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Who's at fault when cyclists and cars collide?

The onus should be on motorists involved in accidents with cyclists or pedestrians to prove they were not at fault, an inquiry into the ACT's most vulnerable road users has been told.

Lobby Group Pedal Power has also called for slower speed limits to be imposed on major roads when it is raining heavily or there is traffic congestion.

And the group says cyclists to be permitted to ride across pedestrian crossings instead of dismounting and walking their bikes across the road.

In submissions to an ACT Assembly inquiry into vulnerable road users, law firm Maurice Blackburn and the Motorcycle Riders Association of the ACT have both called for a feasibility study on the impact of introducing "strict liability''.

Under strict liability, the onus would be on the more powerful road user to prove that they were not on fault in an accident.

Pedal Power went a step further, calling for the rule to be imposed for accidents involving cars and bicycles.

"Drivers who kill or injure people riding bicycles rarely receive significant penalties from the criminal justice system,'' the Pedal Power submission said.

"Unlike offences related to speeding which attract strict liability, serious offences related to the killing or injuring of road users require the prosecution to prove intent.

"Defences such as 'the sun blinded me so I didn't see him' lead to the dismissal of charges.''

The group also wanted "tiered penalties'' for offences related to vehicle crashes so that more serious breaches attracted higher penalties.

But Pedal Power believed that the requirement for cyclists to walk across pedestrian crossing to be scrapped.

"This is anomalous in a jurisdiction where bicycles are allowed on all footpaths. The law is neither observed nor enforced,' it said.

Pedal Power said the speed limit on more ACT roads should be lowered to 50km/h to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians and traffic-calming measures should be installed in 40km/h zones.

The Motorcycle Riders Association joined Pedal Power in calling for improvements to road infrastructure to improve safety but warned that on-road cycle lanes could be dangerous.

"While the MRA ACT encourages the use of bicycles on the ACT roads and footpaths, on-road cycle lanes should not be a norm at the expense of crash avoidance space for other road users'' the group said in its submission.

"For example, the narrowing the lanes on Northbourne Avenue adversely impacts on crash avoidance space.''

The motor cyclists' group wanted wire rope safety barriers installed next to roads in line with best practice and warned against a proliferation of road-side traffic signs which could be a collision hazard.

Thousands of Canberrans are expected to cycle to work on Wednesday as part of the annual Ride to Work Day.

119 comments

  • Pedal Power says "cyclists to be permitted to ride across pedestrian crossings instead of dismounting and walking their bikes across the road".

    I have yet to see ANY cyclist dismount at a pedestrian crossing.

    Commenter
    MR
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    October 15, 2013, 11:35AM
    • I have, so you haven't seen me. However usually I just wave the cars through and then roll across when there is no traffic.

      Unfortunately motorists do not know the rule that they do not need to give way to a cyclist at a pedestrian crossing if they are on their bike, they only need to give way to foot traffic. So a lot of cars stop to let me roll across when I am just waiting for them to all continue through and I can go on my own way.

      Commenter
      IanD
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 11:49AM
    • While it's possibly rare, I know some riders who do stop and walk their bikes over the crossings. Unfortunately it's a lottery as to the driver behind the wheel of the car giving way. In my experience, the driver's more likely to get annoyed that you're taking longer to cross the crossing than praise you on your correct application of the road rules.

      I think the fact cyclists rarely dismount in Canberra is the reason why this rule should be revised. As a general legal principle, there's no point having laws that are widely ignored by the broader community, as it erodes the public's respect of rules and law in general.

      It's a tricky one because we are in a strange positon in the ACT where cyclists are allowed to use footpaths but not cycle across the crossings. The danger though is that cyclists ride at full speed towards such crossings giving cars very little warning of their approach. As an occassional cyclist I think some self preservation is also required. yes, you may have the right of way, but you're a vulnerable road user and should exercise a lot of care for your own safety.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 12:18PM
    • So true. What they fail to recognise with this suggestion is the speed at which bikes approach crossings. A pedestrian is slow and can be seen bikes come much faster meaning you need to see them earlier which is not always possible. The intersection I hate the most is Moore street outside the post office. Bikes fly down there on approach to the intersection they are blocked by the building you can only see them at the last minute. Making it a free for all is asking for trouble.

      Commenter
      Jimmy
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 12:43PM
    • @IanD You say that a car doesn’t have to stop for cyclists unless they dismount, however who cops the blame when the car/bus/truck fails to stop and then hits a cyclist? The driver of the car/bus/truck of course because everyone knows that a person in control of a vehicle has to give way to all cyclists and pedestrians even if they jump out in front of you or walk/ride slow across a road.
      I think one of the key issues is that a lot of cyclists don’t slow down or even look before they dart across a pedestrian crossing. Hell about 2 years ago I had one ram into my car at pretty decent speed after I had looked and proceeded through a crossing. Of course I copped a cheek full of abuse, but thankfully the cyclist wasn’t seriously hurt.

      Commenter
      Nori
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 1:04PM
    • I dismount if it's a bad intersection or drivers stop over the crossing of left turning lane, or there is heavy traffic or if there are police there. I always stop at the intersection and wait for the lights regardless.
      It really depends on the intersection though but most of the ones I come across are usually safe if you stop and wait.

      Commenter
      Jess
      Location
      canberra
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 2:05PM
    • The problem is not so much dismounting, the problem is continuing to cycle when the pedestrian light is red. Take the corner of Cooyong and Northbourne in the morning. Cars turning left into Northbourne simply don;t get through because cyclists ride through the red.

      My experiencing riders have themselves to blame. Rarely do I see riders obey commonsense, jumping from road to footpath and back again.

      Besides we've spent millions on a bike path on Rudd St and part of Bunda St that's not even used. The ANU crowd still use the foot path, the lycra crowd the road, all use the wrong side of the bike path despite clear markings. i.e. don't stick left etc.

      I also cannot take Pedal Power seriously. The most annoying lobby group renowned for contacting the Chief Ministers Office daily. They have too much power in Canberra.

      Commenter
      Not af an of PP
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 2:31PM
    • how many drivers at the Sulwood Drive/Athllon Drive roundabout park over the "cleared area" each and every day. The reason that this area is now painted as a clear area is so cyclists and pedestrians can get through without zig zagging. It works both way folks!

      Commenter
      cadelicious
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 2:46PM
    • My problem with this proposed change is the cyclist needs to somehow indicate that they will be crossing - and know the motorist has had a reasonable opportunity to see them. Some cyclists seem to think motorists can read minds and know the cyclist will turn at the last moment, often at speed, not giving the motorist enough time to react. There needs to be some common sense applied here. I don't have a problem giving way to cyclists - but cyclists need to understand that reaction time needs to be factored in. Because pedestrians are travelling at a slower rate, there is more time to react. Cyclists can, and often do, travel with significant speed,and sometimes appear from behind objects like other vehicles or bushes on the path, with very little warning for the motorist.

      Also, have Pedal Power considered what this will do to the rights of pedestrians - I've been knocked over by a cyclist whilst I was walking across a pedestrian crossing. I have no indication the bike was coming from behind me and was also treated to a mouthful of abuse for getting in his way.

      Commenter
      Thomas Gale
      Location
      Palmerston
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 3:55PM
    • "Unfortunately motorists do not know the rule that they do not need to give way to a cyclist at a pedestrian crossing if they are on their bike"

      Pity cyclists don't know that!

      Commenter
      Donna Joy
      Date and time
      October 15, 2013, 4:50PM

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