Monday, 2 January 2012

Campaign for Sustainable Safety, not Strict Liability.

For this post we've two authors. The first part is written by David Hembrow, the second part by Mark Wagenbuur.

Strict Liability
Some people outside of the Netherlands have a huge interest in "Strict Liability".

To many cycling campaigners, this looks like a "solution" to a problem which they experience on a daily basis. They want more respect and this appears to be a way to achieve it.

What the law does, in very rough terms, is to give drivers of motor vehicles the financial responsibility in the event of a crash with a more vulnerable road user. In itself, this is a good idea. It results in cyclists who are hurt in crashes being compensated by the driver of the heavier, faster, vehicle which brings the danger. However, the importance of this law is often wildly overstated across the English speaking world.

"Strict Liability" is known in the Netherlands as "art. 185 WVW" of the Dutch law. Simplified explanations of the law can be found here and here. There is no short snappy phrase for it in Dutch because this is no more than an obscure part of the law which most people take little interest in. People don't talk about this on a regular basis, any more than they do about other obscure parts of the law. Most people are not aware that the law here is different from elsewhere.

Strict Liability has, at best, a very small role to play in keeping cyclists in the Netherlands safe.

Does this mother think it's safe for her children to cycle here because "strict liability" offers financial compensation should a car hurt her children, or could it have something to do with the existence of that cycle-path ? This is what is meant by subjective safety.
How has "Strict Liability" been mis-understood ?
Changing legal liability doesn't in itself change how the streets feel. The lack of cycling in other countries is not due merely to worries about a lack of compensation for remaining family after a family member has been crushed by a truck. Rather, people are scared to cycle due to worry about being crushed by a truck in the first place. This change of law does not in itself encourage a higher rate of cycling. That was never its purpose.

In addition, how the law works is somewhat different to what many people outside the Netherlands have been told. Drivers are not held 100% liable for all crashes with cyclists. That would be quite unreasonable as there are many reasons why drivers might not be wholly responsible.

The law draws a distinction at the age of 14 years. In a collision with a cyclist or pedestrian aged under 14, a motorist is likely to be held to be responsible. However, a cyclist or pedestrian who is older than 14 years of age is expected to know how to behave on the streets and is likely to be held at least partly responsible in the event of a crash. If they're behaving recklessly then they can instantly expect at least 50% of the blame for any collision. An adult pedestrian dressed in black and crossing a road without looking can expect to be held to be liable for damage to a motor vehicle which hits him. That is what the law makes clear.

It's also important to realise that this law is only concerned with material damage and financial responsibilty. For example, if children are hit by a car in the Netherlands, the drivers insurance can never try to claim for compensation from the family of the victim. It could also help to determine who pays for repair or replacement of an adult's bicycle which has been run over by a truck. However, this law is not concerned with allocating blame, or with imprisoning bad drivers.

When did this law come into force ?
Article 185 came onto the statute here after there was a majority cycling culture. The law as it stands now dates from the 1990s when cycling in the Netherlands already looked like this. It is not at all realistic to expect to be able to introduce such a law to protect cyclists, especially to a higher degree than they are protected in the Netherlands, in countries where cyclists are a minority.

Introducing such a law to protect children is another matter, but note that in the Netherlands this law came into force twenty years after the environment started to change to protect children.

Does it have an effect on the behaviour of Dutch drivers ?
I've read comments from enthusiasts of this law along the lines of how its introduction in their country would remove the excuse of "I didn't see him" as a "get out of jail free card" for motorists. However, this is a misunderstanding of what the law is for.

Like most countries in the world, the Netherlands has a rule by which a driver whose car collides with the rear of a car in front is normally held to be responsible for the collision. The threat of being held liable has not eliminated rear end crashes either in the Netherlands or any other country. Such crashes are rarely intentional. It is a human failing that results in crashes like this occurring. The "strict liability" law in the Netherlands is very similar. It also has not had an appreciable effect on the rate of crashes between drivers and cyclists as these also are not intentional. All it has done is to make clear where financial responsibility lies after damage has been caused.

