Strict Liability Laws in Scotland – let’s catch-up with Europe!

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For those who don’t know what strict liability laws are or how they work, I recommend the following (short) video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_Bq1vxCUvo

The reason why I raise this issue now is that Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) will debate the introduction of strict liability laws on the 29th of October. In advance of this debate, I contacted all the MSPs whose addresses I could get my hands on in order to outline my reasons for supporting the introduction of these laws and to urge them to attend the debate. Although some of the replies that I received (i.e. from Green/Labour MSPs) were resoundingly positive and supportive of the motion, the reply that I received from Gavin Brown (of the Conservative Party) came across as rather unsubstantiated in its opposition to the introduction of strict liability laws (but perhaps that’s just my prejudice speaking…). Have a look for yourself:

“Dear Mr Walton

Thank you for your correspondence.
The motion raises the issue of strict (or presumed) liability and provides the opportunity to fully debate the arguments in favour and against in the chamber.
The Scottish Conservatives want to see a safer environment for cyclists and support cycling being promoted as a carbon free alternative to short car journeys and as a worthwhile leisure activity to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Whilst every effort should be made to improve cycle safety we consider that there are adverse and unintended consequences associated with the inclusion of strict liability in any wider package of reforms.
However please be assured that we will listen carefully to the various views which will be expressed on the subject during the course of the debate.
I hope this is helpful.
Kind regards.
GAVIN BROWN MSP”
.
Needless to say, I replied to Mr. Brown inviting him to expand on what exactly the Scottish Conservatives foresee as being  the “adverse and unintended consequences” associated with a motion designed to protect the most vulnerable road users. I inform him that, as a cyclist who has been on the roads of Europe for 15 years, I am keen to hear about how such policies will have negative consequences that significantly outweigh the positive ones, and also curious as to why he thinks that these negative consequences (such as the emergence of a ‘compensation culture’) will apply to Scotland even though they don’t seem to manifest themselves on the Continent (where strict liability laws are the norm).
.

I also question Mr. Brown’s reliance on the soothsaying abilities of the Conservative party, and recommend that he just looks across the channel to learn about how these laws work in the numerous countries that have already adopted and maintained in virtue of their efficacy and general desirability. I inform him that, apart from the UK, only Cyprus, Malta, Romania, and Ireland do not operate a system of strict liability for road users, and I further suggest that his opposition to these laws actually maintains barriers to cycling that go against his supposed commitment to the promotion of cycling. I share with him my experience of cycling in Amsterdam, and explain how the psychological effect of these laws changes the way that motorists perceive people on bikes, ultimately providing vulnerable road users with an invisible but highly effective form of protection.

And lastly, I encourage Mr. Brown to give up his car and instead try riding a bike for a month so that he can learn first-hand what it is like to feel vulnerable and disrespected on the roads. I implore him to do this in the hope that the insight he gains in that short time will be more than enough to change his mind.

If you would also like to write to your MSPs to encourage them to attend the debate and vote in favour of strict liability laws, please visit the Cycle Law Scotland page: http://www.cycling-accident-compensation.co.uk/parliamentary-debate.aspx

See BBC coverage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-22155209
A
lso of relevance from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21366881
and: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-20302932

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