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Tag: promoting cycling

Changing times for the Cycling Tourism

Changing times for the Cycling Tourism

Five years ago I wrote a post about cycle touring is now fashionable and since that time I have undertake a fair bit of cycling tourism my self (as you will realise from reading this blog). So I was pleased to see today a report from the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) on Changing times for the Cycling Tourism showing that it’s a real bread winner for local economies across the EU. Here in the UK we are increasingly seeing workshops run for those in the tourism sector on the benefits of cycle tourism and highlight potential of mountain biking tourism.

Even previously staid Tourist Boards jumping on the bandwagon all being under the label of “Adventure and Outdoor Sports Holidays“, which just shows they haven’t really done their market research very thoroughly, as according to some market analysis, the average age of cycle tourers is between 45-55 years. Also in resent year there has also be an increase in the number of family groups showing an interest in cycle touring holidays.

There is some evidence that policy makers have taken this on board and while initiatives such as the Scottish Borders Recreational Cycling Group securing £175,000 in funding are to be welcomed, there is a very real need for a more broad based approach. We need a long term cultural change which sees the bicycle as a legitimate form of transport, not just a sporting toy. There is much to be gained and nothing to lose, so what is holding us back, we have the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland all we have to do is implement it!

Addendum:

The ECF have issued another new report which estimates the value to local economies across Europe of cycle tourism on the Trans-European Cycling Network (which includes route in Britain and Ireland) to be €5 billion annually, and that doesn’t include the smaller local cycle routes (or Lands End-John O’ Groats).

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Life is more beautiful by bicycle

Life is more beautiful by bicycle

I recently spotted this Ad by Decathlon and was so charmed by it I had to put it up here:

The strap line reads “Life is more beautiful by bicycle” and who could argue with that?

 

Thanks to Cycling in Auckland for putting me on to it.

NB, the original You Tube video had been pulled, so I found another copy on Vimeo.

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Fairness and liability on the roads: part 3

Fairness and liability on the roads: part 3

Having written to my MSPs about Fairness and liability on the roads and received a number of replies, mostly along the lines of “I will forward the matter to my colleague Keith Brown, Minister for Transport, for his consideration”, I have been waiting for Mr Brown’s comments. Well, today my wait was ended by an e-mail from George Foulkes MSP, in which he forwarded to me a letter from the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Keith Brown MSP. I have transposed a copy below (with a couple of corrected URLs), if you would like to read the original it is here.

Thank you for your e-mail of 16 February to Stewart Stevenson MSP, on behalf of your constituent Kim Harding, regarding his concerns about compensation in road accident cases involving vulnerable road users.

As you may be aware the Scottish Government published the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) in June 2010. The overall vision for cycling is that “by 2020, 10% of all journeys taken in Scotland will be by bike”. The document outlines 17 separate actions to support cycling, working in partnership with key delivery agencies, including local authorities, Sustrans and Cycling Scotland. The full text of the CAPS document can be viewed on the Scottish Government website at: http://www.Scotland.gov.uklPublications/2010/064/25103912/0 [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/06/25103912/0]

One of the CAPS actions relates to a legislative search by the Scottish Government on the operation of liability laws and how they work in other countries in Europe and around the world, and whether there is robust evidence of a directly link to levels of cycling and KSI’s [Killed or Seriously Injured]. This work will provide a comprehensive report on liability laws and how they affect cycling. A follow-up action contained in CAPS relates to identification of what kind of hierarchy, if any, might be established, and the consequent development of an educational awareness campaign for all road users. This work would be with a view to reducing the rate of cyclist KSls.

With regard to your constituent’s comments on the level of road casualty figures, you may be aware that Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020 was published In June 2009. The Framework sets out Scotland’s vision and targets for the safety of all road users over the next decade together with a range of commitments to help the Scottish Government and its delivery partners meet the targets.

Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2009, published in November 2010, showed that we are making significant progress in reducing the number of pedestrian and cyclist casualties in Scotland with a fall of 42% and 21 % respectively between 1999 and 2009. However this does not mean we are complacent on this issue. The Framework recognises that pedestrians and cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users. We have made a number of commitments within the Framework document which we will undertake, with our partners, to support the interests of pedestrians and cyclists. These include ensuring that all road users receive appropriate education and training messages about cycling in the road environment; ensuring that cyclists are considered in new road and maintenance schemes; and encouraging local authorities to consider 20 mph zones in all residential areas. The Framework can be viewed on the Scottish Government website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uklPublications/2009/06/08103221 [http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/05111814/0]

The Annual Report 2010 on progress with the Framework, including measures undertaken to date to assist the needs of pedestrians and cyclists, can be viewed on the Transport Scotland website at: http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/strategy-and-research/publications-and-consultations/road-safety-report-2010

I hope the information above helps when responding to your constituent.

It is an interesting reply which shows that the Scottish Government is at least trying to improve Scotland’s road safety record. Reading Skimming through these documents, I find that:

  • while car users account for 64% of all casualties, a greater proportion of pedestrian (and cycling) casualties were killed or seriously injured.
  • children make a disproportionate number of pedestrian and cycling casualties
  • Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020 aims to reduce: all Fatalities by 40% (and child fatalities by 50%), all Serious casualties by 55% (and child serious casualties by 65%)
  • and the Scottish Government would like to see, by 2020, 10% of all journeys in Scotland made by bike.

Finally in CAPS I found what I was looking for, Section 5.5 A “Hierarchy of Care” for all Road Users, had the information which was most relevant to my original letter:

Current Situation

There is no legal hierarchy of care for road users in existence in the UK. In the event of a road traffic accident going to court in a civil action 1, which is a devolved area, the responsibility to prove negligence (on the balance of probabilities) lies with the pursuer, who has to prove a number of elements to satisfy the requirement that the defender was negligent and caused material harm ( e.g. damage to property or personal injury).

The background to the current situation may be traced to a Royal Commission on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury which, after a thorough 5-year inquiry, recommended in 1978 in favour of a no-fault insurance scheme for road traffic accidents but against the introduction of strict liability. A no-fault scheme did not subsequently materialise, but the rejection of strict liability did prevail. This has in essence, been UK policy ever since. As such, the previous UK Government felt it was unfair to make motorists automatically liable for any accidents involving motor vehicles and a pedestrian or a cyclist. They felt it was a matter for the courts and that each case should be dealt with individually.

Existing Laws in other countries

The differences in laws between the UK and continental European countries have often been cited by cyclists as the main reason cyclists on the continent enjoy greater protection. However, this has often been combined with a number of other measures such as increased investment in cycle infrastructure so it will be difficult to isolate one particular factor influencing why these countries have higher cycling levels than the UK.

The fact that many of these countries have promoted cycling for a longer time has quite possibly also led to a cultural change whereby cyclists are automatically respected because many drivers are also cyclists themselves. The multitude of factors in play means that it is difficult to identify driver behaviour as being influenced by any one of them. Furthermore, there appears to be jurisdictions where absolute liability exists rather than strict liability and this may have a harsher impact on driver behaviour.

Accident rates for cyclists are lower in many European countries than in the UK and strict liability is in place in several European countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands, whereby the driver involved in an incident would have to prove he or she was not at fault for an incident involving a cyclist. This has, anecdotally, led to drivers having more respect for cyclists.

Proposals

There has been a suggestion by some stakeholders to establish a hierarchy of care whereby the emphasis is on the vehicle travelling at the higher speed. This would then make cyclists liable for collisions with pedestrians and may help in addressing concerns drivers have about cyclists seemingly being able to ‘flout’ the law. Cyclists can however, already be held liable for injuries caused by negligence or malice on their part (since negligence laws cover everyone).

A second proposal, made by Spokes (the Lothians Cycling Group) in its evidence to the TICC Committee’s inquiry into active travel, is to place the burden of proof in an incident on the heavier vehicle.

To inform future evidence-based policy making, Ministers have indicated that more research would be welcome and, therefore, we will undertake the actions listed below. We believe the results of this review will be crucial to any future debate on this issue.

Action 12: To undertake a legislative search to reveal the operation of liability laws and how they work in other countries in Europe and around the world, and whether there is robust evidence of a direct link to levels of cycling and KSIs.

Outcome 12: A comprehensive report on liability laws and how they affect cycling.

Action 13: To try and identify what kind of hierarchy, if any, might be established and develop an educational awareness campaign for all road users.

