Friday, August 9, 2013

Strict Liability

Sometimes you read a news item and it just gets up your nose. Well last night I got this Tweet.  I should have known better but I had a look anyway.

Cambridge News (@CambridgeNewsUK)

08/08/2013 22:21

A hundred readers' comments on this: should we presume drivers are the guilty party in crashes with cyclists?…

Indeed there were loads of comments. In my view that was because the article failed to explain the proposal and the pros and cons. I suppose that isn’t really surprising – whilst an old fogey like me wants to read news that gives a balanced explanation of the issues using fact and why it matters. However modern news seems to revolve around sound bites.

What also annoys me is that such an important issue also seems to have gotten caught up in the squabbling that seems to have replaced Political Debate.

The soundbite that seems to be getting repeated – “Innocent until proven guilty” no doubt to stir up Middle England into a frenzy righteousness. The disappointing thing was that came from the AA. 

I would re-consider being a member of the AA, except I am only an Associate Member. Do they tell all their members not to drive in many other European Countries where such “Strict Liability” already exists? I would imagine that  since they suggest that “Strict Liability” is such a bad thing then it will clearly feature as a major issue in their advice for Driving abroad, in bold capitals – something to be extremely fearful of. Except it doesn’t, well I can’t find it – so it can’t be a big deal if they don’t even advise their members about it?

Here are a few more of the headlines dealing with the issue– no prizes for guessing which newspapers.

Drivers who hit cyclists ‘should be presumed guilty’

Now Lib Dems want drivers blamed for every crash with a cyclist and fined if a car strays into a bike lane (486 comments to date)

How councils can reduce cyclist deaths (Bike Blog)

Well no prizes for the middle one – Daily Mail, the first was The Times and the last was The Guardian. Of all of them the Guardian is more balanced and uses some data to explain the issue, including a reference to the increase in cycling deaths and serious injuries.  Unfortunately it was buried in the bike blog, so seems to be preaching to the converted. The Daily Mail mentions cyclists who run red lights in the first sentence and The Times plays a straight bat and gets a somewhat more positive comment from the AA. Mind you I can’t say I liked the way they led with the headline.

The Guardian follows it up with another Bike Blog – “It’s time for cyclists to make a stand over safety” which reports the tragic news of a fatal crash in London, the fourth in London in a few weeks. It would seem that the vision set forward by the Mayor (Boris Johnson) is meeting speed bumps from Transport for London.

So we seem to be in a situation where cyclists are demonized by comment, yet cyclists are the one that get hurt. We have driver’s making stupid comments on Twitter about their interactio0ns with cyclists – “He stated banging on my roof so I purposely run him over LOL”. Just as bad is this cyclist – a trained Cycle Instructor who was knocked off his bike and then abused and then told by the police that it might have been partially his fault.

It seems to me that some motorists just fear a change, there are others who fear they will have to change their behaviour. Too often oncoming motorists will come onto my side of the road because of parked cars on their side despite it being my right of way.

The trouble is the consequences of being hit can be pretty dire for a cyclist so will a change in the law stop some motorists bullying cyclists?

Read this excellent post on Social Attitudes towards Transport – it gives an idea of how may people feel the roads are dangerous for cyclists.  Perhaps they are right.

I was pleased to see that there will be Bicycle police patrols launched to tackle crime in Cambridge. It partly helps to show everyone that a bicycle is a perfectly reasonable form of transport , it might also help to engender some understanding of the problems cyclists face. As it happens I saw to cycle cops questioning someone. I thought it rude to just stop and take a picture. (I chickened out.) I saw them go by later and did get a distant picture.

Cycle Police - Cambridge

Here they are with the picture cropped. Two abreast and perfectly legal – I bet they don’t get as much abuse from passing motorists.

Cycle Police - Cambridge

By the way what gets up my nose is the poor reporting – not the Presumed Liability.

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