The Law and The Road: Things Must Change

Nearly a year ago I was furious at a legal system that completely failed to provide either protection for vulnerable road users or remotely appropriate punishment for people who kill on the roads.

That piece spurred a number of people into writing to their MPs to demand answers. And it’s time to be spurred into action now.

Because now, things are worse.

Things must change.

Another open letter to the British legal system

My dear legal system,

You’ve done it again.

The latest in a long, long line of your travesties was today’s clearing of Helen Measures for the death of Denisa Perinova.

Measures overtook on a bend, without being able to see far enough ahead to even slow-moving oncoming traffic with which she would become level whilst still on the wrong side of the road. On rounding the bend and suddenly seeing two people on bicycles coming towards her, she decided not to brake and abort the manoeuvre (“if I had been concerned, I would have stopped suddenly“) but consciously chose to continue to use their side of the road, and to pass close by them at speed.

Or, at least, so she hoped.

Tragically, Perinova was unable to keep to the small gap afforded her by Measures, and was flung nearly 50 feet, sustaining severe head injuries from which she later died.

My dear legal system, you allowed Measures to be entirely cleared of responsibility for Denisa Perinova’s death. You have told us that she is not a driver who is punishable by law; that her decisions are not punishable by law.

You allowed her attitude – “I can’t help it if a cyclist, falls over as I’m approaching them [at speed on the wrong side of the road, by my own volition]” (you can help it, simply by not putting all the elements in place for them to die if they do fall) – to be upheld in court as an acceptable attitude.

You stood by and allowed this life to be lost.

You allowed a third party to be punished with death for a minor and understandable mistake because of a driver who couldn’t wait a few seconds, hadn’t looked, and hadn’t changed her course of action once she realised she was entering into what is – to any reasonable driver – a quite clearly dangerous manoeuvre.

You have sent a chill down the spine of all of us who have faced that situation, myself included, of having our personal space invaded closely by a large and fast vehicle that had absolutely no right to be there.

Reports in the media have diminished Measures’ responsibility by pointing out that Perinova was allegedly a novice; but the truth is that even the most experienced cyclist needs space: a pothole, a puncture, a squirrel, even a gust of wind can cause any cyclist to require space that you – quite clearly – now permit others to freely claim as their own through fatal force.

You fail to ensure we have the space we need to stay alive. You fail us. To you, we are not worth standing up for. To you, our lives are less important than saving a few seconds of a car journey.

And this case is but a straw on the back of a camel that lies dead on the tarmac.

When I say you fail “us”, I don’t just mean “us when we happen to be on bicycles”. I mean all of us: whether we’re on a bike, on foot, on horseback, or in a car.

You stand by and watch all of us die.

Your failings are myriad.

You fail to recognise responsibility

By failing to hold Darren Foster responsible for Hope Fennell’s death, you have told us that driving an 18-tonne truck over a young girl and crushing her is not punishable by law.

By failing to hold Daniel Podmore responsible for Christine Harrison’s death, you have told us that losing control of a car and leaving the road as speed, resulting in a fatal impact, is not punishable by law.

By failing to hold Daniel Mackay responsible for Liz Brown’s death, you have told us that driving so close to the vehicle in front that you are unable to see other road users, whom you then kill, is not punishable by law.

You fail to accept that only one person is in control of a vehicle, and that they are what guides it to the death of others. You fail to accept the idea that a pedestrian’s or a cyclist’s mistake should not be punishable by their own death, whilst equally failing to accept that a driver’s mistake should not result in the death of others. You fail to recognise that it is perfectly possible to drive a vehicle in a way that ensures that anyone’s minor mistake does not result in death, and as a result you fail to set that as a required standard to which everyone can be held.

You fail to protect

By allowing these six killers back onto the roads within an average of just 21 months, you fail to protect those who share the roads with them.

By allowing Wayne Rogan back onto the roads within two years, you fail to protect people from a man with over 30 convictions for 70 offences.

By allowing Gary McCourt back onto the roads within five years of causing a second death, you again fail to protect those who share the roads with him. By allowing McCourt back onto the roads after his first death, you manifestly failed to protect Audrey Fyfe, his second victim.

