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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!

The use of the roads and moral hazard

The use of the roads and moral hazard

This evening I will be attending the Road Share campaign for Strict Liability Parliamentary reception at the Scottish Parliament. Before doing so I though it a good idea to write a bit about use of the roads and moral hazard as a way of examining the concept of Strict Liability on the roads.

Imagine that you are walking along a pavement, a vehicle passes you, it kicks up a stone, which hits you and blinds you in one eye. Currently to gain compensation you must prove negligence, the driver is assumed to have done nothing wrong. Strict liability says that the possibility of kicking up a stone and blinding someone is an inherent risk of driving, the fact the driver chose to drive the car and put you at risk in that way means that they have accepted they will be held liable if that risk is realised. In the example above, this would be No-fault liability, which is defined as follows: “where a person is held responsible not for his failure to display the diligence of a reasonable man, but because he is in control of a source of danger to other people’s lives, health or property”

Strict Liability is not about criminal culpability, it is about civil liability. The concept of Strict Liability recognises that the driver is the one who has introduced the risk to the public space and they have done so for their own advantage, i.e. the person driving is benefitting from driving. Many drivers probably prefer not to see it that way, they prefer to focus on what they see as the high costs of driving. However, the perceived cost to the driver must be less than the benefit to themselves or they would leave the car behind and use another means of transport.

The driver accrues the benefits of driving but not all of the costs, many of those costs are externalised, and this includes an increased risk to other, more vulnerable road users. These road users do not benefit at all from a driver taking their car to the supermarket, but they do bear some of the risk. This can be seen as the moral hazard of driving.

The role of the law and justice system should be to attempt to rebalance the costs, so that if a driver does something risky they can be expected to bear the costs of this. Several methods are used: fines, removal of the licence to drive or finally imprisonment. However, these sanctions are not equal to the risk borne by other users. A driver is capable of killing a pedestrian, yet we do not expect the driver to be executed for doing so (nor should we).

All that Strict Liability does is recognise that if you wish to benefit from something but at the same time take risks at the expense of others, you should be prepared to pay up (or rather, your insurer should), if that risk is realised. Consequently strict liability isn’t limited to cars vs bicycles. It says the larger vehicle, the greater risk potential risk to others and therefore the greater the responsibility, leading to the following hierarchy: HGV > car > bicycle > pedestrian.

Strict Liability is reserved for “inherently dangerous” activities or products. A classic example would be that of a circus: If a lion escapes and injures a member of the audience, no matter how strong the lion’s cage was, or how closely the lion was watched, it is still the circus owner who would be held liable.

The reasoning behind Strict Liability is to hold whosoever benefits from putting others at risk – demolition, transporting hazardous materials, using dangerous machines, etc. – accountable for any damaged caused by that activity. It is not dissimilar to the duty of care owed by employers to their employees, the employer benefits most from putting the workers at risk, therefore the law believes they have a moral obligation to take all practicable steps to keep the workers safe. Yet another example of where the Health and Safety Executive is steps ahead of other branches of government.

A final thought, a form of Strict Liability already exists on our roads: where two motor vehicles are involved in a collision and the second vehicle runs into the back of the first (a rear end shunt). The driver of the second vehicle is automatically held to be liable (unless they can prove there were extenuating circumstances). It is only fair and reasonable that the same principle be extended to vulnerable roads user, as is already the case in the majority of other European countries.

This post was inspired by a blog post from lovelobicycles.

It is time to stop the killing on our roads

It is time to stop the killing on our roads

This year has seen an upsurge in the number of people dying on our roads, sadly those with the power to change things don’t seem to be interested, so we need to send them the message: It is time to stop the killing on our roads!

