Cycling is not dangerous – it’s bad driving

Cycling is not dangerous – it’s bad driving

In the past I have written a number of posts about Strict Liability, It is something which I strongly feel is important as evidence from cycling groups on the Continent show stricter liability to be an integral part of cycle safety, increasing mutual respect between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The UK is only one of a small number of EU countries, along with Cyprus, Malta, Romania and Ireland that does not operate a Strict Liability system for road users.

In 1982 Lord Denning stated that:

In the present state of motor traffic, I am persuaded the any civilized system of law should require, as a matter of principal, that the person who uses this dangerous instrument on the road – dealing death and destruction all round – should be liable to make compensation to anyone who is killed or injured in consequence of the use of it. There should be liability without proof of fault.

To require an injured person to prove fault results in the gravest injustice to many innocent persons who have not the wherewithal to prove it.


Thirty two years on this state of injustice remains on our roads, it is time for change!

Below is a press release sent on behalf of the Road Share Campaign for presumed liability, if you would like to show your support for introducing a member’s bill for presumed liability between motorists,cyclists and pedestrians please sign this petition.

New research says cycling is not dangerous; a minority of bad drivers are responsible for road traffic collisions.
Commissioned by Cycle Law Scotland (CLS), the legal firm behind the Road Share campaign for presumed liability on Scotland’s roads, the research compares case data with publicly available statistics to provide a greater understanding of the causes and severity of road traffic collisions.
CLS then asked its own community of cyclists about their own ‘near misses’ to help paint a clearer picture of cycling on today’s roads.
The research found that out of the 151 cases handled by CLS between June 2011 and August 2013, incidents were dominated by drivers’ incompetent turning manoeuvres. Almost half of the incidents were due to drivers turning off the road of travel, or pulling on to it, or U-turning. If roundabouts are added, the proportion rises to 61% of the CLS incidents. Further analysis of statistics from the Department of Transport (DfT) and City of Edinburgh Council revealed very similar patterns.
Cyclist actions were a minority factor making up about a third of the DfT study of urban casualties and less than a fifth in the data available from Transport Scotland.

According to official figures released by Transport Scotland, in 2012, there were 9 deaths, 167 serious injuries and 901 total accidents involving pedal cyclists.
Malcolm Wardlaw, who carried out the analysis of the all the data available concluded that the main risk of collision is at junction, at least on urban roads. At junctions, vehicles turning off the road of travel are just as much a risk as those pulling out from side roads.
The evening rush hour period incurs a higher risk to cyclists than the morning peak period.

He said:

Whilst most drivers are safe and courteous, one of the striking observations that can be drawn from the CLS and public data available is that most cyclist casualties in road traffic collisions are due to errors by drivers. Cyclists are primarily the victims of bad driving and inflict negligible harm on others.


Founder of Cycle Law Scotland, Brenda Mitchell has 25 years’ experience as a personal injuries lawyer. She said:

We constantly see cases where the driver blames the cyclist, but when it is put to the test, it is bad driving that is to blame. If we seriously want to make Scotland a cycle-friendly nation, we have to start by understanding that good driving standards are fundamental.
My strongly held belief is that if we introduce a system of presumed liability in civil law, drivers will change their mindset towards cyclists on the road.


Concerned by the findings, Cycle Law Scotland carried out a survey of cyclists experiencing “near misses”.
Its research found that of the 137 people questioned in December 2013, 70% reported having experienced a ‘near miss’ within the previous four weeks.
The most common scenario was found to have occurred when a vehicle passed too close and clipped the bike. Once again, the most ‘at risk’ period was the evening rush hour and on roads where the speed limit is below 30mph, with junctions and roundabouts highlighted as particular blackspots.
Brenda adds:

I am concerned that the degree of danger facing cyclists on Scotland’s roads is not sufficiently understood. Bad drivers are the exception, but they can cause serious injury.
I am a massive supporter of cycling and want the right safety measures put in place. But while we don’t have – or accept – the full picture of cycling conditions and risks on our roads, the safety measures will never be sufficient.


