Stoke City midfielder Steven Nzonzi caused uproar when he drove away from an accident scene where his careless driving left a cyclist battered, bruised and with mild concussion for several days.
The Premier League footballer was named and shamed on social media back in September following a high profile incident with an angry cyclist.
The cyclist in question, Rob Lockhart, claimed that the 24-year-old French midfielder’s Audi Q7 braked suddenly in Hale near Manchester, causing him to smash into the back, bruising his face and damaging his bike in the process.
Mr Lockhart said: “He pulled away and then pulled over sharply to park on double yellow lines outside a cash point. It was dangerous.
“I hit the back window with my head, helmet and face. I had mild concussion for two to three days afterwards.
“He got out of his car and said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you”. Then he just walked to the cashpoint. I didn’t feel he had any regard for me and what had just happened. He didn’t seem to care.”
‘You’re on a bike and I’m in a car, it doesn’t matter’
Mr Lockhart continued: “I was in shock, checking myself, the bike and the car to see what was damaged. When he walked back to his car I said we need to exchange insurance details and he said “No”. He said, “You’re on a bike and I’m in a car, it doesn’t matter”. He was really laid back, not angry. He didn’t even check if his car was damaged.”
He claimed that when he tried to get his phone out to take a picture, Mr Nzonzi laughed and said “You won’t trace me because my plates are foreign” before speeding away from the scene.
When Mr Lockhart, who doesn’t follow football and did not recognise Mr Nzonzi, shared the photos two witnesses took of the car and ‘mystery’ driver, the campaign to find him went viral.
Sir Chris Hoy was among the thousands of people who retweeted the pictures and users soon responded by linking Nzonzi.
Whether blame should be attributed to motorists or cyclists is an ongoing discussion, but this high profile incident brought much-needed attention to the issue to clear it up once and for all – who is to blame for accidents between drivers and cyclists?
One size fits all?
Whether you are driving a car or riding a bicycle, you are a road user and everyone shares the same responsibilities.
However, from judges to MPs, there are authorities who believe that the blame is more one-sided, with the scales tipping in the favour – or not – of either drivers or riders.
Call for motorists to shoulder blame automatically
Cambridge has the highest level of cycling in the country with one in three residents cycling to work.
As a keen cyclist himself, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert suggested mid-September that motorists should be automatically liable for collisions with cyclists unless it can be proved the rider was at fault.
He is calling for a law of ‘proportionate liability’ which assumes that the larger vehicle and therefore less vulnerable road user should be responsible for a crash, offering cyclists greater protection.
Dr Huppert, who is pushing for the government to implement the measures, said: “Cyclists and pedestrians are vulnerable road users and come off far worse in a collision with a motor vehicle. On occasions, a driver will use the excuse that he or she just hasn’t seen the cyclist. This is not acceptable.
“Proportionate liability, which operates in most European countries, offers the cyclist more protection in these cases. It puts the onus on the more dangerous vehicle for the collision. It would help protect car drivers from HGVs, bikes from cars and pedestrians from bikes.
This would also put a car at fault in the event of a scooter accident and make the odds of winning a motorcycle accident claim higher for the rider.
Proposals met fiery criticism
However, not everyone agrees with this initiative. Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said cyclists were often to blame for collisions with cars.
He said: “The proposal is nonsense. Whenever there’s an accident someone’s at fault but it’s not always the motorist – far from it.”
The proposals, which would also see drivers fined for straying into cycle lanes, provoked similarly heated reactions from motorists themselves.
In addition to failing to take account of the actions of cyclists, they warned that the Liberal Democrat policy threatened the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and could send car insurance premiums soaring.
Dr Huppert added: “This assumption is not an absolute rule. If a cyclist were travelling at night with no lights on, jumping red lights or not abiding by other rules of the roads, it would change the presumption.”
Helmetless cyclists could be penalised
We recently published a piece which highlighted that cyclists who choose not to wear a helmet could in fact be partially to blame for any injuries sustained in a road traffic accident.
A Swindon and Marlborough-based law firm recently warned cyclists that failing to wear a helmet potentially puts them at fault in the event of sustaining injuries in an accident caused by another party and ups the risk of being found to have contributed to their own injuries. Check out the full article for more details.
Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, believes the focus should be on avoiding collisions in the first place, and sums up the discussion rather nicely:
“You can’t jump to conclusions based simply on the type of vehicle involved, whether it’s a car and a bus or lorry, or a cyclist and a pedestrian. We are all road users and we all have responsibilities.”