Disgruntled correctly noted that some members of the European Union — notably Denmark and the Netherlands — have recently changed their laws to hold the driver automatically responsible for any accident involving a cyclist, except in the case of particularly outrageous and illegal behavior by the cyclist.
As appealing as that sounds, I doubt something like could ever be passed, or implemented, in this country. And frankly, I’m not sure that it should, having seen the way some cyclists ride around here.
However, the rational behind the law is sound.
As the law currently stands, drivers and cyclists share equal responsibility for avoiding accidents (although that’s not always how the police see it). But cars and SUVs are, by their very nature, dangerous vehicles. And in any collision between a two-ton vehicle and a 200+/- pound cyclist, the rider will inevitably come out on the losing end. Or as the European Commission document behind the proposal to extend the Danish and Dutch laws to other countries puts it, “Whoever is responsible, pedestrians and cyclists usually suffer more.”
Simply put, no matter who is at fault, if a car hits a bicyclist — or vice versa — the car may suffer a few hundred, or possibly even a few thousand, dollars in damage. But the cyclist is likely to suffer serious, potentially life-threatening injuries.
So let’s amend the law to reflect that reality. And put more responsibility to avoid an accident — and therefore, more liability in the event of an accident — on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle. Not all responsibility, but enough to reflect the greater vulnerability cyclists and pedestrians face on every road and at every intersection, every day.
L.A.’s only Flying Pigeon dealer tells how to save 30% one your very own FP. What can I say? When the name stops making me smile, I’ll stop writing about it. LACBC plans an ice cream ride this weekend. Toronto cyclists say bike lanes make sidewalks safer. The hot look for British cyclists this year is hi-vis. And finally, thanks to Damien at Streetsblog L.A. for Tuesday’s link to this series, along with Alex at Westside Bikeside, Gary at Gary Rides Bikes, Timor at Los Angeles Rides, and all the others who’ve helped draw attention to these proposed law changes.
[…] seems worth a look. And, while not actually about public transportation, BikinginLA is continuing his thinking about ways to legislate our way to a better biking world. Possibly related posts: (automatically […]
Yes, it’s true. Over here in the Netherlands, the law does say more or less what you’re suggesting.
However, changing a law only modifies the behaviour of drivers a small amount. The reasons why it’s always a delight to cycle here go very far beyond just this law change. Some drivers still aren’t very skilled, and problems due to lapses of concentration don’t respect national borders.
What really makes a difference is that you are generally riding at a distance from cars, and frequently have much more direct routes than if you should drive. It makes cycling a very attractive proposition, and that’s why everyone does it.