Hello. Author here
Far better to accept personal responsibility and be aware of our own and others safety than to expect to be protected by the Judicial System.
I fully agree. Cyclists should be responsible and competent and law-abiding road users.
I am a great believer in the idea that you make your own luck, and that it's possible to anticipate a lot of dangerous events before they become incidents.
But not all.
Mary Bowers was in a legitimate part of the road, fully visible to the driver behind, waiting at the lights, and the vehicle drove straight over her from behind because the driver didn't look and wasn't giving his attention to the road.
Elizabeth Brown was killed because she was hit from behind by a driver who was tailgating another vehicle. Even his defence lawyers said she was blameless.
Tim Sanders was killed by a motorist who hit him from behind whilst on the phone.
There are many, many cases like this. In all of these cases, the victim was doing nothing wrong and was entirely law-abiding and responsible. (Indeed, if Mary Bowers had jumped the red light she would have avoided the incident.)
In the first case, a small fine was given. In the second, the driver was acquitted. In the third, no charge was even made, despite the driver fleeing the scene and - as far as I can ascertain - the witness doing nothing to help.
There are two arguments to be made.
One is that the law does not recognise the massive difference in kinetic energy and corresponding potential danger between a bicycle and a car or other, larger motorised vehicle. I can understand why you might be comfortable, if you focus on equality of legislation rather than equality of protection. I disagree, but there are valid points on either side and both positions are tenable.
But the second is that where a vulnerable user does absolutely nothing wrong and is injured or killed by someone driving into them, the law fails them. To a sickening degree. I think that to argue that this is acceptable is not a tenable position.
Personally, I am broadly comfortable with risks that occur in front of me. I consider myself a responsible and diligent (and experienced) road user.
But some dangers, notably those that approach at speed from behind, are entirely outside my control. My - and your - only protections are the good intentions and aptitude and alertness of the driver behind. And my problem is that the law falls way short of reinforcing that fact in the minds of less vulnerable road users.
That is the issue that I would like addressed.
A couple of analagous questions for you: If someone wanders through a city late at night and is mugged or stabbed, do we just say they knew the risks and do nothing more? If a woman goes out for a drink in the evening, meets a man and is raped, do we just say they knew the risks and do nothing more?
So if a cyclist rides along a road and is mown down from behind by a car, so we just say they knew the risks and do nothing more?
I hope we can at least agree on the answers to those questions.
And I'm sorted for Christmas, but thanks
I think you make some good points in your original letter but I think the fact that's its aimed at the Judicial System is unfair, hence my previous comments. Yes, the law is supposed to protect us from crime, but there isn't a law in place that doesn't get broken at one time or another. To imply we are all failed because the law has been broken I think, is fairly extreme. The analogous you present all have laws to discourage them from happening, but the law can't prevent them. As you say, lots of situations that take place daily on our roads are entirely outside our control, but many are also outside the control of the law.
I agree that you make your own luck or you become experienced enough make the right judgement in a situation. I see cyclists on roads I wouldn't dream of using, accidents waiting to happen. In the cases you've presented, of course if the evidence is there for a conviction a judge should use the maximum sentences. However, I've sat on jury service and seen how the clear cut case can become very blurred.
I think some practical steps towards accident prevention may be more useful. Night time driving as part of the driving test. Compulsory eyesight tests every 5 years and full retests every 5 years after 65. Basically, vehicles and bikes don't mix, so some infrastructure changes may also be beneficial! Maybe a TV cycle safety campaign would help, although its never really benefited motorcyclists! Although that should include bells and lights on bikes as well as driver awareness. It takes two to have an accident.
Anyway, your letter raised an important subject for us all. Have a great Christmas