Outcome 13: A reduction in the rate of cyclist KSIs.

So there are a couple of action points, which suggests that something is being done with regard to fairness and liability on the roads, but by whom? A quick check of Annex 1 shows that:

  • Action 12 is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, time frame 2010-2012
  • Action 13 is the responsibility of the Scottish Government and stakeholders, time frame 2010-2012.

How far does that get us? Well, while it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to produce a report on how liability laws affect cycling by the end of 2012, it is also the responsibility of the Scottish Government and stakeholders, to identify what kind of hierarchy there should be and campaign for awareness by all road users, if Outcome 13 is ever going to be achieved. Who are these stakeholders? Well, as I see it, the stakeholders are in effect anyone who walks (lets not forget that pedestrians are as vulnerable as cyclists and would equally benefit from increased legal protection) or cycles on Scottish roads. As everyone who lives in (or visits) Scotland, is a pedestrian at some stage, we are all stakeholders and therefore have an interest in seeing that there is a clear hierarchy of liability on the roads, with those capable of doing the greatest harm having the greatest responsibility and therefore the greater liability.

We all have a responsibility to keep up the pressure on the Scottish Government to do the right thing.

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Fairness and liability on the roads: part 2

Fairness and liability on the roads: part 2

Having written to my Westminster MP about Fairness and liability on the roads and received a reply that justice is devolved to the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament. I decided to follow up with a similar letter to my MSPs. So far I have had a number of replies, mostly along the lines of “I will forward the matter to my colleague Keith Brown, Minister for Transport, for his consideration” and one “I have written to the Minister for Justice asking him to respond”. So far I have had response from neither Keith Brown or Kenny MacAskill, and I am not holding my breath in anticipation a response either. There were a couple of MSPs who didn’t bother to reply, so I won’t bother voting for them come May.

The most interesting reply so far has come from Robin Harper MSP (Scottish Green Party), he has suggested that I to lodge a petition with the Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This is something which I intend to look in to doing. Robin also suggested that this was something he would like to include in the Green Party manifesto. Well, Robin, if you are reading this, here are a few more manifesto suggestions

Addendum: Following my reply to Amoeba (see comments below), I noticed that in the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland has the following statement under the section labeled “Legal Powers“:

Liability Issues

In most Western European countries, the liability in any collision involving a motor vehicle and a cycle (or a pedestrian) lies with the driver of the vehicle, other than in the case of an adult cyclist who is shown to have been responsible for the accident. In the UK, this is not the case. As the majority of cycling accidents involve a motor vehicle, and given the vulnerability of cyclists and pedestrians, the Scottish Government will undertake to explore a “Hierarchy of Care for Road Users”. This consultation document is asking whether the liability should always lie with the vehicle driver, until proven otherwise.

Liability and insurance issues are a UK wide matter and if feedback from this consultation document highlighted a public desire to research this area further, the Scottish Government would undertake to write to the UK Government about this.

So there is some recognition that there is a problem, but there is a need to stiffen backbone of our elected representatives and push them to actually do something about it! I urge to to contact your elected representative and encourage them to stop being so spineless and do the right thing.

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Fairness and liability on the roads

Fairness and liability on the roads

As I have said before on this blog, I am in favour of the UK having a law of strict liability on the roads, so thought I should try and do something about it. This being a legal issue, I thought the best way forward would be to try lobbying my elected representative, who could in turn could lobbying the Government to change the law. Therefore I wrote the following letter and sent it by e-mail to Sheila Gilmore MP.

Dear Sheila Gilmore,

Could I please ask you to consider the fairness of this case?

When a car driver injures a pedestrian, the burden of proof is on the pedestrian for claiming compensation. It appears, our legal system does not favour the more vulnerable.

Car colliding with pedestrian or cyclist:

Hundreds of pedestrians and scores of cyclists are injured or killed by car drivers every year in the UK. The 2008 road casualty figures show that 332 pedestrians were killed in car/pedestrian collisions, and in car/cyclist collisions 52 cyclists were killed. In all 390 cases not one car driver was killed. Amongst pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers, it is clear that the car driver is the most likely party to inflict injury or death upon the others.

