ERG calls for traffic law to be updated ‘sooner rather than later’

The Equality Rights Group has called on Paul Balban, the Minister for Traffic, to undertake a ‘thorough review and update of the Traffic Act 2005 in order to reflect the, at times, serious liabilities which may accompany the use of bicycles through our public thoroughfares, even under controlled hours of operation. Our community deserves the right of safety which derives from the authorities’ duty of care.

‘It is not our intention, however, to question the merits or demerits of the new cycling lane scheme as has recently been introduced, and fully appreciate that the Minister aims to guide the community towards lower dependence on motor vehicles. One thing is clear, though, and that is that our pavements and pedestrianised areas need to be better regulated for the safety of all users.

‘More than ever now in the new circumstances, however, it would be imprudent to permit bicycles to be driven through crowded thoroughfares without proper and adequate legal provisions at whatever time of day. And, for a number of reasons, we consider the Traffic Act to be out of sync with the new realities. For instance, the law as it currently stands contemplates provisions for horse-drawn vehicles but only very marginally considers the responsibilities that must also accompany the use of bicycles.

‘At a time when UK Ministers are considering the introduction of an offence of causing death by dangerous driving applicable to cyclists as a result of the sad death of an innocent pedestrian in this manner, the relevant sections of our Traffic Act now cry out for upgrading given the new proximity of cyclists to pedestrians on our roads, We must be conscious that people of all ages, and of all physical and other abilities freely circulate on our streets, and it is pertinent we build a recognised and adequate legal framework of rights and responsibilities in the face of potential harm or hazard both in terms of legislation and practical enforcement by the Royal Gibraltar Police. These considerations cannot be left loose, vague or random any longer.

‘This is also the right moment to consider the safety of cyclists themselves, too, in order to afford them safety and protection from reckless or dangerous drivers of motor vehicles. The incorporation of clear legal provisions would further effectively enhance drivers’ awareness of their duty towards cyclists on our roads, especially if endorsed by deterring and enforceable penalties. Furthermore, a number of pedestrian-level devices (sometimes power- and sometimes manually-driven) have emerged in recent years on our streets and pavements, and the law must not lag behind in contemplating them, as reports to ERG have recently increased regarding close encounters with physical injury resulting from unregulated use by individuals for whom there are, as yet, no specific provisions or guidelines.

‘At this early stage, therefore, ERG has limited itself to requesting clear assurances from Minister Balban that he will order a review of the relevant legislation with minimal delay in order to rectify the present deficits in this regard, and before we ever get to a situation of having to report on harm or injury to anyone, but especially to vulnerable members of our community. We have asked the Minister to commit to such a review sooner rather than later, and we will be monitoring developments,’ the statement points out in closing