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Saints on the road

It is encouraging to see that Frans Said’s previous hardline stance against the bicycle is softening. In his latest letter, titled ‘Cyclists not all saints’, he concedes obliquely that there exist also cyclists who are saints. This is a great improvement. But, unfortunately, he continues to pour opprobrium on bicycle users.

First of all, he got the principle behind presument liability wrong. This law does not “go against all norms of justice and law, before which everybody is equal”. Said misses the fundamental point that a motor vehicle and a pedestrian are not equal on the road.

If a motor vehicle hits a vulnerable road user, most often a child or an old person, it is invariably the vulnerable who are injured or killed. The law also corrects the grossly unequal situation whereby the injured party has to claim damages from the vehicle driver - which usually means litigation (often lengthy and costly) against the vehicle driver’s insurance company.

Said goes on to demand “proper identification of each and every bicycle on the road”. The current combined EU27 cycling distance is 94 billion km a year (Eurostat).

There are now more than a billion bicycles in the world. People aged eight to over 80 have travelled on bicycles without any fuss over insurance or identification of the rider since the first patent application for a muscle-propelled vehicle was lodged (1818) - and the human race is the healthier for it.

Now after 200 years of unimpaired bicycle use, Said and some others in a Mediterranean island are demanding that bicycles and their users be registered and insured.

This doesn’t quite make sense. As to cyclists paying for ‘specialised lanes’, other countries are now paying commuters to travel to work by bicycle to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

This doesn’t quite make sense either.

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