I refer to the opinion article by Brenda Mitchell (Journal, May 2013, 5) advocating “strict liability” when a cyclist is injured by a motor vehicle and when a pedestrian is injured by a cyclist, claiming that “the UK is currently one of only a small number of countries in Europe that does not operate a system of strict liability for road users”.
I strongly maintain that the UK is not in a position to adopt such strict liability legislation until huge improvements to infrastructure have been put in place.
In the Netherlands, Germany and indeed Denmark, to name but three, urban road layouts have dedicated routes for motor vehicles, dedicated routes for cyclists and dedicated routes for pedestrians, including priority layouts at junctions and roundabouts.
In the UK, the usual “cycle route” comprises faded paint lines on either side of the roadway, where the road is wide enough, and in South Ayrshire for instance, if the carriageway is too narrow, a painted depiction of a bicycle appears at the sides of the roadway, at sporadic intervals.
Such cycle lanes suddenly stop without any alternative route being suggested and, alarmingly, no action is taken to prevent cars from parking in them.
The result is that cyclists use the pavements, thus prejudicing the safety of pedestrians, or, alternatively, have to take their chances on the public roadway.
Until proper demarcation, as in the countries referred to, it would be utter madness to change Scots civil law to introduce strict liability. Cycle Law Scotland and its allies would be far more realistic in their attitude if they lobbied for that. Only after implementation thereof would it be reasonable to consider introducing of strict liability.
In the meantime, all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians should be trained to exercise consideration and compassion for all other road users, and the law applied against all those who fail to do so.George A Hay, D & J Dunlop, Ayr