The Government have announced a review of cycling offences and a public consultation on what they propose to change. This follows an increase in the apparent numbers of cyclists who ride “furiously” and cause harm to pedestrians or other cyclists.
The Department for Transport (DfT) have reported that in the last five years (to 2016) there were 2,491 accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists with no other vehicle involved which resulted in 20 fatal pedestrian casualties and 546 serious injuries. It is clearly not a trivial problem (source: LTT).
A particular concern was the recent case of Charlie Alliston who killed Mrs Kim Briggs on Old Street in London. He was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Victorian offence of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving” for which he received a sentence of 18 months in prison. The maximum sentence for that offence is 2 years. It was realised that there is no equivalent to the offence of “causing death by dangerous driving” that vehicle users face. There is effectively a gap in the law as regards cyclists.
The Government’s proposal is to introduce “parity” of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury. They are also proposing other minor changes – for example to make cycling offences apply to any public area, not just roads. That might cover car parks and pedestrianised precincts.
Comment: In principle it would seem to make sense to introduce parity as a deterrent to bad behaviour by cyclists. This seems to be a particular problem in London where cyclists often travel at high speed on their commute to/from work and don’t like to slow down at all. They often seem to try to emulate their racing cycle heroes and record their journey times on the web. See the past articles on this topic in the links given below. It is becoming a serious problem in London which many people have commented upon in the media articles written on this subject.
Whether introducing parity in offences will actually improve the behaviour of cyclists seems questionable however. The immediate reaction of Cycling UK spokesperson Duncan Dollimore was to dismiss the proposals with the comment that “Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges”. He called for a wider review of road traffic offences. Olympic medallist Chris Boardman said “That says it all really. Wow, just wow. I genuinely thought this was a bad joke, had to check it was a real account” and called for other cyclists to complain. Cyclists seem to hate being subject to regulation so it seems likely that cyclists will oppose the proposed changes.
As the consultation on this issue points out, cyclists are not subject to licensing and do not have to carry insurance. They are not subject to points totting up, nor of disqualification from cycling, although they can be disqualified from driving vehicles.
One concern is that cyclists are silent and are no longer required to have bells to warn of their approach (they were before 2011). When they persist in riding on pavements many people are concerned about them being hit from behind without warning. It is interesting to note that the DfT will soon be mandating noise generators for electric vehicles to protect pedestrians so why not introduce the same rule for cycles?
There may be other ways to improve cyclists’ behaviour such as cycle speed limits or controls on the type of cycles that can be used, but a change in attitude is really what is required. More consideration for others and less libido.
We will probably respond to the formal consultation on this subject so please let us have your comments. Or of course you can submit your own comments directly. The consultation is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-cycling-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury-when-cycling
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More Pedestrian Deaths Caused by or to Cyclists: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2017/09/15/more-pedestrian-deaths-caused-by-or-to-cyclists/
Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2017/08/24/cyclist-convicted-in-pedestrian-death-case/
Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2017/08/16/549/
Banker Fined for Dangerous Cycling: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2016/10/29/banker-fined-for-dangerous-cycling/
London Divided and Cycling Accident Rates: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2016/04/03/london-divided-and-cycling-accident-rates/
Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2015/12/29/are-cyclists-racing-on-londons-streets/
When I saw that the Government were proposing such changes, I felt that it was an excellent idea, albeit far too late.
I would agree with Duncan Dollimore’s comment that a more thorough review of road safety offences is needed (I would very much like there to be a law against “jay-walking”, especially when using a mobile phone, or crossing the road against a red light). But, in the meantime, this is a step in the right direction.
I was appalled by Chris Boardman’s comment which seemed to imply that cyclists were above the law as most of them seem to think (for example, yesterday, I could have had an accident with a cyclist dressed in dark clothes with no lights whatsoever on his bike).
So, not only do I entirely agree with the proposed review, but I would strongly suggest it goes further and the (current and proposed) laws against cyclists are enforced.
(Dr) Adrian V Stokes OBE 97 Millway, Mill Hill, LONDON, NW7 3JL
Comments noted and will include in our submission on the consultation.