Our roads are not a war zone, this is not the fog of war, people dying on our roads are not some poor buggers who have wandered into their covering fire, they are not collateral damage. They were just ordinary people going about their business who died needlessly before their time. Now is the time to make it stop, we can do something about it, but it needs political will. Throwing money at dualing roads won’t save lives. Lowering speed limits, better infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users, strengthening the law and enforcing it, these are things which save lives. It is not rocket science, there is much we can learn from just across the North Sea. We can make our country a better place to live for all, Active Travel IS a matter of social justice. Here are some Manifesto suggestions for Active Travel, let’s push our political representatives to take them seriously. After all, they are there to serve the people.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

Today is the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are 1.24 million road traffic deaths every year and Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) are the number one cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. However, it is the young and the elderly who are most vulnerable on our roads.

Here in Scotland I recently discovered that there is a framework for road safety in Scotland, which was drawn up in 2009. As part of this framework there is a 0% casualty target for the year 2020. Sadly in Scotland over the last four years there has been a rise in the number of vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured, which suggests that the strategy currently in place is failing badly and needs to be revised.

Here are a few headlines from the last few days. This is not an extensive list, just a short snapshot:

Girl killed in lorry accident named
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash
Motorist dies day after car crash
Woman seriously injured in A9 crash

The real problems created with increasing liability for drivers?

The real problems created with increasing liability for drivers?

There has been a string of letters to the Herald newspaper on the subject of Strict Liability. These letters provide an interesting insight into social attitudes with regard to driving. It all started on 26th October, with a letter from Brenda Mitchell, founder of the Road Share campaign for stricter liability. It was written in response to the news that in 2012 there was a sharp rise in the numbers of vulnerable road users killed on Scotland’s roads (cyclist deaths increased by 22% and pedestrian deaths increased by 33%). She lays out how she sees strict liability working: “a motorist involved in a road traffic collision with a cyclist or pedestrian would be presumed liable in a civil law claim against them for damages. If the injured party is under 14, over 70 or disabled, then the driver would be deemed liable, with the opportunity open to them to establish part fault. The same would apply in cases where cyclists collide with pedestrians, thereby working to give the more vulnerable road users the protection they so desperately need but currently lack.”

The first reply to this letter comes on 28th October, from Norman Dryden, who suggests that “strict liability on the part of careless cyclists for pedestrians would be of little value”. His main argument is that “Strict liability of cyclists for pedestrians is of little real value unless backed by compulsory insurance and the display of visible, valid registration details“. I feel that this is a rather weak argument, as it is rare for pedestrians and cyclists to cause harm to other third parties, however the same is not true of motorists. Most of the countries in Europe have a Law of Strict Liability and yet none of them have require cyclists carry compulsory insurance, why should Scotland be different? From the comments below it is clear that Mr Dryden, does not agree with me, he is entitled to his opinions as am I to mine. As he points out below may people whether pedestrians or cyclists, will be covered by the occupiers and personal liability section of household contents insurance which covers all family members resident at the address for accidents they may cause as pedestrians or cyclists. Some may have other, more specific, insurance. This I feel rather undermines the argument of little value without compulsory insurance. I am not in any away attempting to defamatory and misrepresent anyone, I am meanly expressing my option and I have given a free right of reply.

[I have modified this post due to complaints from Mr Dryden who disliked my interpretation of his letter, see the comments below]

On 30th October there two letters, one from John Maxwell and the other from Iain Mann. Maxwell expresses the opinion that Dryden is right, there is no need for a change to the law, and that, if enacted, strict liability would “penalise the law abiding majority”. He then claims that strict liability would “stand on its head the age-old principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty”. Clearly he fails to understand the difference between liability and culpability. Strict liability only applies in civil cases where the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle does not typically apply. In fact, strict liability already operates in many aspects of civil law, such as workplace regulations, consumer protection legislation and the control of dangerous animals. So introducing strict liability on the roads would not deny anyone their human rights, as Mr Maxwell suggests. Mr Mann also conflates liability and culpability. He then has a rant, blaming cyclists for causing accidents by being on the road, before suggesting that roads are solely there for the use of motor vehicles, and that cyclists should be made to use the footway along with pedestrians.