It is very rare that a more severe punishment results in less crime. If it did, then we might expect that the USA having capital punishment for murder in most states might have eliminated murders in the USA. However, the USA has an intentional homicide rate of 4.8 per 100000 people in comparison with a rate of just 0.87 per 100000 in the Netherlands, where there is no capital punishment. There is no direct relationship between punishment and behaviour. Other factors are involved.

We need to understand that few drivers set out with the intention of crashing into a cyclist. Rather, the environment that they find themselves in makes this more likely in some places than others.

Often drivers don't "see" cyclists because cyclists are in places on the road where the driver doesn't expect them to be, where the driver is not looking, where they are difficult to see, or where they can be easily missed due to other distractions. For instance, sometimes it is necessary to look in many directions simultaneously in order to cross a junction safely. That's not just an overseas problem, but is also specifically a problem at the most dangerous junction in the Netherlands.

So what really does keep Dutch cyclists safe ?
If we can engineer roads in a way that takes human failings into account and which results in crashes, injuries and deaths being less common then this is a far more reliable way to improve safety than any amount of punishment after the event.

The really important principle in road design from the Netherlands which is worth campaigning for is Sustainable Safety. This emerged in the 1990s at almost exactly the same time as "Strict Liability" but has received nowhere near as much attention outside of the Netherlands. These days it is the principle of design by which Dutch roads and streets are made to be easy to use, self-explanatory and safe by default, preventing crashes from occurring.

Sustainable safety isn't only for cyclists, but also for other road users including drivers. It's a good part of the reason why Dutch roads are very safe for all road users. Not only is the experience of cycling in the Netherlands different from elsewhere. For a driver, Dutch roads are different to roads in Germany, Belgium, France or the UK. They're a pleasure to drive on. Very easy to use, and as a result, very safe.

For example, at traffic lights here, whether for cyclists, pedestrians or for drivers, if you have a green light then you can go. You don't get cars coming in the opposite direction also with a green light, or turning across you.

This is a different concept of road safety to that in use elsewhere in the world

Sustainable Safety and Campaigning
While it's virtually impossible to get support for "Strict Liability" in most countries because it is seen as a measure to promote the rights of a minority above those of a majority, Sustainable Safety is good for everyone. It not only increases safety for cyclists, but also for every other road user. Because of this, campaigning for sustainable safety to become a principle of road design in other countries has a good chance of mass support.

Not only is Sustainable Safety far more achievable than "Strict Liability", but with its proven record of improving the safety of the Dutch it's also much more likely to have a positive effect on the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers in other countries than is a misinterpretation of a minor Dutch law.

David Hembrow.

Sustainable safety was explained by David in a blog post in 2010, but also read below for Mark's interpretation.

One of the fundamental reasons why Sustainable Safety improves the safety of every road user is that it keeps interactions between different road users, and particularly different types of road users, to the absolute minimum. Without interactions you have fewer chances for mistakes to be made and fewer chances of collision. You can see this in Mark's film below, which is followed by his description of sustainable safety:


Sustainable Safety
Sometimes campaigners and traffic engineers in other countries have trouble understanding Dutch traffic reports. These reports are not always very clear whether they are about separated cycling infrastructure or not. An example: some months ago there were misunderstandings about Fietsbalans (“Cycling balance”) reports that do indeed not clearly state where separated cycle paths were meant. This even led to the mistaken understanding with some ‘anti-infrastructuralists’ that cycle paths were “irrelevant”. But to the Dutch their system is so obvious that it isn’t necessary to specifically mention those separated cycle paths. So what are the principles of the Dutch underlying system?

Sustainable Safety is the name of the Dutch approach to achieve a better road safety (“Duurzaam veilig” in Dutch). The main objectives of this vision are preventing severe crashes and (almost) eliminating severe injuries when crashes do occur. It was introduced and quickly adopted by all road managers in 1992 and has since been very successful. In 2005 it was revised and extended. The approach began with establishing that the road system was inherently unsafe. The goal was to fundamentally change the system by taking a person as a yardstick. The physical vulnerability of a person, but also what a person can and wants to do (humans make mistakes and don’t always follow rules) were to be guidelines for design. There is now an integral approach to the road system which refers to ‘human’ (behaviour), ‘vehicle’ (including bicycles!) and ‘road’ (design). Roads and vehicles must be adapted to the human capabilities and the human has to be educated enough to be able to operate a vehicle on a road in a safe manner. The approach is pro-active, it wants to remedy gaps and mistakes in the traffic system before crashes occur. So Sustainable Safety is about a lot more than just infrastructure.

