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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:31 pm 
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Bez wrote:
Hello. Author here :)

Robbied196 wrote:
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 ;)


Welcome aboard Bez and Merry Christmas, Its a small world the cycling community :lol:

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 :)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:36 pm 
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Robbied196 wrote:
It takes two to have an accident.


Um, surely Bez's examples demonstrated quite clearly that it doesn't. It's entirely possible for a cyclist to be doing absolutely everything within their power to remain safe and still be run over.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:11 pm 
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Robbied196 wrote:
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.


That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that when the law is broken, it does nothing. People are given derisory and toothless sentences, or they're acquitted, or they're not even charged. It propagates the "it's not your fault that you drove into someone, shit happens" message and does so very clearly.

Robbied196 wrote:
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.


I agree with much of this (though not the bell :)). I would love to see more stringent testing and I'd love to see full retests for everyone every 5 years, plus 2 years after first passing.

I personally believe cars and bikes can mix perfectly well on all but 50mph+ dual carriageways - the vast majority of drivers behave safely and courteously. Additional infrastructure is, IMO, beneficial for dual carriageways and urban routes with high cycling traffic, but I'm primarily in favour of measures that make for safe co-existence, because that gives benefits everywhere with no extra tarmac needing to be laid.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:17 pm 
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Location: Anglesey
I detest many things about my hometown (Stevenage) but the one thing they got spot on when planning the new town areas, was a complete cycle track network - every single dual carriageway had a totally seperate, parallel track and every main roundabout had multiple underpasses and a sunken 'mini-junction'. I guess it would cost an obscene amount to overhaul existing road systems like that, but it does make me wonder why other suburban towns didn't implement that kind of thing at the planning stage.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:32 am 
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MikeD wrote:
Robbied196 wrote:
It takes two to have an accident.


Um, surely Bez's examples demonstrated quite clearly that it doesn't. It's entirely possible for a cyclist to be doing absolutely everything within their power to remain safe and still be run over.


I think you'll find if you get run over, you'll have been in an accident :)

Unfortunately, no matter how blatant the cause of that accident may be it has to go through the judicial system to determine who is at fault and whether to prosecute them. Hopefully there will be a witness, a good police traffic report and maybe CCTV, but sometimes there isn't. The law can't operate on assumption of fault, only on the evidence that's presented with.


Last edited by Robbied196 on Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:47 am 
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Alright, there are the semantics of having and causing an incident. I'm sure no-one here is daft enough to actually misunderstand the difference.

What blame do you think could be attributed to the cyclists in the above cases?

Cars are supposed to leave "as much space as for a car" - basically the entire lane - and this is specifically so that should the cyclist swerve, whether this is due to a road hazard or a sidewind or a puncture or whatever, they will be safe.

Therefore if you are proceeding along an open road and are struck from behind it should be almost impossible to blame the party who is struck. If you've ever had a car accident which is a shunt from the rear then you'll know that these claims almost always go through with no fuss because apportioning blame is normally trivial.

I assume you're familiar with the concept of presumed liability? The above is an example of the insurance industry applying de facto presumption of liability.

There are good arguments for statutory presumed liability, precisely for the reason of addressing your points about witnesses, CCTV etc.

In one case above the defence explicitly absolved the cyclist of all blame in the incident. Subsequently, the law absolved the driver of all blame. This is a quite explicit statement that if you drive into the back of someone who is using the road blamelessly and you kill them, you are yourself blameless.

I defy you to defend that status quo.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:47 am 
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Koupe wrote:
I detest many things about my hometown (Stevenage) but the one thing they got spot on when planning the new town areas, was a complete cycle track network - every single dual carriageway had a totally seperate, parallel track and every main roundabout had multiple underpasses and a sunken 'mini-junction'. I guess it would cost an obscene amount to overhaul existing road systems like that, but it does make me wonder why other suburban towns didn't implement that kind of thing at the planning stage.


My views have been unpopular on this subject before, but I feel there should be a network of cycle ways covering every major and minor destination. Totally set aside from vehicular traffic. Lots of people suggest this would lead to cars always assuming you should not be on shared roads, but my feeling is that the cyclist should have the choice.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 15, 2006 10:42 am
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Alright, there are the semantics of having and causing an incident. I'm sure no-one here is daft enough to actually misunderstand the difference.

What blame do you think could be attributed to the cyclists in the above cases?

