Strict liability: why it’s a life-saver

Tufty Club book cover (RoSPA)

Whenever ‘strict liability’ is mooted, UK motorists react with horror. Yet it’s normal in the Netherlands for cyclists (and pedestrians) to be given this sliver of protection.

Who is at fault in bike v car smashes? In the Netherlands, it’s always the motorist at fault.

In this very short video, Hans Voerknecht, International coordinator, Fiets Beraad (‘Bicycle Council’), explains how this works in practice.

‘Strict liability’ doesn’t mean ‘terrorist cyclists’ smashing into static cars for compensation payments: motorists are not liable in these cases. But, when moving, motorists have a duty of care not to hit vulnerable road users.

The UK is only one of four Western European countries that doesn’t have ‘strict liability’ to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

Strict liability entitles a crash victim to compensation unless the driver can prove the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault. In the case of children and the elderly, or those with physical or mental impairments, motorists would be liable irrespective of the victim’s actions.

Strict liability encourages more careful driving (and cycling, because a cyclist would be deemed to be at fault for crashing into a pedestrian). Strict liability would be a matter of civil rather than criminal law so would not affect criminal prosecutions.

Strict liability is supported by: The Environmental Law Foundation; Safer Streets Coalition; Play England; Roadpeace and CTC.

For more on strict liability, read what Roadpeace and CTC have to say. There’s also an excellent 2007 article in New Statesmen by Mark Lynas. The comments section after the article contains poignant contributions from the families of some road smash victims.

Sadly, the comments were later added to by some incredibly unfeeling motorists. And, of course, as is almost always the case, there was a ‘get orrrrffffff my road, I pay for it’ comment:

“Motorists pay for the roads so if you don’t drive then don’t complain about the cost (we pay more than the government spends on roads so we subsidise public transport).” ‘Rixington’.