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Cycling-related road rules under the spotlight

VicRoads has just released a report reviewing cycling-related road rules and there’s been some gross misreporting in the daily newspapers. Let’s set the record straight.

VicRoads have just released a wide-ranging report that reviews current cycling-related road rules and regulations.  At this stage, it is just a report with recommendations and it is a long way off being made into law. 

The report says “If VicRoads ultimately supports any of these recommendations, particularly those relating to changes to road rules, VicRoads will need to undertake extensive consultation with stakeholders including advocacy and interest groups (representing a range of bicycle riding, walking, older citizens, car user and disability interests).”

So now we come to the breathless reporting about driver liability, where apparently cyclists will never be to blame for any crash involving a car and a cyclist, or so some would have you believe.

In reality, the report ends with three recommendations, none of which actually recommend that cyclists be blameless.  Instead, the recommendations are a list of road rules that need revision because they aren’t effective in some way.

The ‘blameless’ bit comes from these two sentences:

“Introducing ‘strict liability’ where drivers are automatically liable when they crash with a bicycle rider (such as in the Netherlands), also emerged when considering new rules and changes to rules.”

The actual context for that one is a finding from a survey of councils.  Repeat – it is a finding. Reports have to list what their stakeholders say, whether they like it or not.  Note also this finding did not turn into a recommendation.

In a similar vein, the report also has this:

“Consideration of establishing liability and fault using strict liability processes”

in a section about stakeholder consultation. Again, it’s reporting what people raised, not recommending.

So what is this ‘strict liability’ anyway?  It is not a simple black and white rule where cyclists can do what they want, when they want and get away with it.   It is a concept that recognises that car drivers have the bigger and heavier vehicle, so should take more care.

The idea comes from the Netherlands which is perhaps one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to community cycling, so it’s fair to say if it works for those guys, it might work for us – certainly we could do a lot better when it comes to cyclists and motorists.   And the concept is a Dutch translation for which there is no English equivalent, perhaps a bit of meaning was lost in translation. In the Dutch version the onus is on the driver to prove cyclist is at fault, and if the cyclist is under 14 years of age the law sides with the child.

If you want to know more about the concept of strict liability (as it is in the Netherlands, not necessarily how it’d work in Australia) then have a read of this. If you want to read the VicRoads report for yourself, then you can find it here so you can make up your own mind.  On the other hand if you’d rather work yourself into a lather on the basis of a poorly researched clickbait headline you know where to go.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Ted
    June 25, 2015 at 9:49 am — Reply

    The report admits that cyclists use their mobile phones while riding so they should be fined – yet also suggests drivers should be automatically liable in any accident – aren’t those 2 points alone a total contradiction?

    • June 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm — Reply

      No. The report does not “admit”. It states they should be fined. The report also does not suggest drivers should be automatically liable, it reports that someone suggested the concept of strict liablity which is not the same.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper