Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown has revealed plans for a new road safety campaign ambitiously called the “Nice Way Code” (your report, 30 July).
While it’s always good to see campaigns to improve road safety I can’t help but feel disappointed that he has chosen to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a television and poster campaign which offers merely words and very little action.
It’s particularly surprising to see his commitment to this initiative after he dismissed proposals for a strict liability regime which would have instantly brought Scotland into line with the majority of Europe, created a friendlier environment for all road users and would have cost significantly less.
It is not good enough to say “be nice to each other”, and leave it at that, especially when the government has the ability to do something far more substantive.
By changing Scots civil law, we would see a much greater, longer lasting impact on the culture among drivers, cyclists and pedestrians rather than what can be achieved through a here-today, gone-today advertising campaign.
Despite Mr Brown’s exhortations that road casualties are down, the fact is that the roads are not safe for cyclists.
Official figures released by Transport Scotland just last month revealed the number of cyclists killed has steadily risen over the past five years and already nine have been killed this year so far. It’s unacceptable.
Is the “Nice Way Code” going to make any difference to the number of road deaths caused?
I can only comment from my own experience, but as a lawyer who deals with victims and the families of victims involved in road traffic collisions, it seems to me that far more needs to be done about the way our legal system handles road safety.
I deal with people every day who have been either seriously injured themselves or who have lost a loved one and who have been let down by the criminal justice system.
Civil law improvements to protect the vulnerable in road traffic collisions are urgently required. The government should reconsider its dismissal of strict liability regimes and bring Scotland into line with the rest of Europe.
I understand the motivation behind this initiative is to improve road user relations but I can’t help feeling this money and time could be much better spent in so many other ways including training, investment in infrastructure and stricter liability.
Cycle Law Scotland
The Scottish Government is spending £500,000 on a road safety campaign called the “Nice Way Code”.
This initiative asks drivers to give cyclists more space and overtake them with care while cyclists are asked to obey red lights and not cycle on pavements.
This money might have been better spent on improving cycle lanes since the cycling campaign group, Pedal on Parliament, said education campaigns, unless backed up by visible enforcement, achieve very little. (Think about the money wasted on numerous anti-litter campaigns.)
I would point out that Highway Code Regulation 69 makes it clear that the cyclist is subject to the same laws as the motorist.
Regulation 64 is short and to the point: “You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.”
As far as I’m aware, no cyclist has ever been charged with dangerous cycling (maximum fine £2,000) or careless cycling (£1,000) because the guilty individual vanishes, having no identification. Despite it happening every day in every town in Scotland, no-one appears to have been fined for cycling on the pavement (£500). Why? It could be construed that the police have been instructed not to tackle cyclists.
David Rice is spot on when he refers to cyclists “failing to attract the attention” of motorists (Letters, 30 July). This is often because they are effectively invisible, having neither high-visibility clothing or lights.
There is probably the same proportion of dim-witted and reckless cyclists as there are motorists in the general population.
The former, though, are at terrible risk in a collision if they cannot be easily seen.
Drivers have only a split second to co-ordinate hand, eye and foot when, say, a dark shape suddenly appears on the bend of a country road, or in rain, in bad light, faced with oncoming traffic, etc.
Dramatic improvement in roads, cycle paths etc is not going to happen any time soon (our built environment and infrastructure are too decrepit, compared with most cycling-friendly European countries). The idea that strict liability will mean the motorist is always held to be responsible unless it can be proved otherwise is a non-starter until cyclists can demonstrate that they are doing everything in their power (high-vis, effective lights and a bell) to be responsible road users. It should be the law, and be enforced.