Cyclists – “A Presumed Liability”

As a cyclist and PI lawyer, I have heard the calls growing louder for there to be  a “presumed liability” for motorists who are in collision with cyclists and pedestrians.

I was out cycling recently and had a very near miss with a passing car. The car driver decided that he wanted to overtake me when I was passing parked vehicles, squeezing through a gap that was not there, causing me to take evasive action before being hit. This was followed by a cry of “ffing cyclist” from the passenger in the passing car.

So what effect would a “presumed liability” law have for motorists in England?

Many cyclists will say that such a law will help make Britain’s roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians by increasing the awareness and caution of motorists.

The system, which incidentally operates in all but five member states of the European Union, would provide for a presumption of liability on a motorist involved in a collision with a more vulnerable road user such as a cyclist or pedestrian, unless the latter can be shown to have been at fault, rather than an injured cyclist or pedestrian having to fight tooth and nail to show on balance of probability, that a driver was at fault in civil cases brought at present, thus shifting the burden to the vehicle driver. but not to the extent that the motorist would be held criminally liable.

By adopting a “hierarchal structure” downwards to reflect the vulnerability of road users, would this not help to protect those who are more likely to be injured in a collision? Let’s face it, a cyclist will always come off second best in a collision with a lump of metal being driven at 20 mph. There has also been a number of cases recently with pedestrians being struck by cyclists, so would the presumed liability then continue along the chain. Why not?

It is argued that such a  law could help to improve road safety for cyclists and pedestrians, by encouraging more careful driving but the commonly held view is that there would be widespread disapproval by motorists to such a law. How would this work with insurance? Whilst motorists are required to be insured before they drive, cyclists are not and therein lies part of the problem. Cyclists and pedestrians can claim up the chain to motorists but how many cyclists have insurance to protect themselves if they were the party at the top of the collision chain? Or how many pedestrians would have liability insurance for causing accidents with other users of the highway?

Insurance could be made compulsory for all users of the highway, from pedestrians upwards, but there would always be a number who simply float the rules, as there is now with motor insurance. So would it work after all?  Presumed liability would be a start and I for one see no reason why it should not be implemented.

Tour ó the Borders!

What a difference a week makes.

Last weekend I was taking part in the Ride London 100, cycling around the busy streets (well busy with cyclists) of London and Surrey, during what is an enormous event and a real experience. It’s all a bit of a blur now though.

On Sunday I completed the Tour ó the Borders. A cycle ride around the beautiful and unspoilt Scottish border country. I would say that as I am biased of course, having been born just down the road from our event location. But this really is a fantastic part of the UK and missed by so many people travelling to / from Scotland as they pass the borders by using either east or west coast routes. Perhaps it’s best that way, to keep the area a secret. But if you never have been to the borders, it is well worth a visit.

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Our route for the day, took us south east out of Peebles towards Stobo Castle then on towards our first wee climb of the day at Dreva, turning off the main road and heading straight up hill, looking down over the Tweedsmuir valley. This was just a gentle warm up for what was to come as we hit the bottom of the Talla Climb. You can see the bottom of the climb from some distance as we skirt the loch edge but it’s only when you get closer that you can really appreciate how steep it is, going up to 24% on the lower part. A guy in front of me on a recumbent bike took the sensible option and walked straight away but I chose to push on up as far as I could, making it about 2 thirds of the way before being caught in traffic. I had to stop and that was it, climb over. There was no way I could get moving again. Another cyclist simply fell over, unable to pedal any further or get his feet out of his cleats in time.

But then we had to stop just short of the summit of Talla due to two major accidents on the descent. We had seen the air ambulance fly over our heads on the way up the climb and sadly, it was for one of our riders who took a major tumble on the tricky descent. A large number of riders were held up for around an hour, unable to go up or back down the climb, just waiting in the wind and rain. But it was the same as the week before at the bottom of Leith Hill as the riders all accepted the situation as our concern was with those injured further up the road. Nobody likes to see an accident involving another cyclist, it could so easily be one of us. The good news is that all of the fallers on the descent of the Talla were very lucky, albeit with serious injuries. As a fellow cyclist, I would imagine they were more concerned about their bikes!

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Once off the Talla we made it through to the Gordon Arms, with hot macaroni pies waiting for us. Whoever came up with the idea for these is a genius! Great food for cold, wet and hungry cyclists.

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After the feed stop came the next climb of the day up Berrybush, a long steady slog but after the climb comes the descent. Nice and straight, down into the next valley before our approach to Witchyknowe, rising up at a steady 7-8% for about 4kms, you can see the road winding upwards around the edge of the hillside ahead of you so just have to keep a steady cadence to the top, a great climb!

There was no time to ease off though, as straight after another feed stop (with more macaroni pies) we hit the bottom of Paddy Slacks, he last big climb of the day, which apparently was a corruption of “Pas des Lacs” (Pass to the Lakes). This pass was often used by Mary, Queen of Scots too, but not on a bicycle. Not as steep, but one to push on up and then a fast descent back to the Tweed Valley and onward to Peebles and the finish line.

This is a super sportive event, so well run and using great cycling roads in a beautiful part of the country. It is tough and the roads are tricky so well done to all who came and conquered the Tour ó. Huge thanks must go to those who organise the event, marshalled it and then cleaned up afterwards, although the good news is that there was just one rubbish bag filled from along the route afterwards. A great testament to all who took part in keeping the countryside litter free.

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Just one more sportive for me to complete my 5 to ride for Macmillan. Thanks for all the support along the way!

Ride London 100 (almost) ..

My first attempt at the Ride London 100 event came and went last Sunday. I completed the ride, got my medal and goodie bag at the finish and now move on to my next ride, the Tour o’ the Borders on Sunday 9th August 2015.

The event is extremely well run given the vast amount of riders taking part, yes there are long waits at the start, joining your wave and then queuing along with another 25,000 riders to get going. The information before hand is provided with plenty of time ahead of the ride but there still seemed to be so many riders turning up late to avoid having to wait.

We started right on time, at 08.21 heading out through central London with just the odd pedestrian to dodge when they tried to play “chicken” when crossing the road. There was even a lady, riding a mountain bike whilst wearing a pair of kitten heels. Hat off to her but as my cousin said, she was more impressed that I even knew what a pair of kitten heels are ..

It really is an experience to be on closed roads through central London and out to Surrey, the support from the public is superb. But I came away with a slight sense of disappointment. There were at times too many people on the roads, which made it very dangerous, mostly due to other cyclists not paying attention or sticking to the normal rules of the road, blocking faster riders trying to pass or pretending to be Mark Cavendish when clearly they were not. There were just too many crashes for my liking.

But it was also a day tinged with sadness as a participant, Stephen Green collapsed on the lower part of Leith Hill, in the morning. Despite receiving immediate medical attention he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Riders were stopped on the climb following the incident, before a diversion was put in place shortly after. There was some initial frustration from those behind with the slowing and bunching up but that was quickly muted when it was clear there was a serious problem up the road. We all wanted to complete the ride but it was a sad end to the day to learn that a fellow rider had died on the road. It put the day into clear perspective and thoughts go out to the family and friends of Stephen.

Next up for me is the Tour O The Borders on Sunday 9th August. Another 120km ride around the beautiful border region, although being my home region, I might be a little biased. I am looking forward to this one, stunning countryside, closed roads and hopefully some decent weather, should be a great ride! I will let you know how I get on ..

I have also nearly reached my fundraising target for the year of £2,500 and over the last 18 months, I have raised over £4,000 so a huge thank you to all who have donated and supported me along the way.

Chapeau!