the drivers of motor vehicles towards pedestrians and cyclists. I wish I had kept it so I could quote it verbatim.

It's just that with our kind of legal system, there's nothing quite so catchy to quote as the act and section of a law.

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Re: Cycling plan to blame drivers for all crashes

Postby Fatou » 21 Sep 2009, 5:58pm

The news reports say that if a cyclist hits a pedestrian, then the cyclist would be presumed guilty because they are the most powerful. What if my little old granny on her shopper hits a Geoff Capes? Or, what if Chris Hoy & Lance Armstrong collide on their bikes?

I quite like to see these actually. They would have to settle it with a fight. Bare knuckle.
As good as Lance.