Any crash involving a cyclist and a larger vehicle will always be the larger vehicle’s fault. That is the message behind a proposal put forward by the Liberal Democrats, who want to ensure ‘justice for victims of accidents on the roads’.
The political party is calling for a “consultation on the introduction of proportionate liability rules so that the default assumption after a collision is that the larger vehicle is at fault”.
The proposal, from the policy paper entitled ‘Green Growth and Green Jobs ─ Transition to a Zero Carbon Britain’, would also see drivers fined simply for straying into a cycling lane.
“Make walking and cycling safer and more appealing. We would bring in a presumption of liability for motorists involved in traffic accidents much like the systems already operated in many other European countries, where the less vulnerable driver is deemed at fault unless proved otherwise,” the policy document states.
While protecting cyclists is an admirable cause, such a black and white system of blame does sound unfair – particularly from a motorist’s point of view. For one thing, it would benefit a cyclist in any situation regardless of whether the cyclist just skipped a red light, failed to signal or broke other road rules.
In the event of an incident between a car and a cyclist or pedestrian, presumed liability – also known as ‘strict liability’ – means it’s up to the vehicle’s insurer to prove where the blame lies.
Understandably, a number of driving groups are unimpressed, not least the AA. “The Highway Code is clear that motorists and cyclists must watch out for each other. If a driver does something wrong they should face court – the same goes for cyclists. And does this mean that cyclists will be presumed to be at fault whenever there’s an incident with a pedestrian?”
Critics are also concerned the power to enforce a cycling lane fine would make it even easier for greedy councils to rake in yet more cash, money that is seemingly spent on anything but the UK’s embattled roads.
Other points at the heart of the Lib Dem proposal include the promotion of cycle hire schemes, secure cycle storage at all UK train stations, a 20mph blanket speed limit for residential streets, cycling training in schools and the inclusion of cycle safety awareness during a driving test.
The Liberal Democrats will debate the proposals at a conference in Glasgow this September with a view to making it an official policy.