You fail to accept that a driving licence is earned, that it should be a measure of responsibilty. You fail to accept that to permanently revoke it will not actually be a crushing sentence to the offender, who can easily access other modes of transport. You fail to accept that to permanently revoke it will reassure people that convicted killers and the proven most dangerous road users will be prevented from unnecessarily risking others. And by doing so you fail to ensure the safety of those you purport to protect.

You fail to punish

By fining drivers £300 for driving without insurance, you fail to punish people’s lack of insurance: the fine is cheaper than a typical policy and is only payable if detected.

By fining drivers £100 for irresponsible and distracting practices such as using a mobile phone, you fail to punish inattention and the projection of risk onto other road users. By applying such a low punishment, you fail to even convey the basic message that it is a punishment, with drivers referring to the affordable costs as “a tax on motoring”, which they continue to pay.

By fining Ichhapal Bhamra £35 for the death of Tom Ridgway (and, indeed, failing to actually hold him responsible for his death), you set a price on a life: a price below that of a fixed penalty notice that is viewed as a tax rather than a punishment.

By sending an aggressive motorist on an awareness course, you fail to recognise that a seemingly deliberate use of a car as a weapon and a subsequent verbal assault are not a matter of awareness, and you fail to punish entirely unprovoked violence.

By failing to imprison David Atkin for the assault on William Mak (even – bewilderingly – after stating during sentencing that the sentence “has got to be prison“) you again fail to punish the use of a car as a weapon.

You fail to see heavier and faster vehicles as demanding more responsibility than lighter, slower and less protected ones. You fail to recognise the differences inherent in the basic physics. You fail to punish those who drive in a manner which poses significantly higher risk to others. You fail to punish those who kill. And you fail to punish those who use vehicles as weapons.

You fail to be effective

By failing to keep these seven disqualified drivers off the road (and those were just the ones you actually caught, in just a week, that I happened to find reports of) you fail to demonstrate any power to enforce sentencing.

By disqualifying criminal children from driving for periods which do not even extend into their actual eligibility to drive, you make a laughing stock of yourself.

By allowing over 8000 people with up to 42 penalty points to continue driving, you fail to demonstrate any willingness to disqualify the most persistent offenders.

By creating the “exceptional hardship” loophole you explicitly open the door to repeat offenders and create a market for devious lawyers.

By cutting road policing you fail to apply the law and you allow deaths to rise.

You fail to apply even your own weak sentences. You fail to instil any confidence in your fitness for purpose. You fail to keep the roads from descending into lawlessness where, more and more, people are equipping themselves with video cameras in the absence of police.

You fail to remedy

By failing to adopt rigorous practice of investigation and recommendation, you fail to address any of these problems. You fail to recognise or address road design issues, satnav design issues, or indeed – seemingly – any systemic issues at all.

You fail to even see the problems as problems.

You simply fail to see.

You fail

In every respect, you fail.

It doesn’t really matter where your many failures stem from: the failure of the politicians to write good statute, the failure of the CPS to follow its own guidelines of prosecution, the failure of police to gather sufficient evidence, the failure of the Crown to convince juries, the failure of judges to pass decent sentences, or anything else. All of these things contribute to the same result, and all are fixable.

Your failings must stop.

The killing must stop. The maiming must stop. The needless tearing apart of families must stop. And for these to stop, the sacrosanctity of the driving licence must stop.

You failed Denisa Perinova as you have failed countless victims of road incidents. You should have been her safety cell, her crumple zone, her air bag. You should have been her protection from people who simply drive cars into people. This is your purpose. And at this, you fail constantly.

Things must change.

And things must change now.

It is time for you to adopt the following:

  1. mandatory lifetime revocation of licences for drivers who kill or who use a car as a weapon, to protect other road users
  2. mandatory lengthy imprisonment for those who drive whilst disqualified, to firmly deter reoffending
  3. the removal of the exceptional hardship plea, to close an absurd loophole
  4. clarification and simplification of the statutory definitions of existing driving offences, with clear guidelines for actions that constitute each offence
  5. such guidelines to be rigorously acted upon by the CPS and unambiguously explained to jurors and magistrates
  6. the introduction of presumed liability, to help rectify damage and injuries caused by users of more dangerous vehicles
  7. a zero-tolerance approach to safety-related offences such as using phones and speeding, to correct behaviour before it causes injury or becomes fatal
  8. statutory investigation of all fatal road incidents to result in recommendations, to reduce the death toll over time

It’s time for you to protect the vulnerable, to act as an egalitarian counterbalance to the basic physics of the vehicles that use the roads, and to actually seek to reduce death and injury.

