Browsed by
Tag: Road Use

Every Kilometre Cycled Benefits Society

Every Kilometre Cycled Benefits Society

We know that the health benefits to society from cycling outweigh negative impacts by up to a factor of 20. We know that cities with higher levels of cycling are more attractive places to live, work and do business. I have discussed before in this blog how to achieve this, it is not rocket science, as this recent report from the International Transport Forum at the OECD shows. They recommend reducing “urban road speeds to 30km/h [20 mph] or less, and the use of separated cycling infrastructure to increase the number of new cyclists. Attracting new cyclists gains the greatest health benefits through increased physical activity, including reducing risks linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type-2 diabetes.”

So why aren’t we doing more to encourage cycling in Scotland? It’s one of the fundamental duties of any government to protect the lives of its citizens. However, here in Scotland, both national and local government drag their feet on these issues. I have sat across the table from the Scottish transport minister and asked him to use the powers which have been devolved to the Scottish Government, to lower the national speed limit in built up areas (defined as places where the street lighting columns are < 185 m apart) from the current limit of 30 mph to 20 mph. This is would at a stroke save lives. However, he has refused point blank to do so, saying that it would take away powers from Local Authorities (LAs). This argument is utter nonsense as LAs have the power to raise or lower speed limits on individual roads as they see fit. So the real effect on LAs would be that they would have to justify to the voters why they wanted to raise speed limits in built up areas, where people live, work and shop, from 20 mph to 30 mph. It is well known that 20 mph speed limits are popular with people who live next to the roads where these limits apply. Therefore, it may prove difficult for LAs to raise the limits, but that's Democracy for you. Here in Edinburgh, there has recently been an announcement from the City of Edinburgh Council that it intends to lower the 30 mph speed limit to 20 mph, across the whole city, but not until 2017. Why 2017? You may well ask, well for one thing, it is after the next local elections. Also it gives them three years in which to try and find justifications to maintain the higher 30 mph speed limit on “key arterial roads”, even though these pass through some of the most densely populated parts of the city.

Why are our elected representatives not acting in the best interests of the people? Why are they not taking simple steps to protect the health and lives of the citizens they are elected to represent? The only answer can be moral cowardice! For this reason I urge you all to join the Pedal on Parliament protest on the 26th April 2014 to send a message to those who have the power to change things – now is the time to grow a spine and show some moral backbone!

Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated)

Onus should be on the cyclists?

Onus should be on the cyclists?

Following the death of yet another cyclist on Scotland roads I was deeply saddened to see the following letter in The Herald newspaper:

Onus should be on the cyclists
Tuesday 23 July 2013

ONCE again the strict liability law is being peddled with the aim of protecting cyclists and pedestrians (Agenda, The Herald, July 19).

The writer, Brenda Mitchell, states “our goal is to change the culture among road users”.

As a pedestrian and former cyclist I would suggest that rather than attempting to change the law and further burdening other road users the only culture that needs changing is that of the cyclist.

Among the initiatives they may consider adopting are wearing suitable clothing and protective equipment (for head and hands) and obeying the current motor traffic laws – and not riding upon the footpath.

Perhaps it is also time for legislators to require all cyclists to fit, and sound, a suitable warning device in order to alert unsuspecting pedestrians to their presence.

In short, the public at large would be better protected if cyclists obeyed the law as it stands rather than seeking to introduce legislation that would be nothing more than another impost upon the motoring public who, after all, already pay to use the road.

Ian F Mackay,

5 Smillie Place,

Kilmarnock.

 

Lets just take a closer look, Mr Mackay starts by asserting that he is a “pedestrian and former cyclist”. Why does he feel the need to do this? We are all pedestrians at some point, and why is he a “former cyclist”? Oddly he doesn’t tell us, he also doesn’t let us know whether or not he is a driver (although it is implied), again why? Could it be that he is embarrassed to admit to being a driver, when he goes on to complain about “further burdening other road users” before going on to suggest that the only problem is with cyclists. Which other road users would this be? Are pedestrians and horse riders going to feel that a strict liability law is going to burden them? Or would the more vulnerable users of public space feel that a law making the operators of dangerous and heavy machinery being used that space liable (under civil law) for their actions, giving the most vulnerable greater protection? After all, this has been shown to be effective in the workplace where there is a strict liability on employers to ensure safe working practices.

