Lorries & Cyclists – Legal Differences between US & European Law

An interesting article in Velonews recently was written by Bob Mionske, ex competitive and Olympic Cyclist who went on to practice at law school. He also has a cycling blog on http://www.velologue.com, has a legal website (www.bicyclelaw.com) AND even has written a book, on Bicycle Law, even though I don’t know how he finds the time.

I found out about it because he had picked up one of my posts on Council training bus and lorry drivers in tackling cyclists’ safety. (So people do read this blog!)

Bob also points out, that the Netherlands has a pro-cyclist legal policy, something, considering how vulnerable we are on the roads, is very important and something more countries ought to adopt. It’s a long slow process. The US is still far behind in some ways. More has to be done to prevent accidents happening. Often it’s too late and often a needless accident.

Many countries need a ‘legal shake up’. It’s all very well Governments encouraging us to cycle but you have to have the legal protection that goes along with it. Having lawyers, who cycle and understand our legal deficiencies, perhaps highlighting positive and negative things round the world, helps to raise awareness so we need more lawyers advising us of legal weaknesses and loopholes, that let off lawless motorists. Making our laws stronger, would be beneficial for all from competitive cyclists to the paperboy.

In view of the differences in laws round the world and the fact that we can learn from each other, it may be a good idea for a table to be drawn, to show the differences in world bicycle law and also the penalties imposed if they’re broken.

It would be interesting to see what countries lag behind in cycle safety. I have read somewhere that the French law seems to be pro-cyclist but I would like more information on this. And we don’t hear about cycling laws in Asia. Maybe they are awful. Singaporean laws are normally tough but are they too pro-motorist? I know there are many countries further behind that us in the UK.

Here is an excerpt his article on Velonews.com:

The contrasts between European and American approaches to cycling safety are interesting:

• In Portland, bike boxes—an idea borrowed from European cities—were installed at problem intersections following the deaths of two Portland cyclists.

• In Portland, city trucks were fitted with safety guards. In contrast, in Europe, all trucks, whether public or private, have been required to be fitted with safety guards since 1989.

• In Portland, cyclists were invited into truck cabs to see how hard it is for drivers to see cyclists. In London, drivers were required to take on-road cycle training to see what it’s like to ride a bike. While it certainly can’t hurt for cyclists to gain perspective on what it’s like to drive a truck, the Portland approach implies that the truck drivers involved in the fatal accidents were not at fault, while the London approach implies that truck drivers have a duty of care to avoid hitting cyclists.

• In Portland, cyclists are told not to ride in the blind spot of trucks — and in fact, in Brett Jarolimek’s crash, a massive blind spot created by the damaged side mirror on the truck was a major factor in the collision. In Europe, all heavy trucks are required, as of March 31 of this year, to be fitted with equipment that eliminates blind spots.

• In Portland, neither driver faced criminal charges, and only one of the drivers received a traffic citation for violating the cyclist’s right of way. The driver who turned into Brett Jarolimek’s path was not cited, because the Portland Police invented a non-existent requirement that the driver had to be aware of the cyclist in order to violate his right of way — an interesting decision on the part of the Portland Police, given that the driver’s mirror was non-functional, in violation of the law. Whether either driver will be found negligent would be a matter for a jury to decide. In contrast, in the Netherlands, a driver is presumed to be negligent in any collision involving a cyclist, unless the driver can introduce evidence rebutting that presumption.

While it’s been heartening to see some of the positive changes that have taken place in Portland as a result of the tragic and needless deaths of two Portland cyclists, it’s also obvious, when compared to what our counterparts in the UK and Europe are doing, that there’s so much more we could be doing to protect cyclists in this country. The Borough of Lambeth provides one innovative example — when drivers know what the road is like from our perspective, they’re likely to be more careful with our lives.”

His full article is on my link under Category ‘Bicycle Law’.

Great work Bob, look forward to reading more on the subject.

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