And it’s time for us to make one hell of a noise in demanding that.

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28 thoughts on “The Law and The Road: Things Must Change”

    1. Agreed. Niceway code doesn’t work. Time to get real and show the true cost.
      great article. Needs sharing wider

  1. Excellent research and conclusion.

    However, there are always two sides to a story and yours is severely one sided against vehicle drivers.

    Let me be clear, I am in no way condoning the behaviour of some irresponsible vehicle drivers, I do however think there is another side.

    ‘Some’ Cyclists behave in a manner which indicates their complete and utter disregard for the law and more frighteningly, for their own mortality. Just follow the current police search for the Cambridgeshire cyclist who cheated death by inches crossing a level crossing when the barriers were down. We see the same people every day failing to stop at red lights.

    personally, I have driven on the UK roads for over 30 years with only one car accident – vehicle behind me wrecked my car by failing to stop. However, when I lived in ‘a’ city, my car was regularly damaged by cyclists squeezing through traffic jams. Cyclists of course have no ‘registration’ and no ‘insurance’ and neither do they pay road tax for the privilege of using the roads – vehicle users therefore have no method of recompense from this extremely limited number of irresponsible cyclists.

    I passed the Advanced Driving Test at my first attempt mainly because I believe driving is an art and also a privilege and I know I have no god given right – the same can not be said for the vehicle drivers you mention!

    In conclusion, I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly, but be fair and look at both sides.

    1. Are you trolling here?
      If I want to take the same anecdotal view of driving that you have, every day I see drivers fail to indicate, use a handheld phone/text while driving, jump red lights, tailgate, fail to give way to pedestrians at crossings, fail to indicate, pass too closely, speed… The difference is that when a driver does that it can easily turn deadly for the people around them, especially pedestrian and cyclists, whereas cyclists endanger almost exclusively themselves. In fact you noted that yourself, in the only accident you had another driver wrecked your car, but cyclists could do no more than scratches or dents.
      And then there is the invisible law breaking: driving without license, insurance, MOT, VED…
      Talking of VED, I guess that’s what you mean when you say “road tax”. An advanced driver like you could go to http://ipayroadtax.com/ to educate himself on the matter.
      Fuck being fair, cyclists casualties have been going up every year, and we’re tired of being treated like roadkill.

    2. However, there are always two sides to a story and yours is severely one sided against vehicle drivers.

      I don’t believe so: I drive more than I cycle, and I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that I can and should drive in a manner that anticipates other road users, as well as with the idea that if I choose to propel a ton of metal at up to 70mph then I should be responsible for the kinetic energy that it conveys.

      I don’t believe any of these arguments are either one-sided or against drivers; they are arguments which promote the idea of equality in terms of goals (getting from A to B safely), and if you want to say they are against anything, they are against the imbalance of physics with which people voluntarily arm themselves.

      Take the Measures case. I have seen countless similar manoeuvres; it is an epidemic. I have seen them as a cyclist who is being passed, as a cyclist who is oncoming, as a driver behind the dangrous driver and as an oncoming driver. As an oncoming driver I have had to perform a full emergency stop to avoid an overtaking idiot. As an oncoming cyclist I have been faced with an 80mph closing speed and a foot of space to play with (what if there’s a sidewind? what if a pheasant runs into the road? what if I puncture?). As a cyclist being overtaken, I have seen oncoming cars fleeing onto the pavement to avoid a collision, presenting risk to pedestrians who aren’t even on the road. All of these things are manifestly caused by an idiotic, impatient, dangerous overtaking manoeuvre and they present risk to cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. They present risk to people. It is insane that the law fails to recognise this.

      I am emphatically not arguing against drivers or against cars. I am arguing against idiots, and I am arguing for the degree to which they are held responsible to be proportional to the degree of physical risk they present. An idiot with a car is more dangerous to others (and thus should have more responsibility) than an idiot with a bicycle, who in turn is more dangerous to others (and thus should have more responsibility) than an idiot with just a pair of shoes.