1st November brings a letter from Mrs Patricia Rowan entitled “Small children cycling represent a real hazard”. In this letter she suggests that children should not be allowed to use the roads, as they pose a “real hazard” to motorists. Evidently she thinks that no child should travel without being strapped into the back of a car. It is this attitude that has led to Scotland’s children having the one of the worst road death rates (per Km walked) and highest obesity rates in Europe and the return of rickets. Clearly she feels the roads are only for cars and that adults have no duty of care towards children.

The following day there was a second letter by Brenda Mitchell, where she corrects the false assertions of Maxwell and Mann above. She points out that all “who drive with due care and attention and in accordance with the Highway Code” have “nothing to fear from a stricter or presumed liability regime”. Brenda then states that “by slowly chipping away at [the] misconception” she is “confident that the public will understand the merit of [introducing] stricter liability into Scots civil law to protect vulnerable road users.” I am sure that she is right about this. However, the next letter, on the same page, suggests there is much chipping away still to do. I feel the need to quote this letter, by J Napier, in full:

The blinkered and frankly, selfish, views of the cycling lobby never cease to amaze me. Campaigners are once again calling for more money – that will be taxpayers money of course – to be spent on their hobby, on the grounds that it improves health and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

Cycling on our roads today is akin to bungee-jumping and far more dangerous. Just look at the accidents and casualties which are reported daily in the media. I cannot understand why schools, the Scottish Government and other agencies which ought to know better continue to encourage and support this most dangerous and unnecessary mode of transport, given the congested and totally inadequate state of our roads. Many safety experts argue that mixing traffic of very different sizes and speeds is a major cause of many accidents. Once our roads are fixed (and our cyclists are properly trained, licensed and insured), by all means encourage the sport. Until then recognise the dangers and advise accordingly.

The claimed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is another misconception. How many litres of fuel and how many tons of greenhouse gas are produced daily by lines of vehicles having to slow down to a crawl – often for half a mile or more – before accelerating briskly to overtake a cyclist, only to find the manoeuvre has to be repeated a few yards further down the road? The only real winner seems to be the Treasury, which receives more tax from the unnecessary sale and consumption of extra fuel.

 

As a piece of satire this letter would be brilliant, sadly however, I get the feeling that Napier really believes that improving people’s health and reducing air pollution are a bad thing. Then there is the suggestion that anyone who travels be active means is only doing so as a hobby or sport, not as a legitimate means of transport to get to work or to go to the shops, and therefore, these people do not pay tax. Note that is “traffic of very different sizes and speeds” that is the cause of “accidents”, not people driving carelessly. Cycling (and for that matter, walking) is not inherently dangerous and for this reason there is no requirement to gain a licence or have compulsory third party insurance, whereas moving a vehicle weighing a ton or more in a public place is inherently dangerous, and it is for this reason there are laws in place to regulate the use of such vehicles. In the final paragraph we get to see clearly just what sort of driver he/she is, one who does not look ahead and plan their drive. Napier could learn a lot from this advice from a former driving instructor and advanced driver on how to overtake safely.

Today (4th November) there were another two letters, one from Roger Graham and the other from Bill Brown.

First we have Mr Graham tell us that he is a wonderful driver, as he managed to avoid hitting “a young cyclist”. Apparently this was because the cyclist was riding close to the kerb and fell off onto the pavement, but had the cyclist fallen the other way, then Graham would have hit him. For this reason Graham asserts that he should not be to blame if he ignores the advice given in the Highway Code on how much space is appropriate to give to other road users (see Rules 126, 162-167 & 212). We then get the “all cyclist jump red lights” canard, even though the evidence from police records and video studies shows that motorists are far more likely to jump red lights than cyclists, mainly as drivers of modern cars tend to feel invulnerable. Next we are told that roads are dangerous because they are for cars and not also for vulnerable road users, therefore cyclists should stay off the roads. Never mind that there is no right to drive, it is a privilege granted under licence. However, under Scots law we all have the right to walk, ride a bike or a horse as a means of transport. In Mr Brown’s letter, we are again told that it is the fault of the vulnerable road user for being on the roads, and that motorists have no duty of care to other people.