Cars are supposed to leave "as much space as for a car" - basically the entire lane - and this is specifically so that should the cyclist swerve, whether this is due to a road hazard or a sidewind or a puncture or whatever, they will be safe.

Therefore if you are proceeding along an open road and are struck from behind it should be almost impossible to blame the party who is struck. If you've ever had a car accident which is a shunt from the rear then you'll know that these claims almost always go through with no fuss because apportioning blame is normally trivial.

I assume you're familiar with the concept of presumed liability? The above is an example of the insurance industry applying de facto presumption of liability.

There are good arguments for statutory presumed liability, precisely for the reason of addressing your points about witnesses, CCTV etc.

In one case above the defence explicitly absolved the cyclist of all blame in the incident. Subsequently, the law absolved the driver of all blame. This is a quite explicit statement that if you drive into the back of someone who is using the road blamelessly and you kill them, you are yourself blameless.

I defy you to defend that status quo.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:13 am 
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Location: Shrewsbury
Bez wrote:
Alright, there are the semantics of having and causing an incident. I'm sure no-one here is daft enough to actually misunderstand the difference.

What blame do you think could be attributed to the cyclists in the above cases?

Cars are supposed to leave "as much space as for a car" - basically the entire lane - and this is specifically so that should the cyclist swerve, whether this is due to a road hazard or a sidewind or a puncture or whatever, they will be safe.

Therefore if you are proceeding along an open road and are struck from behind it should be almost impossible to blame the party who is struck. If you've ever had a car accident which is a shunt from the rear then you'll know that these claims almost always go through with no fuss because apportioning blame is normally trivial.

I assume you're familiar with the concept of presumed liability? The above is an example of the insurance industry applying de facto presumption of liability.

There are good arguments for statutory presumed liability, precisely for the reason of addressing your points about witnesses, CCTV etc.

In one case above the defence explicitly absolved the cyclist of all blame in the incident. Subsequently, the law absolved the driver of all blame. This is a quite explicit statement that if you drive into the back of someone who is using the road blamelessly and you kill them, you are yourself blameless.

I defy you to defend that status quo.


I still think its easy to point the finger and blame the judicial system. Its very emotive to select cases where the punishment definitely doesn't fit the crime. However, many judges are just as infuriated by the limited legal framework they sometimes have to work within.

Most people would assume if you run over and kill a cyclist you could expect a custodial sentence. The judicial system has limited resources and the courts have limited custodial sentences available to them. Petre Beiu's crime sits in a list of cases some of which are going to be far worse. The death he caused was by his own negligence, but it will be considered an accident and unlikely that he would become a serial cyclist killer. We already lock up more people than anywhere in Europe so obviously the law does act.

If Petre Beiu's case was in court along with a random city center stabbing and you as the judge can only give one custodial sentence, which one do you give it to?

Its also easy to talk about the requirements of the law on the roads, "Cars are supposed to leave "as much space as for a car". Most road deaths are caused by speed and a cyclist can be considered just as vulnerable as a pedestrian. The 30mph speed limits are there because the chances of survival for an adult pedestrian are 50/50 at 30mph. At 35mph there is an 80% chance they will be killed. We all know 30mph limits are flouted regularly on all our roads. If we can't enforce our 30mph speed limits, what chance is there for leaving as much space as for a car when passing a cyclist?

I don't mean to sound like, 'its shit, so you just have to put up with it'. I agree there are laws there which should protect vulnerable road users but the practicalities of implementing them nationally 24/7 are impossible. Which leaves us with the situation of taking every precaution you can to look after yourself.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:46 am 
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highlandsflyer wrote:
Koupe wrote:
I detest many things about my hometown (Stevenage) but the one thing they got spot on when planning the new town areas, was a complete cycle track network - every single dual carriageway had a totally seperate, parallel track and every main roundabout had multiple underpasses and a sunken 'mini-junction'. I guess it would cost an obscene amount to overhaul existing road systems like that, but it does make me wonder why other suburban towns didn't implement that kind of thing at the planning stage.


My views have been unpopular on this subject before, but I feel there should be a network of cycle ways covering every major and minor destination. Totally set aside from vehicular traffic. Lots of people suggest this would lead to cars always assuming you should not be on shared roads, but my feeling is that the cyclist should have the choice.


Fortunately, someone had the immense foresight to build a complete cycle and pedestrian network in Shrewsbury, its been there for at least 30 years that I know of. It would be interesting to compare the pedestrian and cycle accident statistics to a similar size town with no network.


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