In the courtyard of our newly refurbished office block at George House there are brand spanking new bicycle sheds. Perfect for an environmentally friendly building. The only thing wrong with the sheds is that to date they have not housed one single bike . Having recently visited Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cities awash with bicycles it saddens me that in Glasgow very few people cycle. However my disappointment is tempered by reality as like many others I possess a bike but would not consider using it in the city as I would feel unsafe and may be right to feel so. According to Transport Scotland 817 cyclists were injured on Scotland’s roads in 2011 and seven cyclists were tragically killed.
It was therefore with interest that I read an article in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland by Brenda Mitchell about a campaign launched by Cycle Law Scotland to change Scots civil law to introduce strict liability for the protection of cyclists and other vulnerable road users involved in traffic accidents.
The UK is one of only five European countries that do not currently have the law known as strict liability. Under strict liability law, motorists would be held responsible in the civil courts for all accidents involving cyclists unless they can prove they are not to blame. Likewise if a pedestrian is injured by a cyclist the cyclist is liable. By introducing this change, a hierarchy based on the vulnerability of road users would be created.
As Brenda Mitchell states in her article “The case for strict liability is clear. I believe that while the Scottish Government is increasingly encouraging more people to take up cycling, it must also provide adequate legal protection for those venturing out on our roads. Strict liability in civil law is the proper approach for a mature, socially conscious nation, as it addresses the unacceptable human impact of the current system where injured cyclists or their families can expect to wait months or even years to receive compensation.”
Of course not everyone is in agreement. At the moment we are not a particularly cycle friendly nation. Some drivers consider cyclists a nuisance and undeserving of sympathy. Alan Douglas a motoring journalist and member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said “ We all have equal responsibility and surely the person who should be held responsible for an accident is the one who causes it. This assumption that it is always the motorist at fault is absolutely breath-taking.”
However if the change in legislation helps re-orientate road users’ attitudes away from conflict to those of mutual respect as can be seen in the European countries already exercising a system of strict liability then I am all for it. I would love Scotland to be a cycling nation and if the introduction of such legislation can remove the fear of cycling by knowing motorists will respect a cyclist’s precariousness then I for one will certainly be getting on my bike. The cycle sheds at George House may be in use after all.
For more advice related to strict liability law contact Mitchells Roberton Law Firm in Glasgow