He suggests that cyclists “may consider adopting wearing suitable clothing and protective equipment (for head and hands)” – is this for the protection of other roads user? Or merely trying to pass the blame when cyclists are injured by negligent actions of other road users? To use the workplace analogy again, the use of “safety equipment” is not a substitute for operating potentially dangerous machinery in a safe manner.

Then comes “obeying the current motor traffic laws – and not riding upon the footpath”. Hum, are cyclists “motor traffic”? Certainly they are traffic, as are pedestrians (the origin of the word traffic is from the Arabic word taraffaqa, which means ‘to walk along slowly together’, only in the late 20th century did it become “to drive along slowly together”, we needn’t go into the origin of the word “jam”). However, according to Mr Mackay, it is the failure of cyclists to obey laws which is the cause of all the harm to roads users. This fails to explain why not a single one of the 54 pedestrians killed on Scotland’s roads last year were killed by a person riding bicycle, all where killed as a result of being hit by motor vehicles.

Next, we come to “Perhaps it is also time for legislators to require all cyclists to fit, and sound, a suitable warning device in order to alert unsuspecting pedestrians to their presence.” How exactly will this help to deal with the problem of 54 pedestrians killed on Scotland’s roads? Some of those were mown down by motor vehicles driven on the foot way, others killed while crossing the road at pedestrian crossings by motorists jumping the lights. Oh, but of course, Mr Mackay isn’t concerned with the real issue of people being killed or the roads being too dangerous for many people to ride a bike on. He has given no thought as to why shared use paths are over crowded and how we might go about dealing with this issue, such as making the roads safer and providing a fairer allocation of space to non-motorists. He is more worried that bad drivers might actually be held to account for the injuries and deaths they cause, which is what would happen if we were to “introduce legislation that would be nothing more than another impost upon the motoring public” (although the version I have proposed would also apply to cyclists).

Instead, according Mr Mackay bad driving is apparently OK and should continue to tolerated, on the grounds that “the motoring public who, after all, already pay to use the road.” So there we have it, we shouldn’t do anything to hold bad drivers to account, because they pay “road tax”. Of course there is a major flaw in this argument, there is no such thing as “road tax” , we all pay for the roads, and we should all have the right to be safe from harm by others whilst using those roads.

Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated)

Strict Liability and the Road Share campaign

Strict Liability and the Road Share campaign

For some time now, I have been in favour of a law of Strict Liability. This defines who is liable when collisions occur on the roads. So I was pleased to learn that a Peebles lawyer, Brenda Mitchell, had started a campaign for Strict Liability called Road Share. This is a very welcome move, Brenda has done a lot of research on this issue and makes a very clear case for including Strict Liability as part of our civil law, in the same way as the majority of European countries have done (see map below).

Why it is that Scotland hasn’t made this change yet is unclear, it is not as if the concept of strict liability does not already exist under Scots law, as it underpins much of the Health and Safety legislation. For example, if you are felling a tree with a chainsaw, and a third party walks into the line of fall of the tree, it is the person operating the chainsaw that is held to be liable if there is injury to the third party. Likewise, if you fire a firearm, you are automatically held liable under civil law if you hit someone accidentally, and liable under the criminal law if you shoot them deliberately. This is an important distinction and one that is often missed by critics of Strict Liability. This new campaign to apply the principles of strict liability to road traffic collisions is about changing the civil law code, not the criminal law, where the central principle is (and will remain) that the accused will remain innocent until proven guilty. Strict liability is solely about who has the greater duty of care, and that should clearly be the person who is in the position to do the most harm.

Taking the firearm analogy above, we allow people to own and use firearms strictly under licence, because firearms are fundamentally dangerous. Similarly, we only permit motor vehicles to be driven on the public highway under licence because motor vehicles are fundamentally dangerous: a moment’s inattention can be fatal, and not necessarily only to the driver. For this reason, any suggestion that pedestrians or cyclists owe a duty of care to motorists is absurd, as in the event of a car hitting a pedestrian, the driver is very rarely, if ever, the one that is hurt.