So far, more than 5,350 people have signed a petition to see the introduction of presumed liability regime into Scots Civil Law. If adopted, it will mean that following a collision between a motorist and a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist would be presumed to be liable for injury, damages or loss, unless they can prove otherwise, thereby shifting the burden of proof from the vulnerable (as it is currently) to the powerful.
Key findings from Malcolm Wardlaw’s research into CLS and public data:

  • Most cyclist casualties in collisions are due to errors by drivers.
  • he main risk of collision is at junctions, at least on urban roads.
  • 83% of cyclists involved in collisions recorded by Cycle Law Scotland were male. This dataset matches the national profile of cycling participation. The National Travel Survey reports males account for 80% of distance travelled by bicycle in the UK.
  • In 66% of all cases recorded by Cycle Law Scotland’s data the cyclist was wearing a helmet.
  • At junctions, vehicles turning off the road of travel are just as much of a risk to cyclists as those pulling out from side roads.
  • 75% of the accidents recorded took place on roads with a speed limit of 20-30mph.
  • In 35% of Cycle Law Scotland’s cases the cyclist was wearing bright, hi vis, fluorescent, reflective, light, yellow, lights or bright clothing. 32% wore other clothing and 33% recorded no information about their clothing.
  • Cyclists and pedestrians inflict negligible harm on each other.


If you would like to show your support for the introduction of a member’s bill for presumed liability between motorists,cyclists and pedestrians, into the Scottish Parliament: please sign this petition

3 thoughts on “Cycling is not dangerous – it’s bad driving

  1. A strange message is coming across from the proponents of strict liability. You seem to wish to give cyclists carte blanche to do what they like, on the presumption that the nasty motorist will be to blame for any collisions. Granted, this is often the case, but it is not always – very often the cyclist has done something silly or illegal. What comes across then, is that you want a nice easy way to blame the nasty motorist for any collisions, rather than an actual reduction in the number of collisions. Why not encourage *all* road users to take more care of themselves and each other? This creates redundancy, which is surely a basic feature of any safety system – there is no redundancy when all the responsibility is placed on one side.

    And automatically placing the onus on someone is likely to breed resentment – no motorist goes out with the intention of killing or injuring anyone, and where a collision has involved a motorist and a vulnerable road user, contrary to what you may think, the nasty motorist does not just shrug it aside. The motorist may experience months or years of emotional trauma, particularly where he or she was not to blame (for the sake of argument, let’s say a sober motorist was driving within the speed limit at a speed such that he/she could stop within the distance he/she could see to be clear and a drunk cyclist, previously stopped, emerged from a side road).

    1. Strict Liability exists in the majority of countries in Europe (and many on other continents as well) in none of them does it “give cyclists carte blanche to do what they like”. The pedestrian/cyclist who was actually in the wrong will never make it to Court. He/she is unlikely to win and the motorist is highly likely to establish fault. The motorist is financially protected by his insurance company . The motorist in this case will establish fault on the part of the cyclist. The question to be answered is – through his own actions did the cyclist “cause” or “contribute” to his own injury. If the answer is “yes”, then compensation will be denied or reduced.

      The approach of supposedly “encourage *all* road users to take more care of themselves and each other” has lead to situation where the vulnerable have been largely forced off the roads because they are vulnerable. Most motorist admit to not looking properly and not seeing pedestrians and cyclists, they do so because they are relatively invulnerable to harm in the event of a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist. While the vast majority of motorists do not out with the intention of killing or injuring anyone, it only takes a moments inattention to cause harm. Far too many driver don’t take driving seriously enough, distracted driving is an increasing problem repeated surveys have shown that people admit to using phones while driving, breaking the speed limits, etc. The UK has one of the worst records in Europe for child pedestrian and cycle safety, while having the lowest rates child pedestrian and cycle journeys. The introduction of a form of Strict Liability to the UK would not disadvantage the majority of drivers in any way, on the contrary it would be of benefit to them through lower insurance cost.

      Finally, as a former driving instructor, I would say that where there “a sober motorist was driving within the speed limit at a speed such that he/she could stop within the distance he/she could see to be clear and a drunk cyclist, previously stopped, emerged from a side road”, the driver should be able to anticipate and avoid the other party, no excuses. This is known as driving with due care and attention, it is the drivers responsibility to avoid going harm to others precisely because a motor vehicles are fundamentally dangerous. This is why we require people to take a test and hold a licence in order to operate a motor vehicle, driving is not a right, it is a privilege granted by licence. If you are not prepared to take responsibility for avoiding doing harm to others, then you should not drive.

  2. I think that SL also makes the important point that cyclists/pedestrians etc are allowed on the road, which sometinmes gets forgotten by motorists as well.

    Keep fighting. It does make sense to have SL. In fact the shrill voices trying to stop it are evidence that it is needed…

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