Protecting the most vulnerable: A “Street Code” for Penang

traffic accident death PenangPedestrian is King? If you really want to protect pedestrians, cyclists, disabled persons and other vulnerable street users in Penang from speeding motorised vehicles, you will do like the best and adopt a living, legal “Street Code”.

The basic idea behind the “Street Code” (Code de la rue), which first became law in Belgium in 2004, and four years later in France,  is  that legal responsibility for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that a driver who hits a pedestrian or cyclist has to prove his innocence in the courts — as opposed to today where the cyclist must prove the driver’s guilt (not always very easy to do, and almost always very expensive for the injured party).

The main objectives of the Street Code are to: 1) change the mentality and behaviour of road users so as to improve safety in the streets; 2) ensure better protection of vulnerable road users; 3) take into account the place, rights and obligations of each different road user.

Many European cities are of late starting to advance on the idea of establishing a far tougher “street codes”, specifically adapted to the special and more demanding conditions of driving in city traffic. This is becoming especially important as we start to see a much greater mix of vehicles, speeds and people on the street. If streets are for cars, well this is probably not a priority. But if they are “public spaces” and open to the full range of uses and users, then perhaps something along these lines is called for.

The idea is works is that legal responsibility for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that the driver who hits a cyclist has to prove his innocence, as opposed to today where the cyclist must prove the driver’s guilt (not always very easy to do).

This is not quite as good as John Adams’ magnificent 1995 formulation whereby every steering wheel of every car , truck and bus would be equipped with a large sharp nail aimed directly at the driver’s heart– but it can at least help getting things moving in the right direction.

 

Some first references:

Livable Streets discussions of Street Code
What is Street Code? (Thanks for use of your graphic)
Code de la rue – Belgium (Use Translate here as needed)
Code de la rue – France
Code de la rue – Wikipedia

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Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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