      ‘Some’ Cyclists behave in a manner which indicates their complete and utter disregard for the law and more frighteningly, for their own mortality. Just follow the current police search for the Cambridgeshire cyclist who cheated death by inches crossing a level crossing when the barriers were down. We see the same people every day failing to stop at red lights.

      Some people are stupid, yes. If the stupid person is on a bike, they may get themselves killed. If the stupid person is in a car, a cyclist may get killed. Naturally, this is over simplifying things a little, but this is the physics of the matter. The biggest and the fastest wins the deathmatch. It is quite right to point out that some people are stupid, but quite wrong to imply that a legal system which supports death – arbitrarily that of the first or an innocent third party – is acceptable.

      It is the vehicle difference that is crucial. We control licence firearms in this country. We don’t do the same for catapults. But kids with catapults can still do plenty of harm with them if they’re stupid enough. It’s just that it’s rare and the consequences are usually minimal. Cyclists are a curious anomaly whereby some people are concerned about even the tiniest risk, where risks of similar consequence in all other areas of life are perfectly acceptable.

      However, when I lived in ‘a’ city, my car was regularly damaged by cyclists squeezing through traffic jams. Cyclists of course have no ‘registration’ and no ‘insurance’ and neither do they pay road tax for the privilege of using the roads – vehicle users therefore have no method of recompense from this extremely limited number of irresponsible cyclists.

      Road tax doesn’t exist of course, and were cyclists to pay VED they would be in the zero-rate Band A, and would incur an administration cost to the DVLA of several million pounds, so let’s not go there.

      What happens when you park in a supermarket and a driver has reversed into your rear lights? Or opened their door into yours and dented it? Or a pedestrian has pushed a trolley into your wing? How are you going to chase up these people? Are you willing to propose shopping licences for the “extremely limited number” of irresponsible trolley pushers?

      The risks of these things seem broadly similar to the risks posed by cyclists, and that is the reason that cyclists are not required to have third party insurance. Though, in fact, many do: any who is a member of CTC, British Cycling, London Cycling Campaign or the numerous other groups with third party insurance, as well as those who voluntarily purchase it.

    3. “Just follow the current police search for the Cambridgeshire cyclist who cheated death by inches crossing a level crossing when the barriers were down. We see the same people every day failing to stop at red lights.”

      One of many videos currently on Youtube.

      Personally Iv been very surprised at the media coverage of one cyclist doing something stupid with little or no mention of car drivers doing exactly the same thing in a vehicle that could easily derail a train.

      Regarding your both sides comment –

      There are no cases of cyclists killing innocent drivers – and because there is not its not a case of “both sides”. And although Iv only skimmed the above examples are there any that can be attributed an illegal action from a cyclist?

  2. I believe in what you say whole heartedly. Why has the law failed vulnerable road users for so long? Why does it seem not to care for cyclists, horse riders, runners walkers or anyone not in a car/truck/tank.

    I am saddened by the links in your article.

    I hope that the law can see the light and changes its ways. By the cynic in me can not see this happening.

  3. Our environment should belong to all of us without fear of death, all that is being achieved by current policy is to drive people off the streets. Why do we no longer see children playing in the streets, why do we see so few people walking and cycling? Why are the numbers suffering from asthma rising?

    The adiction to cars has to stop. Too many people are killed or seriously injured each year and for what gain? we need to regard the car for what it is a tool, rather than as some statement of identity.

    Car drivers need to understand that they have no right to the road, they are there by licence! The courts need to enforce the conditions of that licence for everyone’s benifit.

  4. I simply can’t get my head around the fact that this is “acceptable” in modern society. In no other mode of transport would you have no follow up training, no further testing, minimal liability or consequences and the ability to drive a vehicle substantially different to the one you first trained in that only requires one cursory check every year.
    Imagine if there was this level of death on the railways or in aviation. There would be national outcry! Yet somehow, when it relates to cars, it’s “just one of those things”, an acceptable price of freedom of movement.

    The whole legal system and the whole ethos of car ownership and use needs to change, urgently.