Similarly, a case can be made that cyclists do owe a duty of care to pedestrians, and this would be covered as part of the hierarchy of strict liability. This, however, would not lead to the need for cyclists to take out compulsory third party insurance. Many cyclists already have third party insurance (although they might not realise it), in my case it is bundled in with my household insurance. The thing about insurance is that it is priced according to risk, with riding a bicycle for transport or leisure being a low risk activity such for causing harm to others (sports cycling maybe excluded). As the risk of a claim is so low for the insurance companies, they feel that they can bundle it in with other insurance packages for free, as incentive to buy. This is not the case with motoring insurance, where premiums are higher because the risk of a claim is very much higher. It is because driving is inherently dangerous that is a legal requirement for all drivers to carry third party insurance, if the risk to others was as low as that posed by cyclists, then there would be not legal compunction.

A law of strict liability would also have an impact on motoring insurance premiums, and the good news for drivers is that it would result in lower premiums. The main reason for this is that the UK is one of the most expensive countries for motor insurance BECAUSE it doesn’t have a law of strict liability. Therefore, in the event of a collision involving a motorist and a vulnerable road user resulting in injury to the vulnerable road user, that person often has little choice but to sue the motorist to gain compensation from the motorist’s insurance company. Often the insurance company will try to reduce the payout by making claims of “contributory negligence”, which is often a way of blaming the victim for being hit and has nothing to do with fairness. The only people to really gain from this type of litigation are the lawyers.

Given that there are so many obvious advantages to having a law of strict liability, it seems strange that there is so much opposition to it. Part of this is due to a failure understand that it benefits everyone in some way. Another reason is the mistaken belief that there is some sort of right to drive motor vehicles which there isn’t – driving is only permitted under licence and that licence comes with responsibilities. If you are a safe and considerate driver, you have nothing to fear and much to gain from a law of strict liability. It is time that we, as a society, vigorously challenge the Mr Toad’s attitude to driving. Strict liability is not a panacea, it can not by itself make our roads safer, but it is a part of the solution.

No_Strict_Liability_Map_reduced

Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated)

An open letter to my MSPs

An open letter to my MSPs

Dear MSPs,

There’s a short window of opportunity to gain a modest one-off boost to Scottish cycling investment. The Scottish Government is to receive £279m for capital investment projects as a result of the UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget.

The reasons for spending a significant proportion of this money on cycling infrastructure should be obvious: active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer), it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is good for the economy as people who arrive by active travel are more productive (the smart companies, like Google, are relocating to city with good cycling infrastructure for this very reason), and it reduces peoples reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

This extra money gives the chance to try something different, how about using £20m to set up a into a special award fund to which councils could bid for a large sum, so that Scotland could implement two or three ‘exemplary projects’ providing high quality European-style cycling infrastructure in an area of a city or town, and including at least one main-road corridor. This is an opportunity which really should not be missed, the potential return on investment is huge, as has been shown south of the border where the cycle demonstration towns showed returns of 19:1!

However, time it short please press John Swinney and Keith Brown to cease the day, Carpe diem!

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding, Bsc, MPhil

———————–

So far I have had one reply to this letter:

Thank you for your email.

The vast majority of the £279m comes from allowing the Scottish Government to administer funds arising in Scotland from the state-backed mortgage plan. This is why it has been derided as ‘funny money’ by John Swinney, as you may have seen in the media. There is a robust exchange in progress between the governments over how much flexibility there should be over this money. I would certainly be supportive of additional funding for sustainable and active travel, and in particular your suggestion of a flagship community approach is an interesting one – provided of course that there is a local authority keen to bid for it. If there is sufficient flexibility this should be a very strong contender for funds.

There is also however a cut of £103m to year-to-year funding. This includes a £50m+ reduction in the budget for the financial year starting the week after next, when a budget has already been set. Services that have to absorb this cut may well argue that they should be at the front of the queue for any flexibility in the capital funding if that can be used to offset the effect of these cuts.

Yours
Marco Biagi (SNP)

———————–

Addendum:

Next reply –

Thank you for contacting me about this important subject. Increased investment in cycling would help us address health and environmental issues. It is affordable, and without a significant increase in funding for cycling and walking, the Government will be unable to meet its obligations under our world leading climate change legislation.

