Olympic champion Chris Boardman has called for a new law that would presume cyclists to be innocent in road accidents.
Boardman said that Great Britain is just one of five countries in Europe that still places the burden on a cyclist to prove that the operator of a motor vehicle is at fault when involved in a collision.
The three-time hour world record holder is urging the U.K. government to change the existing law to introduce “presumed liability.” This change would mean that the operator of a motor vehicle that strikes a cyclist would be presumed to be the fault unless the motor vehicle operator could prove otherwise.
“This might sound melodramatic, but we are at a crossroads and we could go either way, and I don’t know which way it is. For the first time, we genuinely have a real choice, we could change our transport culture, the way we use our streets,” Boardman told reporters.
Tony Hannington of Lime Solicitors, a UK-based law firm that specializes in personal injury, strongly argues that this law should be adopted to protect the increasing number of cyclists in a post-COVID world. “Put simply: When there is a collision between a bike and a cyclist the cyclist invariably comes off significantly worse than the Driver,” adds the head solicitor of the firm. “As such, a presumption that the driver is at fault, and placing the onus on them to prove that they weren’t, seems a fairer starting point in the vast majority of cases.”
Hannington is keen to explain that while there is a legal framework in place to allow cyclists to claim if they have been in an accident, they still must jump through too many hoops to establish fault.
Similar to the state of affairs in the U.K., in much of the United States collisions between motor vehicles and cyclists often result in light penalties for the motor vehicle operator. Boardman notes, “Using a car is the best way to commit a crime because the penalties are so light relative to the damage caused.”
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down public transportation options, closed gyms, and forced many to make lifestyle changes which resulted in an uptick in cycling.
Boardman noted that, “We have got 1950s levels of traffic and it’s made it a nice environment.”
“What we need to do is give people that safe space,” he said. “The measures the government [has] brought in have been done for pragmatic reasons, not ethical or ecological ones.”
In the United States, cyclists struck by motor vehicles face many steep challenges in finding satisfactory closure and compensation.