  5. Shocking stuff. Its an off repeated adage that if you want to kill someone in the U.K. get behind the wheel of a car and mow them down.

    Motorists cannot rely on the logical fallacy of tu quoque to advance their argument. So what if some cyclists go through red lights, so what if some cyclists are rude and aggressive, so what if they wear lycra and shave their legs etc etc.

    None of that changes the fact that a motorist is sitting on top of a large heavy box of metal with a powerful engine that can kill (with impunity it seems in this country). Until the law is properly weighted and enforced with regards to cyclist safety these events with be more and more common

  6. When I shared this article I was unaware that you had highlighted Liz Brown’s death. Her Fiancé and my ex-work colleague, Andrew, has contacted me today after I posted a link to this page. He again expressed the devastating consequence of issues like this, yet many of is still read it as just another line in an article. These are real people who are killed due to bad, irresponsible and downright dangerous driving.

    Yes I agree 110% their are idiot cyclists out there, no lights, no helmet, jumping red lights, etc. I have seen it all before and it infuriates me that people can be so lax with their own lives. I posted about the Cambridge crossing incident myself yesterday because it infuriates me and gives the anti-cycling brigade more ammo. How would that train driver have felt if had killed that cyclists through no fault of his own? Having to live with that. But in the same way not every car driver is a speed freak or a drunk driver not every cyclist is a lycra clad moron. The difference here however is that people who play fast and loose with large, heavy, fast vehicles cause more devastation than somebody perched on 20lbs of aluminium.

    In the case of Helen Measures for instance here is somebody who overtook on a bend at 40/50mph, unable to see if the road ahead was clear, within her safe stopping distance whilst in the wrong lane. How is that allowed? If she had struck a pram and killed a baby what would people say?

    My Cycling Club Captain made an excellent point, and uneducated rants about “Road Tax” just endorse his comments. When drivers see a cyclist perhaps slowing them down or waiting in the bike box at a junction they get annoyed, they see a nuisance, a liability, an idiot on two wheels who is in their way. They don’t see somebodies son, somebodies mother, wife or friend. Perhaps its a nurse, a policeman, charity worked, etc. Now apply that attitude to other walks of life. Would you go online and rant about people due to their religious beliefs, country of origin, disability or sexual orientation? Of course you wouldn’t, its simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated by law. its called discrimination yet people will happily lambast cyclists safe in the knowledge they can.

  7. Ok so let me put this to you all, Why if you claim all of these rights etc. do cyclists not pay road tax? or insurance, or many of you completely disregard the rules of the road, such as red traffic lights and one way streets….the problem is you all feel you are fully entitled to all of the privileges of being on the road and none of the costs, it has to change in order for you to get the advantages or rather the rights you claim you deserve. Now I am not condoning the terrible driving done by a lot of the examples you have put up, in fact I abhor the fact that the motorists have gotten away with killing or even seriously injuring people, when they are clearly in the wrong, HOWEVER you cannot always put the blame on the motorists, often the incidents arise where the cyclist has put themselves in an untenable position, maybe what is needed is better education for all, cyclists and motorists alike, and an equality of responsibility and punishment. As opposed to trying to put all the blame on one side.

    1. Why if you claim all of these rights etc. do cyclists not pay road tax?

      *sigh*

      Again (maybe read the other comments before diving in?), it doesn’t exist. Even if you mean VED, any vehicle emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 (which a cyclist does by a considerable margin, not to mention that their carbon comes from more sustainable sources) pays nothing. Have a go at Nissan Leaf drivers. The administration cost to the DVLA of tax discs for bicycles would run to tens of millions, so would be pure public expenditure and zero public revenue.

      or insurance

      Because the risk presented is miniscule. It’s the same reason we don’t mandate insurance for kids riding scooters, or joggers, or people playing football on the park, or people pushing trolleys in supermarket car parks. The risks, both first and third party, are low enough not to warrant it.

      But many cyclists do have third party insurance through various organisations. Again, mentioned above.

      many of you completely disregard the rules of the road, such as red traffic lights

      Lots of people disregard red lights. “Over 5.2 million (14 per cent) motorists admit that they drive through an average of two red traffic lights each month.

