This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 94.
Less icy than last year
It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that, once again, Cambridgeshire fell under a blanket of snow this year. The previous two years saw a mountain of complaints about lack of gritting of routes used by cyclists.
However, this year’s response by the County Council to the weather conditions seems to have been considerably improved. We received very few complaints, and while things were certainly not perfect, it is clear that the improved arrangements, outlined later in this Newsletter, made things much easier. Parker’s Piece, to take one example of a major cycle route, became passable much more quickly and did not end up as an ice rink (except for the real ice rink there! – about which, incidentally, we received no complaints this year, so well done to the organisers and the City Council’s planning officers).
The use of a quad-bike to clear the snow led to coverage in many parts of the UK’s cycling press, and we hope that other areas of the country will try out such an innovation. Rob King’s account in this Newsletter certainly makes clear the massive difference this has made.
We welcome comments from members about your experiences this year and where you feel improvements are still needed, given the reality that resources have to be spread around the whole County.
Strict liability, sometimes called ‘stricter liability’ or (my preferred term) ‘proportionate liability’, has raised its head again in cyclists’ discussion forums around the UK. It concerns the concept – common on the Continent – that the liability (and duty of care) of one’s actions when using a road should be proportional to the degree of danger which you present to other road users.
Many in the cycling community feel – as the Campaign does – that this would lead to greater levels of care being taken by car drivers when encountering cyclists, and by cyclists when encountering walkers. It would, we feel, lead to a cultural change where the potentially more vulnerable road user in a situation is given a greater duty of care.
It would not affect the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because this is nothing to do with criminality. It simply seeks to redress the unfair situation that a pedestrian knocked down by a car (for instance) is put in the situation of having to prove that they were not at fault, when they are in the worse position of either party to do so. This is recognised in a statement in 1982 by Lord Denning, who said:
‘There should be liability without proof of fault. To require an injured person to prove fault results in the gravest injustice to many innocent persons who have not the wherewithal to prove it.’
The creation of a new campaign ‘Stricter Liability for Us’ (see later in this Newsletter), modelled on the ‘Twenty’s Plenty For Us’ campaign, is a major step forward and we are pleased to lend our support to this.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator
John Renton died in August last year, leaving a suicide note that read ‘Life was much sweeter with Buddha than Richard Dawkins’. John moved back to Cambridge (where he had obtained a PhD in engineering in 1963) after spending most of his career in Oxford. He joined us on many leisurely rides and helped stuff and deliver your newsletters. His fascination for the magic of life is very sadly missed.