Scottish Road Share campaign steers presumed liability law towards Parliament

Cycling campaign group, Road Share, is drawing on expertise from organisations including CTC, Scottish Cycling and Pedal on Parliament as it steps up its campaign for Scotland to adopt a law of presumed liability against motorists involved in collisions with people on bikes.

Road Share’s Campaign for Stricter Liability is targeting the introduction of liability laws that would deem motorists automatically liable in incidents with cyclists, unless it can be proved that the cyclist was at fault.

As it stands, the UK is one of only five EU countries that do not have a presumed liability law in place, which are based on a hierarchy of road users, with the most vulnerable afforded the greatest protection.

Under the system there is a presumption of liability against a lorry driver involved in a collision with a car, for example, or against a cyclist involved in an incident with a pedestrian.

A petition calling for a change in Scottish liability legislation has been active since April last year and has attracted 5,500 signatures.

In order to focus its efforts on lobbying the Scottish Parliament for the legislation, Road Share has set up a steering committee.

The committee has been tasked with analysing the benefits of civil law reform on road safety while also lobbying MSPs for a Member’s Bill for presumed liability in traffic collisions to Holyrood in the near future.

According to Glasgow-based newspaper The Herald, the steering committee is made up of 14 individuals from a number of key cycling organisations, including CTC, Scottish Cycling, Cycle Law Scotland andPedal on Parliament which is coincidentally due to hold its third annual ride to Holyrood in Ediburgh this weekend to call for cycling-friendly Scottish roads.

Under the principle of presumed liability that Road Share wants to see introduced, in a collision between a car and a cyclist, the driver would be deemed liable and must pay full damages if the collision was unintentional by both parties and the cyclist cannot be proved to have been at fault in some way.

Similar laws operate in the majority of European countries, including in the Netherlands since the early 1990s.

Road Share references the continental cycling experience in a Q&A on its website where it cites strict liability laws as one of the contributing factors to the positive cycling culture in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

It says: “Those of us who have cycled on the continent know that there is a very different relationship between motor vehicles and cyclists, one based on respect that was brought about in part by stricter liability.”

The campaign’s steering committee is to be chaired by national cycling charity CTC councillor Dr Chris Oliver, while other prominent Scottish cycling supporting councillors Frank McAveety and Jim Orr are due to join him.

The founder of  Cycle Law Scotland, Brenda Mitchell, who established the Road Share campaign last year, spoke to The Herald about the formation of the steering committee.

She said: “I am very pleased to see representatives from a number of different key organisations come together to work on this very important campaign.”

You can keep up with Road Share’s progress via its Facebook andTwitter feeds.

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.’