Government changes that could save the lives of cyclists
The UK government has unveiled 50 new proposals to help protect cyclists from traffic collisions and meet their needs while on the road.
The majority of the new proposals relate to planning and law-making in regard to cyclists, but several may lend to the safety of those who prefer to bike it to work rather than drive.
One proposal, for instance, provides financial incentives to drivers.
The government suggests that motorists may become more cyclist-aware if they take a course, which they are encouraged to participate in for a cheaper insurance rate. According to the BBC [link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46303370]:
“Andy Dodwell, a cyclist and driver from Barnstaple, Devon, said the idea made "so much sense", adding he would "gladly go on a safety course" - especially if there was a financial incentive. Lorry driver James McNamara said he had already been on such a course and found it "very enlightening". He would "certainly recommend" that drivers of both "large and small vehicles should take it".”
The Association of British Insurers, however, were less enthusiastic about the idea, claiming that in 2017 "less than 0.1% of motor claims involved cyclists", and it would be "hard to see how this could have any meaningful impact on premiums".
"I'm not sure that would have any benefit whatsoever," said Roger Lawson, of the Alliance of British Drivers. "Most motorists are aware of cyclists and have, as in my case, been cyclists in the past. Often they are current cyclists."
Mr Lawson described the proposal as “gesture politics” and suggested that many drivers would be reluctant to participant in such a scheme.
The government also promised to review the ways in which people claim for compensation after being involved in a road traffic collision in a bid to compare how the UK fares in relation to other countries.
The UK goes against the tide of most European countries by putting the onus on the cyclist to prove, in the event of an accident, that the driver was the one at fault.
"To encourage motorists to behave more cautiously around them, if there's an accident involving a motorist and a cyclist, the presumption is that the motorist is responsible for the accident," explained Mark Hambleton, a lawyer and expert in cyclist personal injury claims. "It just flips that responsibility for proving guilt and innocence on its head."
Mr Hambleton pointed out that the cyclist is "presumed to be the vulnerable road user" throughout the majority of Europe when personal injury claims arise, with the UK very much in the minority.
He added: "You have to improve infrastructure for cyclists, increase awareness and change the culture we have at the moment.”
However, the Association of British Insurers claimed it would "certainly oppose any change to make drivers automatically liable in accidents involving cyclists", putting the government under pressure to provide any proof that such policy changes would actually make cyclists safer on the road.
Another proposal suggests that local councils be granted the use of cameras to catch motorists who drive in cycle lanes.
At present, car users can be fined for parking in cycle lanes but cannot be punished for driving in them. One cyclist told the BBC that cars parked in cycle lanes were a “huge issue” in London, forcing cyclists to move "out of the cycle lane, into main traffic."
Another cyclist stated that drivers parking in cycle lanes were "a nightmare... especially when you're somewhere busy", while on the flip side, another driver suggested that it should be "obligatory for cyclists to use dedicated cycle lanes where they are provided.”
Cycling UK head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore stated that: "Although it's already an offence to park in a mandatory cycle lane, the reality is that the decline in police traffic numbers means this has been widely ignored and rarely enforced.
"Giving local authorities the power to enforce this offence with CCTV cameras is one of the simple solutions Cycling UK proposed in our response to the government's cycling and walking safety review."
One cycling enthusiast explained that any governmental proposals that help cyclists feel safer on the road can only be good for the UK.
"I don't think people realise how vulnerable or how frightening it is to be a cyclist," said the anonymous cyclist.
"Anything that makes people aware of the vulnerability and safety of other people on the road is a good step in the right direction."