      Lots of people disregard other laws, too. “82% of motorists questioned said they sometimes or frequently drive over the speed limit” whilst “48% [of drivers] admit risking their own and others’ safety by chatting on a phone while driving“.

      I don’t know where you’re driving but I see vast numbers of people in cars breaking safety-related rules every day, without fail.

      And the thing is, if an idiot on a bike causes an accident with a responsible person in a car or lorry, the person on the bike gets injured or killed. Whereas if an idiot in a car or a lorry causes an accident with a responsible person on a bike, the person on the bike gets injured or killed.

      You see how one is arguably physics administering “justice” whilst the other is physics acting in totally the opposite way? That’s what the law needs to balance.

      the problem is you all feel you are fully entitled to all of the privileges of being on the road and none of the costs

      OK, here’s the thing. Even if we ignore all the huge flaws in that argument, I pay VED on two cars. I pay insurance on two cars. I pay for insurance on the bike. I am trained to drive, and I am trained to ride a bike. I have passed tests for both. Now, leaving aside the fact that roads are paid for by general taxation rather than VED, and the fact that the costs to the public purse of motorised transport; by the time you factor everything in, significantly outweigh the revenue attracted by VED, fuel duty and other motoring-related taxation, and also leaving aside the fact that bicycles have statutory right to use the roads whereas motor vehicles do so only by licence, surely with all those motoring taxes I’m paying, I deserve some rights there?

      HOWEVER you cannot always put the blame on the motorists

      And indeed I wasn’t. I think the blame should always be on the person who contributed most to the danger of a situation, especially one that results in injury or death. And, crucially, that danger is a sum contribution both of people’s actions and the physics involved. That’s why we let responsible licensed users shoot guns at firing ranges, and why we’re happy to let children play freely with spud guns. We don’t require a child with a spud gun to obtain a firearms licence.

      The motivation here is not to blame someone else (as I said, I drive more than I cycle), the motivation is simply to stop people being killed.

      1. The video was ok, and made some similar points to me, In my second post below, as I said my biggest issue is the assumption of blame, and considering in that study it was 56%-44% its pretty damn even on that count. The lack of vision was a point I also made, as I stated vehicles have blind spots and if you ride in them, you are asking not to be seen, and you are more than likely going to get knocked off, but thats the drivers fault of course for not looking properly or thinking bike, not! That comes down to poor riding. And yes I do ride as well as drive before you ask.

    2. The number of uninsured cyclists is minuscule – did you know that all home contents insurance policies cover 3rd party liability by the policyholder and members of their family living at the insured address for almost anything they do when not driving a motor vehicle?
      That’s because the level of risk imposed on others by cycling is so low that it isn’t worth the cost of separating it out from other personal liability. The £21 for an annual cycling specific policy is basically just to cover the administrative cost – the risk element is almost too low to measure financially.
      That’s in addition to the insurance obtained through membership of many cycling organisations.
      Uninsured cyclists are almost certainly rarer than uninsured drivers.
      As for “road tax”, try that argument on the next police car that stops you. They don’t pay VED either.
      Neither do fire engines, ambulances, any motor vehicle with a CO2 emission level of less than 100g/km, the disabled, and many other groups.
      And as already pointed out, even the sum total of motoring specific taxation does not cover the cost of the roads – motoring is subsidised heavily from general taxation.
      Yet non-motorised road users are heavily discriminated against by the legal profession, as described in the original post.
      The legal profession should be made liable for any damage, injury, or death caused by a motorist who has come before them but been allowed to continue driving, because they surely share the blame for the appalling standard of driving seen regularly on our roads, simply because they fail spectacularly to apply the laws that parliament has put in place.
      Operating over a ton of life threatening machinery in a public place is a privilege, and the courts should be far more ready to remove that privilege from those who show they are unable or unwilling to do so in a way that does not risk the life & limb of all those who use the roads by right.

  8. Gavin, you’re new here aren’t you? Let’s break this down very clearly and simply.

    1. Around 80% of cyclists also own a car.
    2. Roads are paid for out of general taxation. Therefore, if you pay taxes, you pay for the road.
    3. This argument breaks down completely when you apply it to pedestrians, who don’t just get to use roads for free, they get special infrastructure built for them. What a bunch of freeloading shoe-happy bastards.
    4. This post is about the utter failure of the justice system to protect a vulnerable group of road users. It’s got nothing to do with “rights”, unless the right in question is to arrive at your destination alive, not smashed to a pulp by someone who was in a hurry to get home from the garden centre, or texting at the wheel, or being paid by the load to deliver material to a building site.

