Tuesday 30 August 2011

Opinion - Beware of the Woonerf

Do you know what a ‘Woonerf’ is? Apparently it’s a Dutch concept whereby in certain designated ‘pedestrian’ areas, drivers and cyclists are restricted to no more than walking pace, or 10 mph.  In these areas there are no roads and no pavements, just open-plan spaces.

Apparently, the responsibility is on drivers and riders to avoid being in an accident with a pedestrian. In an accident with a child under 14 years old, the driver is held to be liable. In one involving a pedestrian over 14, the likelihood is that the court will decide in favour of the pedestrian, but it is not based on explicit traffic law. 

So what’s this got to do with us?

Well, according to a recent poll conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, fifty-eight per cent of people think that drivers should be held legally responsible for accidents between cars and more vulnerable road users in pedestrian-priority zones.

Would that also apply to these new ’20 mph’ limits appearing in housing estates, shopping centres and outside schools?

I bet you’re worried now, and there’s more. All it would take is one crusading politician eager to make a name for him or herself, to cotton on to this Dutch idea and try to get it introduced over here.

What’s more worrying is how the great British public would react to such a law. The big fear is that motorists would be ‘attacked’ by pedestrians ‘bumping’ into their vehicles, falling over and then using their mobile to call the nearest ‘no win, no fee’ merchants of misery.

Whatever happened to the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

But then there’s really no need to worry at all. The great British public wouldn’t do a thing like that, eh?

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