In my experience, motorists who think that cyclists are aggressive are invariably bad drivers, the thing most likely to cause vulnerable road users to react in an aggressive manner follows escaping from nearly being killed by the negligence of drivers who themselves are surrounded by a steel cage and who are often unaware that they have just nearly killed another person.

Herein lies the core of the problem, there are a significant minority of drivers who clearly believe their desire to drive where and how they please is more important than the safety of other people (whether the writers of the letters above, fall into this category I leave it to the reader to decide). For this reason strict liability is important for the protection of vulnerable road users, as these motorists are the people who will never accept that they are at fault for any harm they cause to others. Unfortunately, we can not simply expect those who are surrounded by a steel cage and feel invulnerable, to respect the safety of others. A simple look at the number of people seriously injured or killed on our roads tells us that. Repeated surveys carried out by motoring organisations and insurance companies have also shown that the majority of drivers admit to breaking the law, whether it be exceeding the speed limits or using mobile phones while driving, these are instances of everyday dangerous driving. Yet, despite this, most people think of themselves as being “above average” drivers. It is time that we ended the culture of over-casualised driving and remind everybody again that a driving licence is a privilege, not a right. Let’s be clear, strict liability is not a panacea to making our roads safer. To do that effectively, we will need to restructure the roads to suit the needs of all users, not just the motorised, we need to adopt a Sustainable Safety approach to achieve a better road safety. Even then we will still need strict liability to provide justice for the vulnerable in the event of something going wrong.
 

In support of Motion S4M-07934 on Strict Liability

In support of Motion S4M-07934 on Strict Liability

OK so its not the snappiest of titles, but this post has a serious point, I have long been in favour of a law of stricter liability being included in the Scottish legal code. When Brenda Mitchell started her campaign for stricter liability I welcomed it on this blog. Now Alison Johnstone MSP has introduced a motion to the Scottish Parliament (Motion S4M-07934) calling for debate on a stricter liability. In order trying and encourage other MSPs to sign the motion I sent them the following letter:

I am writing to you to ask you to support Motion S4M-07934.

In a civilised country the function of the law should be to protect the vulnerable, currently in Scotland we situation on the roads where bulling of vulnerable road users is endemic. With the recent release of the 2012 statistics for reported road casualties in Scotland showed that the number of cycling deaths increased by 22% and pedestrian deaths increased by 33%. It is worth noting that while there may have been a small rise in the number of people cycling, about 2%, walking as a means of transport is continuing to decline. Therefore, it is clear that the current laws are failing to protect vulnerable road users. For this reason I ask you to support Motion S4M-07934. The introduction of stricter liability would bring Scotland into line with other European countries which have far higher levels of active travel and lower death rates for vulnerable road users.

Obviously stricter liability by its self is not going to be enough to bring about a safer environment, but it is an important part of the package. Scotland should be looking towards a sustainable safety approach, and consider a “Vision Zero” policy that requires that fatalities and serious injuries are reduced to zero by 2030, as an increasing number of countries around the world are doing. Let make Scotland a better place to live.

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding, BSc, MPhil

 

I will of course up date this post with their replies (should they respond) as I receive them. I would urge others to write to their MSPs to ask them to support this motion.

Replies in the order which they have arrived:-

Neil Findlay MSP:

Neil has asked me to thank you for your email and to let you know that he is a member of the Cross Party Group on Cycling and has an interest in this issue.

Neil hopes to attend the debate, parliamentary business permitting.

 

Sarah Boyack MSP:

Thank you for your email on your support for Alison Johnstone MSP’s forthcoming debate in the Scottish Parliament and the information you have provided, setting out your position.

On behalf of the Lothian Labour team, I hope that it will prove helpful that as the Deputy Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Cycling I have an active interest and I will be there on the 29th and intend to take part in the proceedings that afternoon.

 

Kezia Dugdale MSP:

Kezia would like to thank you for taking the time to write to her on this issued.

Kezia has signed this motion and is looking forward to the debate tomorrow afternoon.

Kezia and the Scottish Labour Party remained open minded to the proposal and she looks forward to sharing your views in tomorrow’s debate.

