Adventurer Mark Beaumont delivers Road Share research calling for the introduction of presumed liability for vulnerable road users

New research shows that government attempts to encourage active travel are being hampered by a lack of legislation that protects walkers and cyclists.

Scotland is falling well behind its European neighbours in promoting walking and cycling. Some European cities have over 55 per cent of trips being made by walking and cycling but despite huge efforts even Edinburgh as Scotland’s walking and cycling capital has achieved only 30% of trips by active modes.

Analysis of road casualty statistics in the report reveals that walking and cycling are becoming relatively less safe when compared to car travel in Scotland. In just over a decade the risk of walking a mile compared with driving a mile has grown 37% to make it 19 times more dangerous to walk than take the car. .

Countries with high levels of walking and cycling and low casualty rates have some form of presumed liability legislation and there is a clear and strong association between presumed liability and higher levels of safe walking and cycling.

Produced by the Road Share campaign group, the report, presented to ministers on Wednesday 11 March 2015 by adventurer and campaign supporter Mark Beaumont, provides evidence supporting the inclusion of new liability laws within a balanced package of measures to ensure that the drive to increase active travel is matched by improved safety and protection for vulnerable road users.

Along with the report, Mark Beaumont, presented a petition of more than 8,200 names calling on the Scottish Parliament to introduce presumed liability into Civil Law on Scotland’s roads.

The research found that t he UK is increasingly lagging behind its European neighbours who have introduced road traffic liability laws in recent decades. A recent OECD report showed that successful cycling promotion depended on having the right legislation in place.

The campaigners argue that the current situation where vulnerable road users who cause the least harm are also the least protected by the law, does not sit comfortably for a mature and socially conscious nation. Walkers and c yclists seriously injured in a road traffic accident and the families of those killed typically battle through the legal process for well over two years before receiving compensation.

Brenda Mitchell, the founder of the campaign and a personal injury lawyer with Cycle Law Scotland, said:

“Motorised vehicles bring the most harm to a collision involving a cyclist or walker yet this is not reflected in our current road traffic liability laws that expect those injured or the families of those killed to go through an often harsh and protracted legal process to gain much needed treatment, care and compensation. This is a matter of social justice.

“Presumed liability laws provide an incentive to exercise care and would be the catalyst we need for cultural change that values the protection of the vulnerable and places them at the centre of the legal process.

“Scotland has the opportunity to put an end to the grave injustice suffered by many vulnerable road users and introduce its own forward thinking system. I hope that our research offers another compelling reason for this government to embrace the good sense of what we are proposing.”

Key findings:

  • UK cyclist KSI levels (killed/seriously injured) have risen steadily since 2004. In 2012 the number of KSI cyclists was 32% higher than the 2005 – 2009 average.
  • In Scotland, in 2013, serious injury to cyclists was 10% higher than the 2004-2008 average and can only partly be explained by higher levels of cycling.
  • At the start of 2000, Scots walked on average 220 miles per annum. In less than 14 years, people’s walking has fallen to roughly 150 miles per annum. In 2000, the fatal and serious casualty rate for walkers was 12 times that for car users per mile travelled but by 2014, this ratio had risen to 19 to 1.
  • Government is putting in place a large investment programme to encourage walking and cycling but progress in delivering this will be hampered by Scotland’s current road liability laws which are socially divisive.

Derek Halden, one of the authors of the report, added:

“The law currently provides no additional legal protection for our children, or elderly and disabled people on our roads. This has no place in modern Scotland.

“The research shows that socially conscious nations have changed their laws, and by doing so have enabled more walking and cycling. Countries with both high levels of walking and cycling and low levels of casualties have some form of presumed liability legislation in place”.

“Action over the last 30 years has invested in engineering, education and enforcement measures to improve road safety but additional action is now required. Better legislation will not fix all of the current problems, but without it, further improvements in safety and encouragement for active travel will be seriously hampered.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Road Share Campaign is proposing the introduction of a system of Presumed Liability which would mean that following a collision between a motorist and a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist would be presumed to be liable for injury, damages or loss, unless they can demonstrate otherwise.

Presumed Liability is different from the current fault-based system as it shifts the burden of proof from the vulnerable to the powerful. Rather than the more vulnerable road user needing to prove that the less vulnerable road user was at fault, the burden of proof is shifted to the less vulnerable road user when determining compensation. On this basis, if cyclists collide with pedestrians, then liability attaches to cyclists.

For the most vulnerable road users, Road Share Campaign is proposing Strict Liability, so that adults aged over 70, children aged under 14 and the disabled receive full compensation regardless of fault.

  1. Mark Beaumont will deliver the research report to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 11 March 2015.
  2. Case studies are available here
  3. Road Share Campaign is backed by Scottish Cycling, Cycle Law Scotland ,cycling groups Pedal on Parliament, SPOKES, CTC Scotland and Go Bike, the driving schools RED and Pro-Scot, the Bike Station and Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative, Nick Nairn, Cameron McNeish, Scott and Jenny Hastings, media commentator, Lesley Riddoch, paracyclist Karen Darke, runner Dr Andrew Murray, Olympic and Paralympic cyclist Craig MacLean, Scottish track stars Silas Goldsworthy and Martin Williamson, Adventurer, broadcaster and author, Mark Beaumont, David Mundell MP and a number of cross party MSPs.
  4. More than 8,200 have signed the Road Share petition  Pass-a-member-s-bill-for-strict-liability-between-motorists-cyclists-and-pedestrians
  5. More information can be found at
  6. The research can be found at

"In the present state of motor traffic, I am persuaded that any cilvised system of law should require, as a matter of principle, that the person who uses this dangerous instrument on the roads - dealing death and destruction all round - should be liable to make compensation to anyone who is killed or injured in consequence of the use of it. 

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."  

  - Lord Denning, 1982

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11 March 2015

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