A transport planner once told me that the most controversial issue they ever deal with is cycling. It causes even more drama than parking, because nobody is neutral. You either ride a bike (regularly or occasionally), or you hate cyclists.


Right now, Australia is a dangerous place for cyclists, according to the ones quoted in the Guardian. The data backs them up. Helmets were made compulsory in the early nineties, which caused a big drop in the death rate, but since then it’s been essentially flat at one fatality every week or two. Meanwhile, driving has kept getting safer.

Drivers often say “cyclists scare me, because I’m never sure what they’re going to do”, but it’s clear they’re not scared enough.1

The Netherlands has a strict liability regime, where the driver is presumed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise. Even if a cyclist runs a red light, or goes the wrong way up a one-way street, the driver is held fully responsible for a collision. That will never be allowed in Australia, so let’s not even hope.

But something similar might be possible: strict liability with a light penalty. Specifically, if a car hits a cyclist for any reason, then the driver loses their license for six months.

That’s bigger than the current penalty, which is effectively squat all. But it’s small enough that it might be politically possible, and I reckon the liability change would have a big impact.


Header photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

1. In fatal accidents, incidentally, the driver is at fault 90 percent of the time.