KILLER CYCLISTS

A cyclist has been fined for causing the death of a girl. Initially, the ‘story’ was that he was riding on the pavement, It seems this was not true, or that the editors chose to exercise some poetic licence in their presentation of the facts. The account believed by the court was that the pedestrian was in the road. This doesn’t make the fine one tenth enough, but neither does it make it any bigger than a car driver just as carelessly yesterday, and we will never hear about it. Worse, the pedestrian might have been blamed.
The law is clear, it says that the cyclist must be able to stop to avoid any visible obstacle. Failure to do so implies responsibility. This obviously also applies to every motorist who kills a pedestrian who steps suddenly off the pavement into the road. The motorist can see the pedestrian, and the possibility that they would step into the road is always there. So they were going too fast and weren’t prepared. Therefore they are guilty.
Although in this case the cyclist claimed he was able to stop, in general, if the cyclist is near enough for his voice to be heard, and going fast enough to knock a person down, he will probably not able to brake without a collision. When braking hard in that kind of situation, it is likely that the bike will go out of control, and attempting to slip through a gap can often seem to the cyclist to be the safer option.
So what if the roles were reversed? If the girl had knocked the cyclist off his bike when she stepped into the road without looking, and killed him. Should she go to prison?
Given that the driver of a car which kills a pedestrian who steps into its path probably wouldn’t go to prison, then she probably shouldn’t for causing the death of a cyclist – under the current scale of values. Cyclists should be aware that pedestrians are always likely to ‘trespass’ on the road, either accidentally or not. Naturally, drivers need to be ten times more aware of this.
Similarly, I saw a little old lady bounced off the pavement into the road by a careless jogger only a month ago. She was shaken, but not damaged, and the jogger was desperately sorry, but it could have been very different.
So should pedestrians therefore be taxed, licensed and have registration plates, as some idiots are now demanding for cyclists? Taxing bikes would certainly make a lot of people abandon cycling, which is the point, after all.
Every cyclist has faced the situation when there isn’t quite time enough to make the right decision. When the brain simply freezes in panic. Likewise, if you put yourself in the position of this poor girl, you could say that she should have jumped. In theory, she had the time, but she didn’t.
In Theory, it is everyone’s responsibility to look out for their own safety. So if we were all to share the same space, rather than fight across vaguely defined boundaries for scraps of disputed territory, everyone would keep themselves safe, and few would die, as traffic-sharing systems tested in Europe have shown. Territoriality and competitiveness cause as much danger on the road as anything else. And the this fierce competition is caused, as always, by overcrowding. An overcrowding which callously writes off thousands of lives every year as another of the acceptable overhead expenses of keeping the wheels of commerce turning.
In some parts of the world, legal minds would be twitching in anticipation of class actions on a grand scale. After all, what’s the difference between the acceptable collateral deaths of road transport, and those of the tobacco industry? Both are caused by activities which are a matter of ‘choice’. And in the U.S. the tobacco barons famously lost.

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