 

Notably, Marco Biagi MSP, Gavin Brown MSP, Cameron Buchanan MSP and Margo MacDonald MSP, didn’t bothered to reply or even acknowledge my e-mail.

The motion was debated on the 29th October 2013, a full transcript can be found here. It shows a range of social attitudes, the usual dribble about cyclists on the pavements (make the roads safer and people won’t feel the need to cycle on the pavements, on the mainland of Europe this is not an issue), a certain amount of macho bullshit someone who famously failed to complete the 2012 Pedal of Scotland ride (even though 5 year old did), and an interesting number of comments on the need for more and better quality cycle infrastructure.

Finally 20 mph limit to go ahead across Edinburgh

Finally 20 mph limit to go ahead across Edinburgh

Following the successful trial 20 mph speed limit zone in South Edinburgh it has finally been decided to broaden this out to the whole city and not before time. However, there are still a few out standing questions: will all roads in the city be included? If not what will be the criteria for having roads with higher speed limits? Will there be enforcement of the speed limits within the city?

While the trial 20 mph speed limit zone on the Southside has proved to be popular with those living in the area, there have been a few issues. To start with during the consultation before the trial zone was started, the Community Councils and the majority of local residents (who responded to the consultation) asked for the major roads, which also had the highest collision rates, to be included in the trial. However, this was refused due to objections from Lothian Buses, although there was no evidence published that this would significantly affect bus timetables or overall journey times. Another issue has been the reluctance of the police to enforce the 20 mph speed limits, as a result average speeds within the trial area have only been reduced by only 2mph, with the majority of driver flouting the speed limits. In spite of this the 20 mph trial has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the residents of the City.

The most frustrating part of all this is that we know metropolitan wide speed limits work, they are not a new idea Graz in Austria was the first city in Europe to introduce them in 1992 (they saw an immediate 25% drop in the number of serious collisions as a result, although this did rise later when enforcement was relaxed). In 2008 Portsmouth became the first city in the UK to adopt the a blanket 20 mph speed limit, which has also significantly reduced the number of collisions (even if the motoring lobby like to pretend that it doesn’t, but then they regard dead children as collateral damage and a price worth paying).

Fortunately the City of Edinburgh Council has now agreed that there should be 20 mph speed limit zones across the city, but just which streets will be included is yet to be decided. We are told that there will be a consultation, well yes we had one of those before the Southside trial was introduced. There was strong support from the Community Councils on the Southside for the pilot, and people would have liked more streets to be included, they were over ruled because Lothian Buses objected to certain roads being included, claiming bus services would be slowed (although the evidence for this was never published). We are supposed to be in a Democracy where the people and not business should have the final say. We are also told that the transport and environment committee has agreed to roll out 20mph limits to all residential streets, main shopping streets, city centre streets, and streets with high levels of pedestrian and/or cyclist activity. Which begs the question how do you define a “residential street” in a city like Edinburgh, which has very few commercial dead zones (unlike, say Glasgow, where large swathes of housing were demolished to make way for urban motorways). If you travel along any of the major routes to the city centre there are people living along these streets. So who will have the final say on what speed limits apply to the major arterial routes, the people that live there or a bus company (who director live in the leafier parts of town where the streets are already traffic calmed)? Apparently Councillor Joanna Mowat has already asked for a definition of a residential street. She said: “People will say ‘I live here, so it’s a residential street’. It will be interpreted in different ways.”, however her question appears not to have been answered, yet.

Then there is the issue of enforcement, in the current trial, Lothian and Borders Police (now Police Scotland) refused to implement effective enforcement of the 20 mph speed limit. Sadly Police Scotland lack the integrity of the likes of Julie Spence who condemned speeding as being middle class’s version of antisocial behaviour with motorists convinced they should be “able to get away with” breaking the law. Councillor Lesley Hinds is on record as saying that “We want to encourage drivers to keep their speed down and get used to that, rather than fining people.” Why? We don’t take this approach with other forms of anti-social criminal behaviour, why should we tolerate it from people just because they hold a driving licence? She also says “educating drivers was one of the most important ways forward”, well Lesley all drivers have been taught to drive within the speed limits, it is one of the requirements of the driving test, I used to be a full qualified Approved Driving Instructor, I used to teach people how to do it. People know that speeding is wrong, so they should expect to be fined if they break the law, the most effective way of getting people to comply with the law is to enforce it. No Excuses!

