Should drivers be automatically blamed for accidents with cyclists?
DRIVERS could be blamed for any collision with a bicycle under new proposals by the Liberal Democrats.
Motorists and the pedal- powered in Gloucestershire have reacted strongly to the policy in the Cycling Reform document. It said that motorists would be in the wrong even if, for example, a cyclist ran a red light.
Brian Davies, from the Gloucestershire Group of Advanced Motorists, said:
IT is alleged that a judge once said, in summing up a case regarding a collision between a car and a bicycle, that every cyclist should be given an amount of wobble space. We train drivers to avoid any form of collision even if the reason would not necessarily have been their fault.
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We advise those wanting to be better drivers not to trust other road users; not, however, to be unfriendly but to plan for the worst that can happen.
We should look for cyclists; this is not always easy, particularly if they are where they should not be. A cyclist is, for many reasons, a double hazard and we should plan for what they might do, including running a red light.
So if a cyclist is careless, reckless, foolish or just unwise and, as I said a moment ago, it is good practice to avoid a collision even if it would not be our fault, I would apportion some blame to the driver if there was a subsequent collision with a cyclist.
Highway Code Rule 63 includes the following advice: "Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer."
All that said, I am not entirely happy that anyone should be automatically blamed for anything. In fact, I dislike the use of the word "blame".
Let us make love not war; I think it correct to say that cyclists are right to feel that most roads are not cycle- friendly enough and this is reflected in their behaviour.
But cyclists also have to, and should, help themselves.
Brian Griffiths, from the Cyclists' Touring Club West, spoke for members of Stroud Valleys Cycle Club:
PROPER respect and protection for cyclists in the UK is long overdue. Making motorists initially responsible for any accident involving a cyclist may seem a bit draconian but it is certainly one way of making them consider very carefully the way they behave towards vulnerable road users.
Just a few years ago France decided on this very policy for a trial period saying that in every instance the motorist would have to prove that the cyclist did not intend to commit suicide.
They were working on the correct assumption that a cyclist, knowing the dangers of sharing the road with motorists, has a naturally strong sense of self-preservation.
In the short space of time this was in force it had a remarkable and instant effect on accident figures especially when it was seen how powerful a voice this now gave to endangered cyclists. When cycling in France it is noticeable that French motorists show a marked respect for anyone on two wheels.
In Britain it is certain that motorists do not show the same consideration, overtaking in the most inappropriate places, forcing their way in front at junctions and roundabouts and not giving the cyclist sufficient room when overtaking.
Penalties for dangerous driving are often totally inadequate. Murder by motorcar is often not considered to be a serious offence. The death of a cyclist mown down by a motorcar can cost taxpayers over £1 million. Responsible attitudes to cyclists could mean massive tax savings.