One of Britain’s top cyclists, who is expected to be in the running for a gold medal at the Olympic Games this year, has called on the government to instigate a change in the law to remedy what appears to be increasing cycle accident rates on British roads.
Earlier this year the road accident statistics indicated that the number of serious injuries and deaths from traffic accidents involving cars had decreased slightly compared to last year, but the figures for cyclists had increased by 8%. At the time it was a little uncertain whether the figures reflected poorer attitudes towards cyclists on British roads or that there were simply more cyclists on the roads for a variety of reasons.
Whatever the reason, cycle safety campaigners have contrasted the worsening accident situation in Britain with many other European countries, where cyclist safety seems to be taken more seriously and injuries have decreased.
The cyclist who has made the call for changes in the law, Mark Cavendish, said that in several European countries any driver of a vehicle which is involved in a collision with a bicyclist is presumed to be to blame unless they can definitely prove that the cyclist was at fault.
In Britain, by contrast, any cyclist who is injured and is attempting to claim compensation for injuries, must prove that the vehicle was at fault for the claim to have any chance of success.
In Sweden, part of the vehicle insurance premium is allocated to liability for compensation claims in the event of a collision between a cyclist and the vehicle.
Mr Cavendish says that the situation in Britain is one where driver attitude towards cyclists and their presence is in a process of evolution and at the moment lags behind consciousness in many parts of Western Europe. He says that it is the changes in the law in those countries which has led to a change in the way in which drivers have changed their behaviour towards cyclists who share the public roads with them. The fact that they could be heavily penalised in the event of a collision made them give more respect to cyclists.
Mr Cavendish said that he didn’t think that British drivers had a particularly negative attitude towards cyclists; it was just that they did not think carefully enough about the possibility of an accident taking place. He admitted that he was often quite scared cycling on British roads.
Mr Cavendish’s remarks look as if they are going to fall on deaf ears with the Road Safety Minister, at least for now. Mike Penning, the Minister in question, said that he saw no reason for changing the law as this would unfairly penalise car drivers.