Another thing we can learn from the Graz experience is that public support support for 30Km/h limits dropped during the consultation period before the introduction of the lower speed limits. Before the conciliation there was 64% support, during the conciliation this dropped to 44%, however within a year of the lower speed limits being implemented support had risen to 60%, and two years later had reached 80%. For the majority of people having lower speed limits is welcome, it is only the selfish few who want to put the lives of others at risk, for their own convenience. By the use of rigorous enforcement, we can make speeding less socially acceptable. We just need our elected representatives to show some spine in the face of the morally bankrupt motoring lobby. Just remember why there are speed limits:

  • Hit by a car at 20 mph, 3% of pedestrians will be killed – 97% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 30 mph, 20% of pedestrians will be killed – 80% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 35 mph, 50% of pedestrians will be killed – 50% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 40 mph, 90% of pedestrians will be killed – 10% will survive
  • Hit by a car at 50 mph, >99% of pedestrians will be killed – < 1% will survive

Once they have taken that on-board, maybe they could have get a few lessons on how to deal with the problem of cars parked illegally in cycle lanes

An open letter on the Nice Way Code

An open letter on the Nice Way Code

I was among the “key stakeholders” who were consulted on the Nice Way Code advertising campaign, I strongly advised against the approach taken and tried to warn them that it was likely to result in a backlash from many ordinary people. However, my advice was ignored (I should add that I was not alone in expressing unease at the tone and message being sent by the Ad campaign). It was clear from the outset that it was never going to create a “culture of tolerance” on Scotland’s roads, after all this sort of respect approach has been around for 100 years, and there is no evidence that any such campaign has worked so far.

Sally Hinchcliffe, one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament, who helped draft the letter, said: “I’ve never seen such anger online – and this was in response to what should have been an innocuous campaign asking people to get along. Instead, we’ve felt we were being demonised for running red lights, treated as though we’re a separate species, and told to ‘grow up’ for cycling on pavements. The tone was really misjudged and seemed, if anything, to make out that it would be our fault if we were hit by a car – even though statistics show that when people are knocked off their bikes it’s far more likely to have been the driver at fault than the cyclist. I’m a law-abiding cyclist, like everyone else I know who rides a bike, and to have our own government seemingly pandering to this stereotype of cyclists as lawless and a danger to themselves is really galling.” It also has to be remembered that this campaign has been launched at a time when the number of people being killed on the roads while riding a bicycle is rising (as are the number of pedestrian fatalities). This is something which Cycling Scotland would rather not talk about, prefering to state that the total number of deaths on the roads is down (this is due to reduced numbers of fatalities among car occupants, at a time when people are driving less distance and at lower top speeds due to the recession).

The Nice Way Code was launched by the Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP on the 5th August 2013, and was immediately met with large scale derision. Many people, across Scotland and beyond, feel that is it a massive waste of public money and as a result they have joined forces to write an open letter to the Scottish Government, asking for the Nice Way Code campaign to be scrapped. The campaign, which was intended to promote ‘mutual respect’ among road users, has triggered widespread anger among cyclists who feel that the adverts – particularly one showing a cyclist running a red light. The adverts have attracted controversy on social media with thousands of negative comments, blogs and tweets (and spoof twitter accounts) coming from cyclists and non cyclists alike, far beyond Scotland. The letter immediately garnered dozens of signatures as soon as it was posted on Facebook and tweeted, with over 80 people signed up in just over 24 hours. This letter has now been sent to a wide range of Scottish newspapers, the First Minster Alex Salmond MSP and cc’d to Keith Brown MSP.