Sustainable Safety is based on five principles:
  1. Functionality (of roads)
  2. Homogeneity (of mass, speed and direction of road users)
  3. Predictability (of road course and road user behaviour by a recognisable road design)
  4. Forgivingness (of both the road and street environment and the road users)
  5. State awareness (by the road user)
The principles are based on scientific research and theories from traffic engineering, biomechanics, and psychology. Since the 2005 revision the principles are also based on infrastructure, vehicles, intelligent transport systems, education and enforcement of laws and regulations.

1. Functionality of roads
To the Dutch the most ideal situation is when roads and streets have only one single purpose. To achieve this mono-functionality a hierarchy of roads was introduced.
  • Through Roads for high volumes of fast traffic on longer distances.
  • Local Access Roads from which end destinations can be reached.
  • Distributer Roads which connect through roads and local access roads.
All Dutch streets and roads have been classified (under a legal obligation) and are or will be re-designed to the Sustainable Safety principles by the road managers. This led to areas where people stay (residential areas and areas for shopping/sporting/theatre etc.) and designated space used for the flow of traffic in order to transport people from A to B. Under the Dutch vision these functions cannot be mixed.

2. Homogeneity of mass, speed and direction of road users
Large differences in speed and mass of different road users in the same space must be eliminated as much as possible. Road users can best be forced to travel at lower speeds by road design. This works better than with signs. If crashes occur at lower speed differences they cause a lot less damage to the most vulnerable road user. Where speed differences cannot be eliminated types of traffic must be separated. On roads with higher speeds road users travelling in opposite directions should be separated by a division as well, to further eliminate conflicts. Cycle paths and pedestrians are always separated from these through roads, following the principle of homogeneity of mass as well as speed. Because of this principle the Dutch will never implement a combined bus/cycle lane as is common in some other countries. Instead there are bus lanes separated from other motorised traffic because the mass of cars and buses do not match either. Eliminating crossing movements is possible with roundabouts because on roundabouts traffic flows in less conflicting directions than on an ordinary traffic junction.

3. Predictability (of road course and road user behaviour by a recognisable road design)
Road design should be so consistent that road users instantly understand what they can expect and what is expected of them on a certain type of street or road. The road design itself gives information about the type of road/street. If the street is paved with bricks, there are parked cars and the street is shared with cyclists and gives access to homes, the road user will instantly know and feel this is a 30km/h (19mph) local access street. However, if the road has two carriageways separated by a median, there is no parking and cyclists have their own cycle paths, it is clear to the road user that this is a through road.

4.Forgivingness (of both the road and street environment and the road users)
Humans make errors and willingly or unwillingly break rules. This is a given that cannot be changed. So roads and streets should be designed in such a way that this natural human behaviour does not lead to crashes and injuries. An example is a shoulder with a semi-hard pavement. A road user coming off the main road will not crash immediately, the semi-hard shoulder will give this road user the ability to get back to the main carriageway. Forgivingness towards other road users is enhanced when road design leads to a predictable behaviour of road users. A result of this principle is that motorised traffic sometimes gives priority to cyclists even if they don’t have it. Because it is so clear where the cyclists want or need to go the motorist anticipates their behaviour and gives the cyclist more room than he or she is legally obliged to, often to the surprise of especially foreign cyclists.

5.State awareness (by the road user)
This principle is about the ability of road users to assess their own capabilities to perform tasks in traffic. This has to do with understanding vehicle operation and knowing how speed changes the behaviour of the vehicle to understand what speed is safe in a certain situation. But it also has to do with the assessment of speeds of other traffic users to estimate crossing times for instance. These abilities can be improved by education but there are limits, for instance when road users are children or elderly.

