A slight change of direction from my normal post today.
Most days on Twitter and on the various cycling blogs I read you can be certain there’ll be a post about motorists v cyclists and various traffic related incidents. I guess that some of the incidents out there have quite naturally led to some of the people being mightily pissed off about the apparent lack of awareness motorists seem to have of the more vulnerable road user. I include pedestrians in this by the way.
What I’m starting to see recently is that the tone of some of these posts is changing from natural concern to anger and hostility. This I believe is very counterproductive. This type of “angry” post or Tweet pisses me off and I’m a cyclist so just think what non cyclists reading them will think?
Most Cyclists generally think that most motorists see them as lycra wearing, law flouting, red light jumping anarchists who have no thought for their own safety never mind the safety of other road users. So why inflame an already volatile situation with provocation in the form of aggressive posts, Tweets and other forms of “agressive cycling advocacy?”
It’s my firm belief that this sort of “campaigning” is not doing us the cyclist any favours at all. We’re very much in the minority and in the end we’ll lose that kind of argument. I think both sides of the debate need to be promoting understanding not segregation and an us against them kind of attitude.
The roads belong to everyone, the pedestrian, the cyclist, the motorbiker, the car driver, lorry driver etc. Trying to separate the users is a non starter in my book, mainly because of funding but also because it makes the Motorist even less aware of vulnerable road users when they do eventually come together again.
The way forward for me would be to have some form of campaign to highlight vulnerable road users to the motorist. Maybe a section of the driving test specifically aimed at the VRU or even have a motorist take a cycling test.
Berating the majority of road users in the press and on internet blogs and forums is just daft. Because you know what will happen don’t you? The pissed off motorist will just come back with Red Light Jumpers, riding on the pavement and the old Road Tax “Chesnut.” Then the Great British Public will nod sagely in their blissfull ignorance of the situation and support the majority position. And that’s us relegated back in importance of the minds of the legislators whose only interest is a vote.
That’s my opinion anyway.
And mentioning legislators, this brings us nicely on to Strict Liability which for me is a no brainer. If you’re unsure what this is then to give you the short version (As I understand it) responsibility for an incident out on the road is laid at the foot of the least vulnerable road user. As an example, in a collision between a pedestrian and a cyclist, it’s automatically the cyclists fault, and in a collision between a car and a cyclist it’s automatically the car drivers fault etc etc and so it goes on. This is law in quite a few European countries already apparently.
I’m mentioning this as Mark over at I Bike London suggested a while a go that you write to your MP and ask about Strict Liability and having it entered in to the statute books here. I did just that.
Here is my MP’s and the Transport Secretary’s replies to me:
Letter from my MP:
Transport Secretary’s Letter:
I’m no expert at legalise, but it seems that the letter is saying no. It also seems that the Secretary of State for Transport is citing “The majority rules” as a reason for saying no. Which leads me quite nicely back to my point about getting the majority on our side instead of doing our level best to piss them off with rants about their preferred form of transport all the time.
Just for info, this is the last time I will be dipping my toe in the water of cycling politics. I can appreciate that it is the very breath of life for some, but for me life is too short. I just get on my bike and ride. I just thought the letters would be interesting for some.
I can post my original letter to my MP if anyone is bothered.
Edit: Simon is bothered so here it is!
I’m a regular cyclist commuting from Rubery to Smethwick and back every day. I either go on my Mountain Bike via National Cycle Route 5 and the Birmingham and Worcester Canal or on my road bike via any number of routes I’ve devised. I’m no eco Nazi or tree hugging Hippy, I’m a normal middle aged married family man with 2 kids who holds a management position in the company I work for. Pretty much the voter who is getting battered the worst at the moment. I cycle primarily to keep fit and get rid of my fat.
I’m writing to make you aware of the thing called “strict liability”. Basically if a motorist kills or injures a cyclist then it’s up to the cyclist’s family to obtain redress through the courts. This is the same as me taking my firearm (I hold a firearms certificate and own a rifle) to the Longbridge Island shooting a few cyclists there, then being given a slap on the wrists and having their family have to prove I was responsible and needed punishing.
Once upon a time in the UK it was socially acceptable to drink and drive; everyone did it and therefore it was what a Lawyer friend of mine called “a shruggable offence”, that is to say something so common that it hardly seemed a big deal. Social attitudes have changed on that front, and they can again for Strict Liability. Right now if you overtake within inches of a cyclist it is a “shruggable offence”. No one will think any more of it, nor that it is especially serious. Strict Liability could help to change this, essentially forcing people to take the level of care they know they ought to around more vulnerable road users.
Strict Liability is a legal process in force in all but 4 EU Countries for road traffic law, of which the UK is one. Essentially it introduces a ‘food chain’ to the road environment; the more dangerous the vehicle you drive the more onus there is on you, as the source of danger, to be the one to look out for more vulnerable road users. Cyclists are expected to look out for pedestrians, car drivers for cyclists, truckers in 40-tonne rigs for everybody else. Under Strict Liability if you hit a cyclist in a car it’s up to you to prove that you are innocent, as oppose to the injured cyclist (or their bereaved family) trying to prove that the bigger threat was guilty.
The headline-driven backlash against even the idea of Strict Liability will, when the time comes, be so loud and so poisonous that it could, in true tabloid fashion, seriously compromise the likelihood of it ever being introduced here. Indeed Petronella Wyatt of the Daily Mail has already had a good bash at it and wasn’t afraid to use lies, damn lies, to push her agenda on this subject. There will be many others too, and if they all shout loud enough I wouldn’t be surprised if our leading politicians stand up in the House of Commons and say the very thought of this legislation makes them sick.
I’m not certain that you will be given the whip on this subject even it does appear before the house, but using that modern mantra of “safety” which if uttered these days seems to negate all other arguments I’m hoping you and your Government will see this through and give a little bit more protection to the more vulnerable of road users.
This is the first time I’ve written to my MP, and just to clarify things, I attended my polling station at the last election and spoiled my vote as I have in the last 3 elections. I am completely disillusioned with the whole political system and politicians in general. I’d be interested if you can go some way to restoring my faith in the whole of Parliament in general.