The letter reads:

The Nice Way Code is failing in its own terms

At the launch of the Nice Way Code, Transport Minister Keith Brown said, “The Nice Way Code campaign seeks to build a culture of tolerance and patience between cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and all other road users across Scotland.” However, everything that has come out of this campaign – which was paid for out of the Active Travel budget – seems likely instead to create conflict, reinforcing divisions between people based merely on their mode of transport. One advert encourages cyclists not to run red lights simply in order not to give other cyclists a bad name (and not because it’s dangerous and discourteous, not least to pedestrians) – lumping all cyclists together and implying bad behaviour by a tiny minority justifies hostility to everyone who chooses to ride a bike.

As cyclists we are used to hearing from a few uninformed drivers that ‘all’ cyclists run red lights, ride on the pavement, hold up traffic and generally deserve to be treated like obstacles on the road. But we never expected our own government to run adverts saying the same thing. As nine cyclists have died on Scotland’s roads already this year, it’s unsurprising that this campaign seems to have angered almost everyone who regularly rides a bike.

Safer roads will not come from lecturing people and pandering to stereotypes. We believe they will come from rethinking our current emphasis on designing roads purely for motor traffic and redesigning them to remove the sort of conflicts these adverts reflect. Pending that, it’s clear that many people who don’t ride bikes themselves are unaware of the needs of cyclists on the road. A campaign that really aimed to build a culture of patience and tolerance could have helped to educate them about these things, and to get cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to see things from each others’ point of view. Calling cyclists names is not it.

We urge the Scottish government to recognise that it has made a mistake and to pull this campaign before it ramps up tensions on the road even further. We suggest that it takes this opportunity to start a real dialogue between road users about how we can recognise that we are all people, and behave accordingly.

Signatories

Adrian Roberts, Dalkeith
Alan Munro, Pedal on Parliament, Glasgow
Andrew Lamberton, Edinburgh EH6
Andrew W.D. Smith
Andy Lulham, Crawley
Andy Preece, Glasgow
Anthony Robson, Edinburgh, EH15
Barnaby Dellar, EH15
Barry O’Rourke EH23
Ben Cooper, Kinetics, Glasgow
Bill Kennedy, Currie, Edinburgh
Bill Telfer, Langholm
Brian Mackenzie, Inverness
Bruce MacDonald, Edinburgh, EH11
C.A. Looby, Edinburgh
Chris Byrne, Edinburgh
Chris Hill, CityCyclingEdinburgh.info
Christine Helliwell, Edinburgh
Colin Davidson,
Colin Lindsay, Edinburgh
Dave du Feu, Linlithgow
Dave Holladay, Glasgow, G3
David Brennan, Pedal on Parliament, Glasgow
David Edgar, Glasgow
David Gardiner, Laid Back Bikes, Edinburgh
David Hembrow, Assen, The Netherlands
David McKeever, Glasgow
David Monaghan, Edinburgh, EH10
David Morrison, Edinburgh, EH6
David Wilcox, Bristol
Davie Park, Edinburgh, EH11
Denise Marshall, Falkirk
Diana Laing, Edinburgh
Diane Adams, Edinburgh, EH10
Dougie Overbars, Edinburgh
Duncan MacLaren, Edinburgh
Duncan Wallace, Edinburgh, EH11
Eva Viktoria Ballin, Edinburgh
Fran Henderson
Garry Dawes, South Shields
Graeme Hart, Hart’s Cyclery, Edinburgh
Grant Mason, Edinburgh
Heidi Docherty, Edinburgh
Henry Whaley, Edinburgh, EH12
Hugh Thomas, Pedal on Parliament, Edinburgh
Ian Bruce, Edinburgh
James Thomson, Kinross
Jemma Smith
Jenny Wilson, Edinburgh
John and Rosie Rutherford, Dumfries
Karen Sutherland, Gorgie, Edinburgh
Keith Walters, Dumfries
Ken Murray, Edinburgh
Keridwen Jones, Edinburgh, Spokes member
Kim Harding, Pedal on Parliament, Edinburgh
Lee Kindness, Edinburgh, EH15
Lynne and Ian McNicoll, Edinburgh
Mark Macrae, Edinburgh
Mark Treasure, Chair, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain
Martyn Wells, Edinburgh, EH10
Neil Bowie, Carse of Gowrie, Perth
Niall Anderson, Edinburgh
Nigel Shoosmith
Paul Jakma, Glasgow
Paul Milne, Dunbar
Philip Ward
Richard Pelling, Fyvie, Aberdeenshire
Robert Gormley, Edinburgh
Ronald Brunton, Edinburgh
Rory Fitzpatrick, EH11
Ros Gasson, Edinburgh
Ruari Wilson
Ruth Kirk, East Kilbride
Sally Hinchcliffe, Pedal on Parliament & Cycling Dumfries, Dumfries
Sara Dorman, Pedal on Parliament
Scott Hutchinson, Edinburgh
Scott Simpson
Sean Allan, Edinburgh EH8
Shan Parfitt, Aberdeen
Shaun McDonald, Edinburgh / Ipswich
Stephan Matthiesen, Edinburgh
Sweyn Hunter, Kirkwall, Orkney
Tom Orr, Edinburgh EH21
Tom Russell EH15
Tony Stuart KY11
Ulli Harding, Edinburgh
Verity Leigh, Edinburgh