Results of Sustainable Safety
Many countries have seen a considerable drop in traffic injuries and deaths since roughly the 1970s. Reasons were the introduction of seatbelts, drunk-driving laws, helmet laws for motorcyclists and mopeds, car cages and airbags. But in the Netherlands there also was a dramatic drop in injuries and deaths of the most vulnerable road users: cyclists and pedestrians. Traffic researches attribute this difference to the introduction of Sustainable Safety.

Ten years after the introduction researches found a traffic death and injury reduction of on average 6% per year. And that wasn’t the only positive outcome. When the costs of the measurements that had to be taken were compared with the benefits of the reduced traffic injuries and deaths it was found that the benefits outweighed the costs by a factor of four.

Students of the Northeastern University in Boston compared the Netherlands with the US. After analysing all they had learned on their study tour in the Netherlands in 2010 they found the following: “In the 1970’s, the Netherlands and the US had the same traffic fatality rate (fatalities per person). Both countries have seen dramatic decreases in traffic fatality rates over the past forty years […]. However, the Netherlands has put much more emphasis than the US on making their roads inherently safer. The result: the Netherlands has reduced its traffic fatality rate to less than half of the US traffic fatality rate; the Netherlands now has a traffic fatality rate that's only 23% of its 1970 rate, compared to the US whose traffic fatality rate is 54% of its 1970 rate.

So the system of Sustainable Safety is undisputedly successful and separated cycle paths (albeit for specific roads and situations) are such an integral part of this system that they even need not be mentioned all the time.

Mark Wagenbuur.

Sources
SWOV Factsheets (English)
http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/UK/FS_Sustainable_Safety_principles.pdf
http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/UK/FS_Sustainable_Safety_background.pdf

SWOV Factsheets (Dutch)
http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/NL/Factsheet_Duurzaam_Veilig_principes.pdf
http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/NL/Factsheet_Functionaliteit_homogeniteit.pdf
http://www.swov.nl/nl/research/kennisbank/inhoud/05_duurzaam/duurzaam.htm

Sustainable Safety Wiki (English) by students of the Northeastern University of Boston
http://wiki.coe.neu.edu/groups/sustsafety/

Some people refer to "strict liability" as "presumed liability". There are also a few variations on exactly what people think it should mean. However, whether "presumed liability", "strict liability", "stricter liability" and however it's defined, the idea that changing just the legal position of cyclists will make any real difference to their safety is flawed.

This won't be the last post to appear on this blog because there are a few more already written and scheduled for future dates, however today's post is the last we're currently planning to write. The work-load has become too large, we're getting too many emails, too many requests. There are still many things to write about, but it simply consumes too much time to do this without a salary to support it. It's been a lot of work for both of us, and we're both due for a rest. Our thanks go to the many regular readers and supporters of the blog.

42 comments:

Joost Bonsen said...

Thanks to both David and Mark for all your posts. Your intro paragraph is a bit of a shocker. I hope you'll reconsider and perhaps post on a weekly or otherwise less burdensome but more sustainable frequency! Your then-vs-now videos, slice-of-life posts, infrastructure comparisons have all been very instructive. I wish there was a way for you to monetize your efforts (i.e. get paid), perhaps via consulting or advisory services, something akin to Copenhagenize?

Anyways, thanks for all your efforts. --Joost

Anneke said...

I'm really sorry to hear you'll stop writing (for now?) for this blog. I enjoy reading it, although I haven't been commenting lately. :) I hope to hear from you again in the future, and for now, thanks for writing all this time!

John Gordon said...

I'm sure you have good reasons to stop writing, but it seems a bit extreme.

The original point of blogs was that one read them by RSS, and the could be updated daily, weekly, monthly or erratically -- the feed reader handled the volume.

I realize things didn't work out that way, but if you don't care about readership why not just write when the urge strikes?

Unknown said...

I'm shocked to read you guys are stopping this blog. Perfectly understandable though. Thanks for the tremendous input.

Arjen Haayman

Anonymous said...

I'll miss your blog - it's one of my favorites!

Vratislav Filler said...

Thanks for this article. For quite long time, I have been trying to figure out how Strict liability exactly works, how it affects safety of cycling, and if to promote it in Czech. We tried to introduce the idea some time ago (http://www.prahounakole.cz/2010/02/absolutni-odpovednost/ ) , using an article from Copenhagenize which probably all you know (http://www.copenhagenize.com/2010/02/strict-liability.html ). We received strong rejection from non-cyclists and mixed reactions from actual cyclists.

About yours announcement: I am really thankful for your blog and I see that you have already covered most of important topics. But I believe that you will return after while :-) .

Doug Culnane said...

Thanks a lot for your blog it has been an inspiration about how things could and should be. It really explains well a lot of issues that I feel and see but can not articulate or find solutions to. I really hope you can find a way to continue your fantastic contribution which has created the reference "how to" in my view.

Thanks,

Doug

townmouse said...

I totally understand about the workload (I'm still sad though!) - just wanted to say that this blog has been a huge eye opener for me and many others over the years. I'm sure the GB cycling Embassy would not have been founded without it, for a start. Thanks for all your efforts over the years, and I hope the blog will still stand as it is an incredibly useful archive of how to do things properly.

Thanks

Azor_rider said...

Really sorry to hear that you are unable to continue blogging. I look forward to reading your posts, which are always informative, enjoyable and stimulating.

I like the video evidence in this story - the segregation on through routes is very clear. I admire the Dutch for having the courage of their convictions to implement this strategy. I can't imagine the British having such clarity of thought – the good intentions would be diluted in pursuit of short-term 'value for money'.

Martin said...

I think David and Mark a book would be worth a go, particularly with the amount of material you have already.
I for one have certainly been inspired by this blog and Marks video's, which has encouraged me to lobby my local government and traffic engineers to implement some better infrastructure for everyone not just the strong fit and fearless.
Thank you for all your hard work and what a privilege it has been to read your blog.

Michael S said...

What a start of the new year :-(

I can only fullheartedly support Joosts post. What you have achieved in the sense of creating a knowledge base of dutch bicycle culture would elsewhere be the outcome of massive public funding.

Please consider contributing in a way with less workload. The website deserves being a reference for many years - at least until other countries have caught up a bit with the NL. If in a froozen-only state, the website would slowly miss its importance.

Anyway, I want to thank you and express my respect for the tremendous work so far.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your info and time. I really enjoyed your blog and do hope that you will find a way to keep on going.
Thanks again, all the best and good luck.
JosH. (een limburger in zweden)

BG said...

Coming from the USA, I'm very sad to see you giving up the blog. I know you've helped lots of people see new possibilities for road design. But I agree that a book would be a very good idea!

Clark in Vancouver said...

This is interesting because in my opinion, the call in this continent for "strict liability" makes me suspect that it's a dogmatic "simple solution", much like cyclist registration is used. There's a belief by some that all problems will be solved if we "just do this". I'm not philosophically opposed to either thing but don't see it as solving any problems as the lack of these "solutions" aren't the cause of them in the first place.

Sad to see the blog ending/slowing down. I have seen many blogs come and go and it tends to be some of the best ones (like this one) where the blogger(s) can become burnt out. I see now that David Hembrow and Mark Wagenbuur have revealed something that was hidden to the (usually insular) anglophone world that was quietly happening and working well somewhere else. (Coming originally from Saskatchewan, I know all about being out of the spotlight, yet accomplishing some amazing things all while the rest of the world carries on not even knowing about them.)
The many requests for help without any monetary benefit is of course hard to take. (I'm as guilty as anyone of that having emailed David for some (free) advice awhile back.)

Suggestions here for doing a book are good. I follow a blog on transit and the author has been working on a book and "workshopping" the book with his blog, getting responses and feedback.
I don't know if sales would be affected adversely by people being able to read, "for free", essentially the early version what's in the book or whether the blog attracts publicity for the book.
http://www.humantransit.org

David and Mark, thank you very much for all the work. I suspect this blog has been part of changing the world for the better. You deserve a holiday and a pat on the back and hopefully some financial benefit too someday.

