MOTORISTS would be held responsible for all accidents involving cyclists in Edinburgh under strict liability laws being sought by campaigners.
Legal service Cycle Law Scotland launched a campaign today to introduce strict liability to Scots civil law for all road accidents involving cyclists.
The move would copy laws in the Netherlands and Denmark if brought in.
Under strict liability legislation, the more powerful road user is liable by default in crashes involving vulnerable users such as cyclists unless it can be clearly proven the latter was at fault.
A petition was launched today with the aim of having a member’s bill put before the Scottish Parliament.
Campaigners have argued the changes would help resolve liability claims quickly and create a cultural shift in driver behaviour that would cut the number of accidents.
More than 154 serious incidents, including five fatal accidents involving vehicles and cyclists, were recorded on Edinburgh’s roads in the five years to November 2011.
Northfield mother Lynda Myles, whose son Craig Newton died in April 2011 in a collision with a lorry, said she hoped the law in Scotland would be changed to save other families going through the same painful legal process.
She said: “Over the two years since Craig’s death, our whole family has been emotionally exhausted trying to make sense of what happened to him on that morning. The fact that we are still waiting for recognition that it was not Craig’s fault makes it extremely difficult to be able to move on.
“Craig was a very keen cyclist and loved being out on his bike. He was just 32 years old when he was killed and had only recently started up his own painting and decorating business.
“He truly was a wonderful son, brother and friend and is sorely missed.”
Central Scotland MSP Richard Lyle has thrown his support behind the campaign, saying: “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.”
Personal injury lawyer Syd Smith, from Thompsons Solicitors, said introducing strict liability was a “sensible step”.
He said: “If drivers are aware of this strict liability should they have an accident with a cyclist, then hopefully the accidents will not happen.
“There’s an increasing number of cyclists on our roads in Edinburgh. We see quite a number of the accidents. They tend to be where drivers simply haven’t seen the cyclist, even though they’re in plain view.
“Secondly, a large part of compensation claims is taken up with wrangling with insurers over who’s to blame. That can draw things out. If that aspect is taken out of the equation and you’re simply looking at proper compensation for the victim then that should speed things up.”
Ian Maxwell, chairman of cycle campaign group Spokes, said the hope was strict liability laws would make drivers more aware of the risks.
The Automobile Association has urged educators to make sure the national school curriculum covers attitudes and all aspects of road safety for pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers.
More emphasis on cycling being added to driving lessons and learner tests are among other policy guidelines.
But AA president Edmund King said: “Regarding strict liability, we are not convinced that assuming the driver is always guilty will make the roads safer. Indeed, it could backfire and lead to more conflict on the roads.
“We should be starting with more road safety education and cycle proficiency in schools.”
Should strict liability be introduced?
By Experienced Edinburgh cyclist Sara Reed
I know that in other European countries, like the Netherlands, the motorist is liable for any accident involving a cyclist and must ensure that they drive with care and respect. Scotland has a lot to learn from Europe with regards to how we treat cyclists.
Cycling is one of the fastest growing sports and forms of transport in Scotland yet very little is being done by city councils to keep pace with this and provide proper routes and laws to keep cyclists safe. As a bike commuter but also a motorist I experience poor driving and aggression from drivers on a regular basis in Edinburgh.
There is simply a lack of respect and care for cyclists and people do not realise how exposed and vulnerable a cyclist can be on the roads, so better liability laws could help. People talk about cyclists going through red lights and not wearing lights, but I see cars jumping the
traffic lights on Queen Street every day.
You will always have bad cyclists as much as you have bad drivers, but something must be wrong in the legal system if cyclists have to resort to wearing helmet video cams so that they have evidence in case of an accident.
By Lawyer and motorist Nigel Scullion, of roadtrafficdefence.com
If the balance or onus of proof shifts from one to the other, I think that’s a wee bit unfair. What’s wrong with the current system?
You have to ask whether it’s going to change for the motorcyclists as well.
The thing is that we’re all road users. Everyone owes each other a duty of care. This would make it that you’re guilty until you’re proven innocent, which flies in the
face of the general foundation of Scottish
I know that cyclists always have to be protected and I know they’re more vulnerable, but we’re all road users, whether it be in a car or a truck or otherwise, and we all have a duty of care to each other.
I don’t really understand what’s wrong with the current situation. My understanding is effectively with personal injury cases that if fault has not been established most companies cater for the requirements of a claimant in so far as they offer them physiotherapy and these sorts of things.
I think the burden of proof should remain as it is, that you’re innocent until proven otherwise.