It’s not far, so leave the car…

It’s not far, so leave the car…

Almost three years ago I wrote a post called Say no to ridiculous car trips in which I pointed out that there has been a steady decline in the number of journeys which people are taking by active means. Scarily enough 20% of people said they take walks of 20 minutes less than once a year or never, which goes a long way to explaining why in the UK an estimated 60.8 per cent of adults and 31.1 per cent of children are overweight. This of course comes at a cost, in the cast of the NHS more than £5bn every year and the wider economy more than £2bn a year in lost productivity.

One obvious solution to this is get people more active, this is where active travel has a role to play, so I was please to hear that the Scottish Government was finally going to take some action. Sadly it turned only this 40 second video and not anything substantial such as putting real funding into active travel or seriously trying to make the roads safer (I have a few suggestions of how to do that).

OK, so it is a start, but is not enough and that is why I will be joining the second Pedal on Parliament protest ride on Sunday.

It is time to stop the victim blaming!

It is time to stop the victim blaming!

Today we heard the sentencing of Gary McCourt, the driver who killed Audrey Fyfe in August 2011, and it has generated much anger. At the end of the trial it was announced that Audrey Fyfe was not the first person that he had killed. McCourt had previously been found guilty in 1986 of causing another cyclist’s death by reckless driving. After that offence he was jailed for two years, this time round he has been ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service and given a five year driving ban. There have already been a number of complaints that the sentence was unduly lenient, and that, at the very least, he should have been banned from driving for the rest of his life.

If this wasn’t enough, the Sheriff, James Scott, said that the collision between McCourt and Mrs Fyfe was caused because of a “momentary” loss of concentration. Then he went on to suggest that Mrs Fyfe contributed to her death by not wearing a “safety helmet”, so blaming the victim for her own demise. This sort of victim blaming should be totally unacceptable. Had Mrs Fyfe been walking across the road when she had been hit, there would have been no suggestion that she should have been wearing a pedestrian helmet. What if she had been pushing a pram and he had “clipped” that? Would it still be the victim’s fault? Just because she was cycling, why should she have been expected to wear a plastic hat to protect her? It is not as if it would have provided any protection or prevented her from being hit in the first place. Her death was solely due to McCourt’s actions and the jury convicted him of causing death by careless driving. Mr Scott’s comments are disgraceful and totally unacceptable. I am not the only one to feel this way:

One can only hope that there will be better training of Sheriffs in the future, there is a need to teach them why wearing cycle helmets isn’t compulsory. Lets face it, until the judiciary take safety on the roads seriously, the law will not offer protection to vulnerable road users. For this reason I urge you all to join the Pedal on Parliament protest ride on the 19th May, to call for safer roads for all!

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