Cyclist Smashes Windscreen With Head - Threated With Court Action
This story was on the front page of the Evening Chronicle yesterday. Basically I’m writing about it here to make a point . . .
HE WAS lucky to survive after smashing into a car while riding his bike.
But schoolboy Sam Scott [aged twelve] was then threatened with legal action for the damage he caused to the driver’s windscreen.
Sounds pretty cut’n'dry, doesn’t it? Except the next line is that he’d ridden into the path of the vehicle. Dig down a little further, and it’s revealed that he’d ridden out against the lights of a pedestrian crossing, and it was then that he’d been hit by the car, and subsequently taken to hospital. Where it was found that he’d thankfully suffered only minor injuries (no mention of a helmet - I’ll bet he definitely either was or wasn’t wearing one.)
Anyway, a while recovering at home, he received a letter demanding payment for the damage to the motorist’s windscreen. When the twelve year-old didn’t pay up the £150 demanded, he was threatened with court action, in a Little Britain-esqe parody of common sense.
So, where to begin on this?
- In the absence of pervasive cycling infrastructure, it makes the case for cycling training schemes for children, like Bikeability. Actually, Bikeability isn’t just for children, but pretty much all government funding is pitched at children.
- This is a fantastic example of “Computer says, ‘No’”. A huge corporation’s system targets a child, who is barely above the age of criminal responsibility in the UK, with legal proceedings following an accident. The thing here is that it’s easy to say that he shouldn’t have ignored the pedestrian lights . . . but he’s a child. And as a child, he’s prone to make these sorts of mistakes - it’s one of the reasons why we don’t let children drive cars. (The other reason is that their feet can’t reach the pedals, but if there was genuine market demand, I’m sure that could be overcome.)
- This is sadly precisely the sort of case that people (i.e. motorists’ pressure groups / the lunatic fringe - Association of British Drivers, Jeremy Clarkson, The AA, et al.) would use to decry the 5th EU Motoring Directive. The poor, innocent driver had a child ride their bike recklessly in front of their car. Why should they suffer the consequences?
It’s that third point that really grates with me. The number of times you read in the paper, or hear on the news, a driver saying, “. . . and they just came out of no-where. There was just nothing I could do . . .”. And generally these cases are on roads with speed limits of 30mph. If you’re driving at 30mph, and have your eyes at all open, there’s no such thing as out of no where.
But what I did see today was an example of what “out of no-where” might actually stem from - I was driving up Beech Road at the speed limit (40 mph), and watched a car on the other Beech Road that runs parallel. That one has a speed limit of 30mph (it’s a resedential street, segregated from the main road by a fence), and the other car was pulling away from me, doing something like 45-50mph.
So. Back to the point of this post.
Was the cyclist at fault? Possibly. But being in control of a 1,000kg vehicle puts an awful lot more responsibility on the driver of the car involved to be awake, aware, and act like a gown-up at all times than one could reasonably expect from a child on a bike.