Drivers ‘should be liable for cyclist accidents’

Phyl Meyer has witnessed 'close calls'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Phyl Meyer has witnessed 'close calls'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A FLEET of driving instructors have backed proposed strict liability laws that would see motorists held responsible for all collisions with cyclists.

Red Driving School, which has 25 instructors across the Lothians, has thrown its weight behind the campaign launched by legal service Cycle Law 
Scotland.

And chief executive Ian McIntosh said the school would offer more cyclist awareness lessons in a bid to slash a worrying string of bike accidents.

The liability law plans are inspired by legislation in the Netherlands, where drivers are responsible by default in crashes involving cyclists, unless it can be clearly proven the latter was to blame.

Mr McIntosh said: “If car drivers knew that the approach from the legal system was this, they’d be a lot more cautious around cyclists. That’s the ultimate benefit – it’s not to speed up the compensation process.

“We did a survey of our instructors a few months ago and a high percentage of them said that cycling should be part of that awareness training for our customers.”

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.

Corstorphine driving instructor Phyl Meyer said he had witnessed close calls around Edinburgh where cars had almost hit cyclists.

He said: “I’d like to see something specific added to the driving test around cycling awareness.”

A new survey carried out by Cycle Law Scotland has revealed 35 per cent of all accidents for Scotland involving motorists and cyclists from 2010-12 took place in the Edinburgh area.

Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the group would not support strict liability until an improved infrastructure for cyclists was in place.

He said introduction of the laws could inflame relations between motorists and cyclists, adding: “Our view is that we don’t have the same road environment that they do in places like Holland that would make this all work.

“In Holland, they have shared space, lots of cycle lanes – it’s obvious that you should be giving way to cyclists and obvious in many areas that the cyclists and pedestrians have priority.

“My fear is that in Scotland we don’t yet have the infrastructure in place that would then justify this kind of a law.”

The AA said it supported more emphasis being placed on cycling in driving lessons and learner tests.

Head of public affairs Paul Watters said: “Most sensible driving schools would ensure that people experience the whole range of risks and hazards that are on the road. Sessions on vulnerable road users is a key and teaching the right attitudes is very important.

“In a way it should be more integral than being paraded as a special add-on.”