Kevin Love said...

David and Masrk, so sorry to read that you are cutting back on blogging. Please leave up the material that you have, as I refer people to it all the time as an example of what things could be like.

Here in Ontario, there is a Strict Liability law. It is one of the reasons why Ontario's roads are the safest in North America. But only one of them. I do not believe that this law on its own would make a huge difference for exactly the same reasons pointed out by David and Mark.

Here is the law, from:

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h08_e.htm#BK289

"When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle."

Alan Todd said...

I really will miss your blog. It has been to my mind the outstanding blog for utility cycling. Cool calm and well informed, I have learned so much from it. Thanks for all, and hoping you might decide to still post occasionally.

This post on strict liability has particularly interested me, as I have long suspected that it was not the panacea many English speaking commentators seemed to suggest. Here in Australia the CEO of our national cycling body has even said that the reason we need mandatory helmets is because we don't have strict liability! Wrong on so many levels, but then that's about the quality you get from the "peak" bodies here.

Paul Martin said...

Thank you David & Mark. Your hard (and often under appreciated) work has helped changed my world...

I wish you both all the very best for your future endeavours.

Kind regards,

Paul

Rebecca said...

Your blog has been an incredible education for me. Please keep up all of your old posts, even if you are not adding new ones. Thank you for the wonderful information that you have provided. I have shared many of your posts with bicycle infrastructure designers here in Boston. I look forward to visiting you in the Netherlands soon and moving there in six years:)

highwayman said...

Along with everyone else, I will miss your blog updates, David and Mark. It is a nice oasis of good writings and videos about infrastructure and cycling.

Along with everyone else, I hope you keep this website up, so others as well as your regular readers can continue reading and viewing the plethora of material you already have on here.

Along with everyone else, I wish you a wonderful time off, and suggest that both of you eventually write a book on the subject that you are both expert in and passionate about.

And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful window and insights into cycling in the Netherlands. I only wish I had discovered your blog earlier.

Hopefully, one of these years, I will meet you on one of your infrastructure tours --another reason to keep the Website up even though you may not update the blog.

The best video I liked from your blog: "The Queens Day" video set to the tune of "Ik Hou van Holland". I keep replaying it.

Norma said...

Sorry, but I can't see you and Mark giving up writing and making video's about cycling in the Netherlands. This is just a cry for help and you'll probably get it :-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P2EfHQ-bbM

Ian Perry (Cardiff, UK) said...

Humans have been to the moon and back, but if you or I suggest buying a 3m wide strip of land from a farmer to build a cycle/bridle/foot path, in the UK, you would think you were asking "them" to build a cycle path to Jupiter.

christhebull said...

While we wait to see if there is ever a book (another well known - if somewhat less serious - blog, Bike Snob, has a book, and the author even got sponsorship for a tour), may I suggest we keep David busy by buying from his other website? (I can actually afford to do this now I have my next student loan instalment.)

ibikelondon said...

David, Mark, I'm personally gutted to be losing your online presence (and making a personal back up of your many wonderful and informative articles as I type!)

I hope you enjoy your break and might one day come back to blogging. I think the book suggestion is an excellent one and would buy a copy today if it was available!

You've been a real inspiration!

Mark

Jackie said...

Thank you a million times, David and Mark, for all your hard work. You've been, and will remain, a great source of information as well as inspiration for me. Your blog has been my very favourite for the last few years. I agree with others that there must be some way that you can get paid for all your expertise and knowledge. A book, consulting, whatever...

Rob Ainsley said...

Very sorry to see that you're all but stopping the blog. Always superbly well informed, thought-provoking, strongly argued and totally worth reading. Many many thanks for your hard work over the years.

Martin Parkinson said...

My goodness! The surprise is not that you are 'retiring' but that you managed to keep up such an excellent blog for so long.

It really is an outstanding example of how to use a blog as campaigning tool. It helped me to get a lots of things clear in my mind and it's useful to be able to point other people at it.

Hobbes vs Boyle said...

I originally hadn't noticed the fine print at the end of the post and only realized what's going on by the unusually high number of comments.

I, too, am very sad to hear about your decision to more or less end the blog. Your writing and videos have been incredibly useful for understanding the success story of cycling in the Netherlands and for figuring what must and must not be done for trying to create success stories in other locations. Without the (to me unbearable) arrogance and evidence-by-handwaving of your Danish counterpart, your blog has been instrumental in convincing me that good cycling infrastructure is indeed possible in the real world, and that such infrastructure is highly desirable.

Thank you very much for all your work. I'll keep linking to it in the many cycling debates still to come. I hope you'll be back, in one form or the other, at some point in the future. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Theo Z said...

I'm sorry to see that you stop this blog. Well, a kind of stopping.
You were responsible for opening my eyes! I was taking all those wonderful bike paths for granted. I never noticed that what we have is more or less kind of unique!

Thank you!

Gabriel Garcia said...

THANK YOU FOR THIS TEXT - I am struggling in Brazil to convince people of the same point you are writing here - But it is hard, the all the entire media is washing brains for Strict Liability - I guess actually Strict Liability it a ideological strategy of the State here, which can blame the citizens and wash their hands in the blood-bath of our thousands of accidents per year -

Micheal Blue said...

Nicely written. I wish our people-in-power would live in the same traffic infrastructure universe as the Dutch.

manouchk said...

This article is just fine. I lived 6 month in Eindhoven in 1999 and I discovered at the time the bicycle as a way of transportation, instead of sport only activity. It was great. Never had to brake a single time because of a mistake of any car driver in 6 month! It is incredible to think about that now that I live in Brasil in a town that does have any bicycle tradition or that has totally forgotten it. There is maybe not a single day that I don't need to brake or deviate a car or complain about a dangerous behaviour of a car or bus driver here aven if I'm now much more experienced cyclist.
I'm now working in my city to promote sustaintable aspect of mobilityhere in Brasil, especially in my city. A lot to be done here. In my city we are really at point zero...
Emmanuel, Vitória Sustentável,
vitoria-sustentavel.blogspot.com

arnid65 said...

You are quite right for saying that strict liability is not a single solution and most probably it would not change cycling levels. I am not very familiar with the dialogue in english speaking countries but I do know that strict liability is the law in the nordic countries in one way or another as it is in the Netherlands. I also think that you in England should press for strict liability, although not a solution in it self, as it drastically improves the legal situation of a bicyclist or pedestrian in the case of a crash with an insured vehicle.

In Iceland we have had strict liability for decades although cycling modal split has been on English levels or even lower. Strict liability would help pedestrians as well as probably most serious crashes and fatalities to "vulnerable" road users is to pedestrians.

Severin said...

This post should also be in the 'myths and excuses' category as many (American) people are under the impression that perhaps Dutch cycle and enjoy their infrastructure because strict liability exists there. Whenever I advocate cycle tracks on BikePortland I am met with responses that cycle tracks cannot work in Portland or that separated bicycle infrastructure only works in the Netherlands because they have strict liability. I have no relation to Portland but I think if there's any American city that should jump for cycle tracks that it'd be Portland...

David Hembrow said...

Thank you everyone for your supportive comments. The idea of a book is very nice, but I'm not sure there is actually a mass market for it.

While the work-load for making weekly posts and replying to comments has become too great, I wouldn't want you all to think that I've completely lost my interest in campaigning.

I started the blog as a supplement to our study tours. It was a way of keeping people who had come on the study tours up to date with newer developments and I hoped it would prevent people who'd been over here from slowly forgetting what they'd seen. I'd seen this process before. Some people could be inspired by what they'd seen in the Netherlands, but almost immediately settle back into an attitude of easy compromise and saying that "it could never happen here". When changes have occurred in history it hasn't been due to attitudes like this.

Anyway, big news I hope for some of you. We are still running Study Tours. This year there is a public tour in May which any of you are welcome to book if you would like to. Please take a read of the Study Tour web page.

Also, look out for at least the next six months. There are enough infrastructure posts already written and scheduled to publish themselves automatically for that period.

Severin: It was a very good suggestion to add "Strict Liability" to the Myths and Excuses page. I've just added it.