I wholeheartedly share your desire to see the Scottish Government spend a substantial proportion of the £279 million allocated for capital spending in the recent UK budget on improvements to cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. When the Danish Cycling Embassy visited the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, I asked what steps were taken to achieve the high number of commuting cyclists in Copenhagen where almost 40% of citizens cycle to work and education. In response the Cycling Embassy representative said that investment in a project that clearly demonstrated the many benefits of a segregated cycle way was key. With this in mind, I along with fellow members of the Cross Party Group on Cycling, Jim Eadie MSP and Claudia Beamish MSP, wrote to Keith Brown outlining a proposal for introducing a competitive award for an urban on-road segregated cycle lane project design. In Mr Brown’s response (attached) he reiterates his pledge to make a strong bid for cycling infrastructure funding should more money become available. Now that more money has become available, I intend to do everything I can to ensure he honours this commitment. It is vital that the Scottish Government delivers the levels of funding required to encourage people to take the affordable, active and environmentally friendly option of cycling in the Lothian Region and across Scotland.

Please be assured that I will continue to push the Scottish government at every available opportunity for more funding for cycling, and to target the funding at the projects that will have the most positive impact on cycling in Scotland.

Best wishes

Alison Johnstone (Green)
———————–

Next Reply –

Dear Kim

Thank you for writing again following the UK Government’s recent budget and the allocation of new money to Scotland for capital projects.

I well appreciate your support for further investment in active travel, particularly cycling and I am happy to draw your comments, as well as those of others who would also like to see the Scottish Government focus more on cycling infrastructure rather than road spending.

I will be back in touch when I have a reply from Keith Brown MSP as the current Transport Minister but if there is anything else that I can do for you, in the meantime, as your Regional representative in the Scottish Parliament then just let me know.

Again, with all best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)
———————–

A further update from Sarah Boyack, with a reply from the Minister for Transport Keith Brown –

Dear Kim

Keith Brown MSP has replied to me arising from your concerns about the Scottish Government’s opportunity to provide more investment toward cycling infrastructure. His response, as Transport Minister, as you will see unfortunately does not provide any additional resources to enhance the cycling experience all over the country, even though its benefits to the nation’s health and environment are well-known.

I am sorry that the Scottish Government was not minded to prioritise cycling for additional resources within its augmented spending capabilities but I thought that you ought to see the terms of the official response nevertheless, given your interest in the issue.

As ever, with very best wishes to you.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)

And the reply to Sarah from the Minister:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your letter of 26 March on behalf of a number of constituents, regarding additional spending on cycling infrastructure as a result of the UK Chancellor’s spring budget.

The Scottish Government is to receive additional funding for capital projects as a result of the UK Government’s spring budget. However, as the additional capital is for financial transactions (i.e. loans and equity investment), which must be repaid, we are severely restricted in the use of this money.

Investment in cycling is paramount if we are to increase the numbers of people using bikes and realise our shared vision of 10% of all journeys being made by bike by 2020. Over this Spending Review, this Scottish Government will invest almost £58 million on infrastructure, training and road safety projects through Sustrans, Cycling Scotland and local authorities. I hope these commitments reassure your constituents that this Scottish Government is committed to investing in cycling infrastructure to make Scotland an active and safe cycling nation.

Kind regards

Keith Brown MSP (SNP)
—–

A reminder that Pedal on Parliament 2 is on the 19th May, meet at 15:00 on the Meadows, the more people who join this protest ride, the louder our voice calling for change will be.

Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated)

Dutch cycle infrastructure and what we can learn

Dutch cycle infrastructure and what we can learn

As readers of this blog will know, I have had an interest in how to get more people to use bicycles as transport for some time now. So when I saw this film on the subject I knew it was something which I had to put on my blog.

The key lessons I take from this film are that a conscientious choice needs to be made for safe roads for all. This needs to be backed up with very deliberate decisions on design, policy and education, as “there is no better bang for the buck than investing in bicycling”. However, as I have pointed out before, the Dutch didn’t get their bike lanes without a struggle, and that is why we need to keep up the pressure for change. So, there will be another Pedal on Parliament, and change will come.

Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated)

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
%d bloggers like this: