Cycle road race world Champion Mark Cavendish, who recently missed out on his hoped for Olympic glory, has called on ministers to impose tougher penalties on drivers in order to help reduce the number of accidents involving cyclists.
In an interview with The Times, in support of their ongoing Cities fit for cycling campaign, Cavendish explains how in the Netherlands and Belgium, the driver is always liable in a crash with a cyclist, unless there is evidence to the contrary. He ponders whether if this was the case in the UK, would drivers automatically be more alert to and wary of cyclists for fear of prosecution.
In most of Europe the onus is on drivers to prove their innocence in collisions resulting in civil law suits for damages. The reverse is true in Britain, where cyclists or their families have to prove that the driver was at fault if they are to win a civil action.
A British cyclist is three times more likely to be killed than a rider in the Netherlands and twice as likely as a peer in Denmark or Germany. The UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only countries in Western Europe without some degree of liability. In the Netherlands, the driver is presumed to be at fault in all civil cases involving children. Drivers are also held liable in Sweden, where compensation payments are paid through a charge levied on car insurance premiums.
Asked what single change would be most likely to improve cycle safety, Cavendish said: “The realisation that a consequence will come without looking out for cyclists. If you hit a cyclist there is a life gone. If it is embedded in your culture that cyclists are around it just raises awareness. It has got to be an evolution over time.
“That is the point. They don’t do it to penalise drivers over there. They do it so that drivers have to look. Ultimately in Belgium as well if a cyclist jumps a red light there is a severe punishment. I believe I am the first to stand up and say cyclists have to be more responsible as well. Cutting a red light might just aggravate someone who will take it out on a general cyclist.”
What is your opinion on this matter? Does more need to be done to legally protect cyclists? Have you had a bad experience where you have been forced to prove your innocence against a careless driver?
To see the interview in full visit The Times website here