    1. It’s not even solely about vulnerable road users. It’s about everyone: people on bikes, people on foot, people behind the wheel, people in the passenger seat, people on horseback, people in mobility scooters… everyone.

      At least one of the cases mentioned involved the death of a passenger in a single-car incident. Why should they die? All of these things are avoidable by better driving, yet the law says that a standard of driving that proves regularly fatal is perfectly fine.

  9. Bez, I will accept what you say about the tax, as i know you are right there, however the insurance risks cant be ignored, lets use a nice example i witnessed the other day in London, of a cyclist who was riding on both sides of vehicles, until he got to a point where a car was part way through changing lanes, thus stopping his progress, the cyclist got angry at this and proceeded to repeatedly kick the passenger door of said car causing a reasonable amount of damage. Now the car driver is buggered, he can report it to the police of course, but lets be fair the odds of finding said cyclist are minuscule.Unless the car owner got hold of him before he disappeared, there are no ways to legally identify the cyclist, leaving the car owner with a nice bill to fix their car. I’m suggesting that insurance be a prerequisite for any form of transport that uses the road, as well as some form of licence to prove competency (I know look at some of the awful drivers on the road), maybe there should be a harder, more stringent test to enable people to drive/ride on the road.

    I have also seen plenty of cases where pedestrians have been put at risk or hurt by cyclists, riding very poorly, again, no way of identifying the offender, no claim for any injuries caused, unlike motor vehicles.

    With regards to the redlights etc. once again many lights now have cameras on allowing motorists to be penalised for their offences, once again cyclists cannot be easily traced. And of course far worse injuries await cyclists who jump lights etc, as they chose a far more vulnerable mode of transport, key word here is chose. They have made an informed choice to get onto a bike where they are much more vulnerable to injury and death, knowing that this is the case. Now I for one believe that there should be designated areas for cyclists on the roads, but who is going to pay for them, oh everyone, well thats fair as you have already pointed out that we all pay for roads.

    Here’s my question for you, why should cyclists have a statutory right on the road, surely if they are as dangerous as you have described then the law should protect you and prohibit use of such dangerous machines on our roads….

    I agree with you fully about the person to blame for the death taking the consequences, my problem stems from the fact that any accident between a car and a bike or even for that matter a motorbike, the fault ends up at the door of the car driver (certainly where insurance is concerned) far too often, when the cause comes from riders not considering their own safety, and the manner in which the are behaving on the road. I drive a van in London (mainly) for a living, and cannot begin to count the number of times I have nearly hit a cyclist or a motorcyclist, because they have decided to over and undertake at the same time, not even beginning to think about the fact that vans, lorries etc, have big blind spots, and if we cant see you then we sure as shit cant be held to blame if we hit you.

    Overall though the biggest cause of accidents and deaths stems from peoples lack of observation, and awareness of themselves and others on the road, and this applies to everyone on the road, and once again points to me that maybe we all need to take a test every set number of years on any form of transport we use on the public highway, to prove that we are indeed safe road users.

    Anthony
    Yes I am new here, and I accept your analysis that 80% of car owners also own a bike as a rough estimation, why not. Not that it impacts any facts of behaviour on the road but ok.
    Yep as I said above ok on the road taxation point, however insurance and licences are a different entity entirely, as I mentioned above.
    I will point out that the Justice system is bound to have failures, it was devised by humans after all, and we are all fallible after all. I notice in all of your examples the motorist is to blame, and whilst I accept that everyone can cause an accident its not always the fault of the motorist.
    Yes I agree that if you are proven to be at fault then you should face punishment, its the assumption of blame that is my big bone of contention.

    1. the cyclist got angry at this and proceeded to repeatedly kick the passenger door of said car causing a reasonable amount of damage. Now the car driver is buggered, he can report it to the police of course, but lets be fair the odds of finding said cyclist are minuscule

      I’m not sure of this, but I don’t think third party insurance would cover malicious damage to property, which on the face of it this appears to be. Otherwise people would be able to take out insurance and then smash stuff up freely.

