Its not an accident until the jury sings.

There is a new law being proposed in the commons “Dangerous and Reckless Cycling Bill” to replace the old 1860 of “Wanton and Furious” behaviour on the road, or something like that. Anyway, 2 cyclists in the last decade have killed pedestrians, both were charged with this old law and sentenced to prison under it. Fair play, killing people is wrong and if you are cycling with negligence and cause someone’s death justice should be served. So, I do not object to the new law, I’m neither for nor against it, the old driving laws have been superseded by newer ones “dangerous driving” etc and so updated laws for cycling isn’t a bad thing. They will rarely be used.

However, why now? Cycling is not yet recovering from the massive dip in modal share of the last few decades and its recent “upsurge” has been modest by all accounts, but in relative terms, it appears there is a boom in cycling. And with this has come a boom in pissed off and ignorant motorists venting about ownership of the road, licensing, insurance and road laws, and to a vocal minority they think it is grossly unfair that cyclists somehow behave above the law. So now there must be new legislation to appease the baying motorists. Which in itself, is fine, as I say, most cycling legislation is fairly obvious and hard to argue with. But it is illustrative of an attitude of “anti-cycling” that is running rife in current society, conversely you could just say the attitude of “pro-motorists” is getting maniacal. Deaths or injury due to cyclists are rare, compare that with how many cyclists are injured and killed by motorists, yet when you look at the punishments for the motorists its beyond a joke. Its a parody of the just society, when a defendant admits to operating a HGV with bad eye sight and not using glasses despite requiring them and kills a cyclist to walk away with a fine is galling. Often this is due to the perception of driving being a right as opposed to a privilege, and that somehow drivers must be protected to allow them to drive especially if it is related to their job and so are given extremely lenient punishments despite killing a person. I’m fine with laws for cyclists being introduced and enforced, we are road users like the rest, but I damn well expect drivers to obey the rules set for them and for them to prosecuted and brought to justice as required. I’m afraid that means, I want more speed cameras, not less, I want strict enforcement of ASLs, and when someone kills someone with a vehicle, they are brought to justice. Vehicles are big, heavy and can be terrifying, when they are driven badly they are akin to a person wandering around a shopping street with a chainsaw swinging it around their heads.

The Guardian this week rejected Road Peace’s request to stop calling road collisions “accidents” and asking for the more appropriate “collision” to be used instead, namely because accident implies no one was at fault. Knocking a glass over is can be an accident, and it can also be deliberate, or it can be to carelessness or negligence, and the same can be true of collisions. Calling someone a collision is stating a fact, but calling something an accident implies innocence, the problem being that such collisions are being described as an accident long before police have finished their investigations or a coroner has given his verdict or a jury if required has decided if it is so.

Yesterday I was coming to a junction and riding in the middle lane of three, another cyclist was a head of me in the same lane. A van being driven by someone on an iphone without indicating accelerated from my outside between myself and the cyclist ahead to the inside lane because they were in the wrong lane. It was a “holy fuck, you fucking cunt” moment. The cunt was already breaking one law, driving badly and had he injured either myself or the other cyclist, it would not have been an accident.

I am well aware this is a singular incident in a journey involving cycling around hundreds of cars, and yet I don’t cast assumptions about all drivers, likewise, people who assume cyclists all jump reds or even as someone in the Economist implies, only environmentalist cyclists, can fuck right off.

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2 Responses to Its not an accident until the jury sings.

  1. Bibby says:

    The truth is there are just as many cycling dicks as there are motorist dicks, who flaunt the laws of the road because they feel no-one is watching. I fall into the category of being fucking terrified by cyclists, probably because I don’t check my blind spot often enough. I think what annoys drivers about cyclists though is that driving in a city is stressful as it is, and made more so by the cyclists who dart in and out of traffic, don’t wear helmets and breeze through red lights. A minority, fair enough, but still a perception that needs to be addressed. No one argues that death caused by driving is not a more major concern than maniac cyclists mowing down pedestrians.

    The attempt to rename car accidents to ‘road collisions’, however, is fairly ridiculous; I’m not surprised the Guardian rejected that. I think most people understand that car accidents could easily imply a drunk driver crashing into another car without having to enforce bland legalese that could extend to many other terms which don’t directly imply actus reus.

    • Roo says:

      While verbose, your comment is barely better than what we find on the DM, Bibs.
      Let’s start with the easiest comment, wearing a helmet isn’t mandatory and laws enforcing it would see even lower amounts of cycling with limited benefits. They are tested for falling over, not for impacts from cars, even then the evidence for them being good is still 50:50, so its pretty arbitrary if someone wears one.
      To say cyclists breaking the law aren’t be addressed is wrong as well, with ever more police forces responding to local gripes they are enforcing traffic laws for cyclists quite aggressively, not just RLJ and pavement riders but famously on some bus lanes which are not for cyclists. The rules are there and enforces, you don’t see every offender brought to justice, but you yourself have admitted to going faster than the speed limit in Richmond Park and not been fined, not have the vast majority of those breaking road laws. My point of the sudden interest in cycling laws is that its a petty get back at cyclists, and while dangerous driving is a major concern, it is often dealt with glibly. Little enforcement, inadequate punishments due to the protected nature of the “motorist”. For instance, show me a group of drivers, and I bet the majority are opposed to speed cameras, despite the fact that breaking the speed limit is an offence and therefore should be punished. While they may argue they are safe in their speeding metal shell, it is not so for those outside the shell, Britain has one of the best records for road safety of riders, but absolutely appalling when it comes to pedestrian (especially children) fatalities and cyclists, the vulnerable road users.

      Check your blind spots, that’s your bad driving not bad cyclists. I conversely get very stressed while driving, and don’t listen to the radio or talk much while driving because it requires so much concentration, I have never broken a road law, but then I rarely drive. Cyclists not only are free from blind spots but have the benefit of the extra sense of hearing traffic, even with music playing, you can hear cars, and can tell different engine noises to identify what type of vehicle it but also what the vehicle is doing (revving, coming close etc).

      Thanks for putting terms I had to google, I still think accident implies lack of blame, after another near miss where someone didn’t stop at give way lines and sailed across a junction where I had right of way, I think their negligence in either not looking right or not giving a damn, means its not an accident, its a fuck up, and should be referred to as a collision, which is hardly bland legalese.
      I think this also highlights that “accidents” are generally accepted as the norm in cars, apart from the impact of such when combined with heavy vehicles really makes them inexcusable. Which brings us back to the top of, people don’t get called out or punished for bad driving, even when there is a lot of it.

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