Scottish cycle groups back calls for safety laws in line with Europe

Three leading Scottish cycling groups are the latest supporters to join the Road Share campaign for stricter liability to help protect vulnerable road users.

Cycle Law Scotland, which leads the campaign, has secured backing from Scotland’s Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers (SCID), Go Bike and Cycle Stirling. They join CTC Scotland, Pedal on Parliament, Spokes and over 5,400 cyclists who have signed a petition wanting to see the introduction of a strict liability regime and bring Scots Civil Law on compensation awards for vulnerable road traffic collision victims into line with the majority of Europe.

Road Share was launched in April 2013 by Cycle Law Scotland founder Brenda Mitchell in a bid to change how all road users treat one another, establish a culture of mutual respect and provide a higher level of protection to the most vulnerable party involved in a road traffic collision.

If implemented, a strict liability regime would create a hierarchy of responsibility whereby motor vehicle drivers would be presumed liable for any loss injury and damage caused to a cyclist or pedestrian involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Also a cyclist would be presumed liable for loss injury and damage caused to a pedestrian in any collision with a cycle thus ensuring the vulnerable are afforded more protection in civil law. The presumption of liability would still allow a driver or cyclist to allege fault on the part of the injured cyclist or pedestrian.

A spokesperson for SCID said: “SCID believes that stricter liability would have the added psychological effect of making drivers more aware of vulnerable road users and this has shown to be true by the reduction of child, pedestrian and cyclists’ casualties in the countries where stricter liability law is applied.

“For vulnerable road users, it is not an equal playing field. Pedestrians and cyclists, even when they survive a collision, can be left with life changing injuries, including brain damage, employment problems, on-going surgery, financial, mental and relationship problems.

“Any or all of these are only a small part of what can follow in the years ahead. The burden of proof in Civil Law should not solely be on injured vulnerable road users to prove other parties were negligent.”

In Europe, strict liability is already the norm whereby operators of motor vehicles are presumed to be liable in any road traffic collision involving vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. There are just 5 EU countries, including the UK, where it does not exist.

Since its launch, the Road Share campaign has been endorsed a wide variety of audiences and has cross party support with MSPs from the Green Party, SNP, Conservatives, Labour and Independents backing the introduction of a members bill

Other campaign supporters include Nick Nairn, Cameron McNeish, Lesley Riddock, Scott Hastings and Paralympic cyclist Karen Darke. All want to see a reduction in the number of cycling fatalities and serious injuries on Scotland’s roads

Cycle Stirling (CS) is an organisation focused on promoting safe cycling for all ages and abilities to everyday destinations, reducing car journeys, and creating a healthier population and a more sustainable environment.

Commenting on the reasons why they’re joining the Road Share campaign, Andrew Abbess said:

“We expect that the presumption that the person in charge of the bigger, faster vehicle is responsible for paying compensation for injuries in a collision (unless they can prove the other person was at fault) will help drivers be more careful around cyclists and pedestrians and cyclists be more careful around pedestrians.”

Go Bike is a campaign group promoting cycling throughout the Strathclyde area. They said: “Go Bike aims to get more people cycling and better infrastructure for them to cycle on and we believe more people will cycle if road users respect each other and behave responsibly, leading to a safer road environment for all.

“The Road Share Campaign for Stricter Liability is one of the tools that will help us achieve this aim.”

Cycle Law Scotland founder, Brenda Mitchell, is a cyclist and personal injury lawyer of 25 years’ experience. She said:

“I thank SCID, Cycle Stirling and Go Bike for putting themselves forward as public supporters of Road Share and look forward to working with them as we move forward in 2014.

“It’s my belief that the introduction of stricter liability is a cost effective solution that can make an immediate contribution to decreasing cycle and pedestrian road deaths and importantly improve how we view one another on our roads.”