Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Strict Liability - we need it NOW!

(Photos: Flickr, Amsterdamize, "Freedom")

"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding"
Upton Sinclair

Bicycle Helmet laws favour:

* Australian Politicians

* Australian Rich

* Australian Car-culture

* Big Oil

Bicycle Helmet laws are:

* discriminatory

* contradictory

* largely unenforced

Yet, we could turn this around in an instant by insisting upon the repeal of bicycle helmet laws - simple as that!

But wait there's even more useful stuff we could do! Along with the long-overdue repeal of bicycle helmet laws, we could also introduce "Strict liability" in order to finally shift the onus of responsibility onto the actual road users who inflict the most catastrophic damage of all

...(now read Carlton Reid's post on this issue - including his thoughts on separate cycleways)...

Anyhoo, back to our unfair restrictive head-gear protocols - our draconian laws are forcing cyclists to wear helmets even though 'eminent academics' cannot agree on the 'outdated-blanket claims' that 'helmets save lives'!

In fact all that can be reasonably claimed, 20 years down the track, is that:

- data is confusing & confused,

- 'eminent academics' are confusing & confused

Why then are we denied the right to opt in or out?

"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary! - just refer back to Mr Sinclair's opening remarks!!!"





  1. I tried replying to Carlton's surprisingly popular, but rather odd and confused post, but my reply didn't appear there for some reason.

    He's barking up the wrong tree. Strict liability came rather late in the Netherlands. Before it arrived, there was already a high and growing rate of cycling, with cyclists enjoying exceptional safety by world standards.

    The liability law actually has very little effect. Cars are mostly not where you're cycling. Even where roads are "shared", routes by car are not the same as routes by bike.

    As a result, you don't have regular attempts to prove who was at fault in a collision. You simply have fewer incidents in the first place.

  2. Have to agree with David here. Strict liability is just one of the tools needed for cycling safety. As you have just returned from your trip away to Holland you would notice that not all roads have separate paths.
    The RTA have been providing poor advice for the Sydney cycleways project and I wouldn't be blaming the nature of separate paths. You need a raft of measures to improve cycling like separation, slower speeds and safer junctions.

  3. David, I suppose I'm so desperate to see a shift in the road sharing climate here, that the notion of strict liability is somewhat appealing, and something we're sort of used here in Australia in terms of speeding (motor vehicles), parking, and even bicycle helmet wearing. Currently the authoritarian consensus is that if a bicycle is involved in a collision with a motor-vehicle, it's more than likely the former's fault because they didn't make themselves seen or...god knows...other pathetic excuses. Basically the 'poor darling motorists' never mean to hit 'cavalier cyclists' and certainly wouldn't have if unfortunate cyclists were more visible etc etc - you get my drift.

    So I think maybe 'strict liability' could help turn around motorists' existing behaviour if not attitude - I really like the idea that it's always the motorist's fault (in fact, very much indeed!!!!)

    Martin, thanks for the link - certainly makes the case for separate cycleways as part of the whole cycling equation for a nation - and yes we certainly did notice when we were cycling over there that not all Dutch roads had separate cycleways.

    Have you sent this link to the RTA? They could certainly do with some examples of workable solutions!! The separate entity just opened in College Street is more like a contained swimming lap-lane than a free-flowing cycleway - it's so disappointing - it could have been great!! – it should have been great!

    I totally agree with your 'raft of measures to improve cycling' comment - shame you're not the boss of the RTA!!!!

  4. Agree with all comments here, David, Martin & Sue. I know how frustrating it is here and all we can do is make more noise!

    Another problem with Australian streets is that even if the speed limit is lowered the physical roads are engineered for high speed driving - and modern cars can handle it which is rather frightening. The roads need engineering such that the speed limit is about as fast as is physically possible to go in a motorised vehicle.

    I'm sure you've all seen this horrendous story from the USA about a cyclist (transplant surgeon) who was disabled in an impact from a car, whose driver fled the scene. The car driver (a funds manager) won't face serious charges as a conviction might hurt his career... what about the surgeon's career? Oh... that's right... he doesn't make other people lots of money for doing nothing.

    (bit sleep deprived here after being on-call so apologies if I come across a little agitated!)


    Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  5. I just put another of Mark's videos on my blog. It shows how a road which looks like it is "shared" is actually the result of some quite careful planning (even though it sometimes arose accidentally).

    It's really not what many people from outside the country think it is. For drivers this is for access only, while for cyclists it is a busy junction and through route. This is the reality of most "shared" roads in the Netherlands. There is very often segregation of modes without cycle paths.

  6. I wonder if we'll ever be able to achieve what you have, David - so incredibly sensible and logical which probably means it'll never happen here.

    Sad story, Paul

  7. Data that is confused is not data that is confusing. It is, in fact, the signature of a particular kind of event; the randomly occurring one. A common term for such data is "noise."

    If you make a change in a system and it turns out that the longer and harder you look for its effect, the more confused and conflicting the data becomes - the more certain you can be that the effect has been null and that the data is just noise.

  8. ha! ha! kfg, noise it is then - wish I could switch it off right now!

  9. I think the terminology being used by cyclists all over is becoming somewhat clouded. Strict liability is unlikley to be popular, and certainlt wouldn't be something any Government would look at with such a lobby group of motor manufactuerers and insurnace companies.... What's needed is a 'presumption of liability'ie rather than telling somebody that they are at fault, shift teh burden to tell them to prove why they are not.

    see this article

  10. Hi,

    I hear and read about these arguments a lot. What is not always clear is exactly what is wanted. there is some confusion in the terminology.

    Hopefully this article clarifies matters