Edward said...

I agree with the comments here. This is a fantastic blog - always well-informed. It is one of the best information resources on the web. I completely understand the need to slow down given that neither of you are getting paid. Frankly, I am surprised that neither of you has yet been appointed Dutch cycling ambassador. The Dutch are far too modest about their achievements. You two have done a great deal to inform the rest of the world.

All the very best.

Edward
Adelaide, Australia

kfg said...

You will be missed.

Tallycyclist said...

Thank you so much for all your efforts, Mark and David. Your blog is by far one of the best that I routinely read, and certainly the most informative. I always reference your material when discussing different topics regarding all things cycling like safety, infrastructure, behavior, political support etc. Your wonderfully-made videos all speak for themselves and gives those of us not fortunate enough to live in Holland to at least get a glimpse of top-notch cycling conditions.

Paul van Bellen said...

Thank you David and Mark.

A view from the cycle path is my favourite blog.

The videos and posts are inspirational and educational.

Thanks so much!

: )

Friedel said...

David, the wonderful thing about eBooks and Amazon is that there doesn't have to be a mass market. You can publish simply and easily and you might be surprised at the response. If you're interested in trying to do a Kindle book based on the blog (maybe even a compilation of your 20-30 most popular posts) I'd be happy to tell you how to do it. It's really not hard at all. All you'd have to do is choose the posts, the order that they should appear in the book, and maybe write an introduction. Once that's done, I think you could have a book done within a day or two.

And yes, I too will miss your blog! Although - as a fellow blogger - I can also understand how much time and work it can be to run a website such as this. I've just finished a post for our site which doesn't look complicated at first glance, but took me 3 hours to complete.

Please do let us know what's going on with you occasionally, when the mood strikes - even if it's no more than 2-3 times a year.

CycleSnail said...

Great article - I got on to it from LinkedIn, and wish I had found your blog earlier.

I am comparing the fatality rate in Australia with the one in Netherlands, and can only agree that a "Sustainable Safety" strategy which seems to put vulnerable road users first has a positive outcome for people riding bicycles.

The WA "Towards Zero" strategy puts cars first....and the fatality rate in 2010 compared to 1970 is 40% (compared to 23% in the Netherlands).

Nick said...

It has been a real pleasure to read your blog David. Best wishes for the future.

Groets, Nick

Dave H said...

I do find the UK reaction to the stricter liability issue a bit puzzling as the UK law, since the 1903 Motor Car Act has include the provision that injury of damage caused by the presence of a motor vehicle places a liability on the driver and keeper of that vehicle - currently spelled out as s.170 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act in the requirements for reporting and giving details to the Police and any persons reasonably requiring them when a crash occurs.

What does cause the problem is the use of the word strict/stricter, when the real intention is to present a presumed liability, for a situation where the user of a motor vehicle has a device which can cause considerable harm and has a presumed liability to ensure they do not cause harm to less robust road users.

There is a simple parallel for another piece of dangerous machinery for which users require a licence in the UK, namely a gun. If injury or damage is caused by a gun there is an immediate presumption of liability against the licensed owner of that gun, even if the incident is not directly caused by their direct action.

Given that many UK cyclists deaths are caused by construction industry HGV's, such a presumed liability chain going back to the owners and operators of the vehicles, rather than just the drivers, might actually deliver a greater responsibility through liability against those sitting comfortably collecting the cash saved by cutting the corners on operating costs/standards, with the resulting reductions in safety.

Sustainable Safety is also a detail which is well presented and understood for spaces used for work and public activity, and the duty of care for employers/site owners, employees, and even the public on the premises is spelled out in Health & Safety legislation, whilst even H&S administrators highlight the failure to deliver the most basic of risk assessments and method procedures, when the 'workplace' is on the public roads network. Around a third of UK road casualties arise where the network is 'the workplace' and this is a tenth of the workplace casualty count. Health and safety administrators are keen to deliver that duty of care, not least through getting company drivers assessed and trained for driving as 'work' and the extent of that driving managed properly for drivers not covered by drivers (working) hours legislation.