Cyclist colliding with pedestrian:

The 2008 road accident statistics by the Department for Transport show that one pedestrian was killed in a cyclist/pedestrian collision. It is clear when comparing pedestrians and cyclists, that the cyclist would be seen as the stronger party.

I find it very hard to understand that the burden of proof would be on the more vulnerable road user and not the one who is actually more likely to cause harm: inflicting pain and suffering through causing injury, or devastating families by causing death. All this does not seem fair to me.

If you think so too, could I please ask you to get in touch with the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Road Safety and your party colleagues on the Transport Select Committee. It would be much appreciated if you could highlight to them, that we should subscribe to a more civilised system that is favouring the vulnerable.

Liability should therefore be considered on a fair and proportionate basis to provide legal protection to the vulnerable road user. This could be achieved by establishing a hierarchy of care where the burden of proof would always be on the user of the heavier vehicle (the party more likely to cause injury or death). This would show commitment of this Government to its agenda of societal and social fairness.

This principle of proportionality described above is in place in all but five European countries. The UK being one of them; the other four are Ireland, Romania, Cyprus and Malta.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely, etc.

Some weeks later I received the following reply:

Dear Kim,

Thank you for your email concerning the burden of proof in road traffic personal injury cases. I apologise for the delay in responding to your enquiry.

It is important to clarify from the outset that justice is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. I would strongly recommend also writing to your MSP who will be able to provide you with more information about the situation in Scotland.

However I can make some brief comments on the current situation in England and Wales.

It is a general principle of the law that the accuser has to prove that the incident in question occurred and that the accused behaved negligently. Thus you are correct to say that in road traffic personal injury cases in England and Wales, the burden of proof is on the victim to prove the other party was negligent.

There are however areas of the law that apply the standard of strict liability, whereby the burden of proof is reversed and the accused has to prove that the accuser behaved negligently. Strict liability applies where there is likely to be an imbalance in terms of responsibility and where there is an inherent danger.

Strict liability does not currently apply to road traffic personal injury cases. I am aware that some have argued that the law should be changed so that it does, as this might encourage drivers to be more aware of cyclists, injuries incurred by cyclists would drop, and more people would take up cycling as a result.

However I am also aware of counter-arguments that suggest such a change could have a negative impact on cycling. These stem from the fact that cyclists would be liable in collisions with pedestrians. As few cyclists have insurance, it is unlikely that awards to pedestrians would ever be met. The only way to ensure the law works effectively would be to compel cyclists to purchase insurance, which could in turn put people off cycling.

I am a keen cyclist myself and do not own a car. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling, and I wish to see cycling encouraged across the UK. It could be that the introduction of strict liability to protect certain classes of road user would assist in improving safety. I think this is a subject that would be worthy of detailed consideration. To this end I have forwarded your correspondence to the Chair of the Transport Select Committee. I will inform you when I receive a response.

You may wish to note that last April the previous Government introduced a new accelerated claims process for road traffic accidents for personal injury claims in England Wales. Although this did not change the law with respect to burden of proof, it did attempt to deliver fair compensation to the claimant as soon as possible at proportionate cost.

Yours sincerely

Sheila Gilmore MP

I find the counter-argument that a law of strict liability would deter cycling somewhat disingenuous, surely if you do harm to another you should be liable for any harm done. Besides, I like many others, do have 3rd party liability insurance as part of my household insurance.

So what lessons have I learned from this? Well first and foremost, before writing letters find out which parliament has jurisdiction over the area of law which you are trying to change. Also that if your elected representative is on your side, they will reply. Even if the “elected representative” is not on your side, it is worth reminding them that they work for you and not their parties corporate sponsors, although some of them have a habit of forgetting this. This is a habit which needs to be broken!

So I urge you to do the same, contact your elected representative and remind them that they work for you. If you would like to the use the letter I have laid out above as a template, please feel free to do so, but I would suggest adding in the precedents given in the addendum below. In the mean time I have to find out what is the current state of play with “strict liability” is in Scotland and lobby my elected representatives at Holyrood.

Addendum: since writing the above, it has come to my attention that the concept of strict liability is not entirely foreign to UK legal jurisdictions. It is already used, for example, to provide compensation for injuries to consumers from defective products, to employees from defective work equipment and to the general public from runaway animals. This precedent strengths the arguments given above.

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