      I think your concern here is that he’s not easily traceable. But that’s also true of anybody who vandalises anything in the street, mugs people, steals things, keys a car when it’s parked, pushes a shopping trolley into a car – all sorts of things. And, indeed, I wouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of tracing a driver in many cases. With a car, you don’t always see the plate reliably, let alone remember it – and rarely do you get to see the physical appearance of the driver. In fact you don’t even know who’s driving: even if you can identify the car, quite often at least two people have access to it.

      I’m suggesting that insurance be a prerequisite for any form of transport that uses the road, as well as some form of licence to prove competency (I know look at some of the awful drivers on the road), maybe there should be a harder, more stringent test to enable people to drive/ride on the road.

      You know what? I’m not *hugely* against the idea of insurance, because it’s ridiculously cheap. A year’s third party insurance for a bike, with £1m of liability cover, costs £21. That’s a tenth of the cost of my car insurance even with about 10 years’ no claims discount. That’s a vague illustration of the degree of risk there: even a 17 year old could insure a bicycle for the price of a pub lunch, rather than paying into the thousands for a car.

      A test for the road? A more stringent one for driving, I’m absolutely with you. One for riding? Well, I see the sense behind it; but really we have to consider that we should be providing means for everyone to get around easily, regardless of their abilities or their economic position. It’s important, socially and economically, that we have an efficient form of commuting transport that is available to all. In certain other countries, they provide safe segregated cycle routes where even totally untrained small children are safe. We don’t do this; we provide roads with cars and lorries. And as a driver I’m perfectly happy with the idea that I should drive in a way whereby I don’t kill people who make minor mistakes. Driving in such a way keeps them safe, it keeps other road users safe and it keeps me safe. And it doesn’t make me late for work or anything.

      So, if we had a predominance of safe, segregated infrastructure for “unqualified” and less financially advantaged people, then I’d be more inclined to agree. But I think enabling everyone to travel efficiently and cheaply is more important.

      Bottom line is, though, the emphasis on training may be a big red herring: check out some figures for the proportions of car vs cyclist incidents regarding the fault attributed to each party. In the great majority of cases, the fault (regardless of the outcome in terms of the physics) is with the trained and tested and licensed users. On that evidence perhaps testing is a bad thing ;)

      I cannot begin to count the number of times I have nearly hit a cyclist or a motorcyclist, because they have decided to over and undertake at the same time

      I drive mostly on a dual carriageway during the week, and motorcyclists do this all the time. They’re entitled to (actually, a lot of them do it whilst breaking the speed limit, which they’re not entitled to) and that’s the long and short of it, really. None of it justifies people ending up dead, and to me it seems not unreasonable that all parties should ensure the safety of each other.

      maybe we all need to take a test every set number of years on any form of transport we use on the public highway, to prove that we are indeed safe road users.

      Certainly plenty of sense in that.

      Thanks for the debate, by the way. It’s good to have some dissent: that’s what starts change.

  10. Gavin, there was no “assumption” of guilt in these cases. Read the links. They’re part of a long-standing pattern of drivers doing stupid things with terrible consequences, but getting off lightly. http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/cycling-against-car-culture.html

    There’s good evidence that sentences for motoring offences are getting more lenient even as others get stiffer: http://road.cc/content/news/95163-crimes-have-become-more-likely-attract-custodial-sentence-last-decade-unless-they

    There are more cameras but the numbers of actual police have been cut drastically. The roads are a scary place to be at the moment if you happen to ride a bike.

  11. I absolutely agree – can you get a petition to the government on this? I am fed up of being treated like a second-class citizen and am regularly put in danger just because I choose to use a mode of transport that reduces congestion on the road, reduces pollution of my city and the planet in general, conserves valuable and dwindling natural resources (oil), is enjoyable, benefits my health greatly and presents little to no risk to others.
    Luckily I am a hardy soul who takes the regular attempts at my life on the chin and keeps coming back for more, some who try it are callously murdered by the weapon-toting maniacs who fill the roads, and many many others who would benefit greatly from the joys and convenience of cycling are put off from even trying it, and that is the greatest tradgedy.

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