Scottish Parliament to debate ‘strict liability’ laws

Scottish Parliament Bike Stands (copyright Simon MacMichael)

The Scottish Parliament will be asked to consider a change in the law to give cyclists and pedestrians extra protection under ‘strict liability’ laws this week.

On Tuesday, MSPs will debate a motion stating that the level of cyclists being killed on Scottish roads is ‘unacceptably high’ and that motorists should be presumed at fault in the event of a collision, unless they could prove otherwise.

The legislation would bring Scotland in line with many other European countries that already have similar laws.
The motion, proposed by Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Green Party, has already achieved cross-party support.

It reads:

That the Parliament believes that the number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland’s roads, including in the Lothian region, is unacceptably high; recognises that the Scottish Government has funded a number of national cycle safety initiatives; notes that versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries; notes that a number of walking and cycling organisations support the introduction of such a law in Scotland; understands that a petition by Cycle Law Scotland on this topic has secured nearly 5,000 signatures; considers that a stricter liability rule could have positive benefits for the safety of more vulnerable road users as part of a package of measures, and would welcome further debate on this proposal.

Ms Johnstone told STV: “The number of fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists on Scotland’s roads is unacceptably high. Versions of a strict liability rule exist in the civil law of many European countries and it could make a difference here as part of a package of measures.

“It is heartening to see MSPs from all parties agreeing that it deserves debate.”

She added: “To date the Scottish Government has dismissed the suggestion of looking at the idea; hopefully Tuesday’s debate will persuade ministers to think again.”

Earlier this year we reported the news that a firm of solicitors in Scotland had launched a campaign to have the country’s civil law changed.

The Road Share campaign, devised by Cycle Law Scotland, is backed by organisations including CTC Scotland, Pedal On Parliament and Lothian cycle campaign group Spokes, among others.

A connected petition has over 5,000 signatures in support of a change in the law.

Under such a system – more accurately termed ‘presumed liability,’ although ‘strict liability is the one used in the campaign – a hierarchy is established that places a presumption of liability that favours the more vulnerable road user – for example, where a cyclist has been struck by a car, the motorist is presumed to be liable, unless they can prove that the cyclist was at fault. The system only applies to civil cases, not criminal ones.

The firm says that introducing the system it proposes would meant that victims would receive compensation more quickly, the burden on the courts would be reduced, and road users’ attitudes would change, with a consequent improvement in safety.

Edinburgh-based Cycle Law Scotland says that the UK is one of just five of the 27 European Union member states – the others are Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania – where in such cases there is no ‘strict liability.’

Pedal on Parliament Edinburgh

pedal on parliament was amazing. Came across from Glasgow on the train

best kind of luggage

and then joined up with another Brompton rider who showed me a nice way down to Leith on the cycle path (old railway)

Joined up with a feeder ride in Leith

small leith feeder ride

then on to the park where the crowds got bigger and bigger

an hour before the start and already 1000 bikes

then a wait for the off

clogged meadow road

then down the royal mile

clogged pt2

and eventually to parliament where we could barely hear a word of the speeches on a feeble PA … but message to holyrood is strong if a bit silent …

FROM Pedal on Parliament SITE Just wow. When PoP thought of this we wondered if we might get 300 riders out. Then we raised our sights a little and started to hope we’d see a thousand. As we stood at the top of Middle Meadow Walk and saw the bikes come pouring in from all directions we began to think we’d started something big but we didn’t know how big until the head of the ride reached Holyrood while the back was still leaving the Meadows. The police’s conservative estimate was that 2,500 of you were out there pedalling on Parliament and we suspect it might be even more. In fact, we think that more people turned out to ride with us than have even signed the petition, showing the depths of feeling that was out there among people to see safer cycling.

2012-04-28 14.51.33

There will be more as we digest all the great photos and videos, blog posts and testimonies that have been pouring in since the moment the ride started to assemble in the Meadows. We’d like to thank you all who turned out – not just for turning out but for being such a great, good natured and patient crowd. We’d like to thank the police for their assistance at a ride that turned out to be up to ten times larger than they were expecting. And, with a few grumpy exceptions we’d like to thank the people of Edinburgh for allowing us to have our moment in the sun – and in many cases, cheering us on.

Please, keep posting your pictures on our Flickr group and adding your stories on the Facebook group, keep tweeting them your videos and blog posts, and keep signing the petition(which will be up for a few weeks yet before we formally lodge it with the Scottish Government. And keep watching this space – we need to keep in contact because, for all the warm words from our politicians at Holyrood today, changing government policy to bring about the real changes needed to make Scotland a cycle friendly country. We’ll let you know what happens next soon, but for now the (exhausted) people who brought you Pedal on Parliament are going to have an early night…