Strict liability laws and cycling

  A short video (1:42) explains the law from a Dutch perspective. . The term “strict liability” is a legal […]


A short video (1:42) explains the law from a Dutch perspective.

The term “strict liability” is a legal term that can lead to the conviction of a person even if they were ignorant of the factors that made their behaviour illegal. A discussion of the legal terminology is on Wikipedia. It appears that Occupational Health and Safety laws in Australia are already including strict liability laws. There is also a legal discussion around the difference between “strict” liability and “absolute” liability. Australian Civil Aviation Regulations also have strict liability provisions. Using the term “presumed liability” could avoid being lumped into one of the existing boxes.

These types of protective laws work on the assumption that the liability for any accident should be on the person in charge of the dangerous vehicle, not the vulnerable user who is injured, REGARDLESS of fault. Currently Anglo-Saxon law is set up to determine fault. This liability would also extend to cyclists who injure pedestrians, whereas currently, cyclists are not required to be insured to use the roads (or footpaths).

Cycling greats such as Chris Boardman (1992 Olympic champion) publicly support strict liability laws in the UK. But then, he also opposes mandatory helmet laws ““I seldom wear a helmet,” he added to the Standard. “Statistically, you can cycle 800 times around the globe without having an accident,” he said.”

All European Union countries (except Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Ireland and the UK) have some form of presumed (strict) liability legislation in regards to vulnerable road users. China seems to have a mild form of strict liability, where in a collision with a vulnerable road user the car driver has to pay 10% of the damage regardless who is at fault.
Holland has introduced presumed liability legislation in 1990, but the main effort to make cycling safer started in the 1970’s, and was based on the separation of traffic based on volume and speed of traffic. Thus many people credit infrastructure for the safer cycling environment in Holland. Road Safety statistics show that their approach is substantially more effective than the Australian approach.

The following flowchart is from an internet blog, which also explains the boxes in detail. In the case of a collision with a bike rider, it is largely up to the car driver to prove that he has done nothing wrong, and if the bike rider is less than 14 years old, the car driver is judged to be at fault except if the can show that the bike rider intentionally caused the accident.

strictliability chart


The best measure to make bike riding safer is to get more people to use a bicycle for trips to the shops, train stations, schools and places of employment.

H.Benz, 27-May-2015

About Heinrich

Promoting everyday cycling