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North of the border up Edinburgh way….

July 5, 2010


Hawes, England – The Scottish a very determined group of people, typified by our former Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, who was determined that he could actually run the country.

Remember all that stuff about the burden of guilt being but on drivers who collide with cyclists. Then you may also remember that a proposal by good ole Cycling England to implement the idea was rejected by the UK Department for Transport (DfT).

You may also recall that the Scottish Government, following a consultation on its Cycling Action Plan, decided to ‘consider’ the burden of guilt thing. Well the hot news from tossing the caber and strange banknote land is that the Scottish Government has decided to investigate whether cyclists should be given greater legal protection in the event of a road crash, on the basis that doing so will increase their cycling safety.

Scottish Government civil servants will carry out a study of European liability laws to see if there is a relationship between fewer cycling accidents and greater legal protection. The results of the study will be used to decide whether a change should be implemented in Scotland.

A number of options will be considered including establishing a “hierarchy of care” that would place the burden of proof on the fastest-moving vehicle, possible advantageous to low powered scooter users if they were included. Making cyclists who collide with pedestrians prove their innocence, and placing the burden of proof on the heaviest vehicle involved.

It appears that the emphasis is once again on the interests of pedestrians and cyclists and that the vulnerability of scooterists and motorcyclists is being ignored. Why?  Including all vulnerable road users pedestrians’ cyclists, motorcyclists, scooterists and even mobility scooter users would have, I believe, a significant influence in changing attitudes towards these modes from a road safety perspective. Bringing much-needed personal responsibility back into the equation. Motorcyclists and scooter riders, particularly those riding low powered machines, are the victims of irresponsible drivers who typically give the ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ defence. If such drivers were hit financial or even, via the courts, criminally perhaps their powers of observation would have a sudden and dramatic improvement.

While UK wide another idea is being floated, this time it’s making it an offence to leave less than a 1 metre gap when overtaking a cyclist. The UK Government recently rejected a petition to make the 1 metre passing distance a law and  it’s not supported by the UK Cycling Tour Club, as they want speed to be considered too. However the idea still has supporters and it seems to work in France and Germany, where it is 1 metre in residential areas, 1.5 metres in rural areas with road signs reminding motorists of the requirement. A 3 foot passing gap is also a legislated requirement in 11 US States, is being considered in Canada and a ‘Metre Matters’ campaign is running in Australia. If it does happen here it would be nice if it included low powered scooters wouldn’t it.

Then of course there’s BRR’s idea. With all the ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ (SMIDSY) crashes at junctions why don’t we make every road junction on single carriageway roads into a mandatory ‘Stop’. Doing away completely with ‘Give Way’.  Chances are that making drivers stop before entering a major road would make it more likely that they spot an approaching motorcyclist. Add in legislation that places the onus on the driver emerging from the minor road to prove that, in the event of a crash, he/she actually did stop and you might have an effect way of reducing SMIDSY crashes.


© Back Roads Rider 2010

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