Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case

To follow on from my previous blog post on the case of cyclist Charlie Alliston who was charged with manslaughter over the death of Mrs Kim Briggs, he was yesterday found not guilty of manslaughter by a jury but guilty of the offence of “wanton or furious driving”. He showed no remorse which the judge commented negatively upon so a custodial sentence may be imposed (maximum 2 years for that offence under the law dating from 1861).

There were some very relevant comments after the trial by Mrs Briggs widower, himself a cyclist, who said: “The current law is outdated and has not kept pace with the huge increase in the number of people cycling and the associated risk of collisions, nor the attitude of some cyclists. We need to change the way the law deals with this. I am calling for an introduction of laws of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling, thereby bringing cycling laws into line with the Road Traffic Act”. Those are surely sensible proposals.

Mr Briggs also made some negative comments about “some aspects of our cycling culture”. This case is like many that attract a lot of public attention. Effectively a tragedy arising from a whole combination of unusual circumstances – a young rider (aged 18 at the time), on an inappropriate bike, with a vulnerable pedestrian who might have been on a mobile phone at the time (i.e. not looking when crossing the street). Mr Briggs’ comments are very much to the point, and updating the law in this area would surely be worthwhile. But changing the culture so that some cyclists do not behave so aggressively and consider they have the right of way regardless is going to be a more difficult problem to solve.

Postscript: Mr Alliston was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders’ institution.

Roger Lawson

London Divided, and Cycling Accident Rates

The Financial Times ran an article on the 31st March by Conor Sullivan which was headlined “London divided over mayor’s cycling legacy”. It highlighted the contrasting views of Londoners over Boris Johnson’s cycling policies and specifically the construction of the Cycle Superhighways. These have resulted in a major worsening of traffic congestion in London and are likely to continue to do so – we have reported on this in previous articles.

Here’s some quotes from the FT article. Sir George Iacobescu, CEO of property group Canary Wharf, said “if you come to Tower Hill any morning, there is a tailback of commercial vehicles several miles long”. Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s cycling commissioner, responded that most people wanted improvements for cyclists and that “There is always noisy objection, but they always turn out to be from the minority”. Members of Parliament were also reported as being unhappy as Parliament lies on the route of one Superhighway and Gilligan said “MPs were constantly tugging at the [Mayor’s] sleeve saying ‘this is a disaster’.”

Sir George noted that while only a small proportion of Londoners still drive in the city centre, those who do often have no option. He said “You have shop deliveries, commuter buses, construction traffic, white van man, the black taxi, the disabled, garbage collection, ambulances, dignitaries, Her Majesty….. this is not about private cars”.

Furious Cycling

My previous blog comment on “furious” cycling, or racing on the streets of London got some predictable comments from cyclists. For those who misunderstood, the article was intended to highlight the behaviour of cyclists not just for the problems that they create for other road users and pedestrians but because they are often a danger to themselves.

As I have been preparing a presentation on road safety, I happened to come across a chart on page 7 of the document published by the Department of Transport entitled “Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain 2014” – for the full report as it is well worth reading see:

The interesting thing about this chart is that it shows that although cycle traffic has gone up considerably in the last few years, the number of seriously injured has gone up considerably more (the number killed has fallen but the numbers there may be less statistically significant and may be more affected by better medical treatment). Now if there was generally worse behaviour by other road users, you would expect to see an increase in KSIs among other road users, but that is not the case. Even the KSIs among pedestrians have fallen. This surely rather suggests that the behaviour of cyclists has changed in some way over the last few years which has led to a rise in KSIs. I therefore suggest that this is evidence that “furious cycling” is a growing problem and as the above figures are for Great Britain as a whole this problem has now extended well outside London.

Roger Lawson