The Department of Transport announced this month that they have new plans to update road safety laws to give pedestrians and cyclists further protection against dangerous cyclists. Consultation for these changes opened on 12th August and will run until 5th Nov, with the aim to seek views on whether convictions of dangerous cycling activity should result in offences of causing death or serious injury by dangerous careless cycling.
Cycling offences are rarely highlighted in the media but are more common than you might think, with 847 cyclists convicted in 2016 for road offences including careless cycling, dangerous cycling and cycling drunk. All of these, plus other offences, cause danger to others on the roads; cyclists, pedestrians and even drivers. Whilst Ignoring traffic signals was the most common offence, careless and dangerous cycling offences were not far behind, including the well-publicised case of Kim Briggs, killed in February 2016 by a bike courier who hit her on a fixed wheel track bike with no front brake at 14mph.
The cyclist, 18 year old Charlie Alliston, was later sentenced to 18 months in jail for “wanton and furious driving”, but was this enough for taking a life, especially given the charge against Charlie was the most serious charge available. ‘Wanton and furious driving’ actually stems from a law dating back to 1861 and was originally applied in circumstances where the victim would be damaged by any non-motor vehicle such as a carriage or bicycle – this was the newest law that could be applied to the charge which, 155 years on from inception, indicates our current road laws in respect to cyclists are due for review. At present, no criminal offences apply specifically to cyclists who cause death or injury.
Should the consultation lead to changes to road traffic law, there are several options that may be considered, either separately or concurrently:
- Making existing dangerous driving laws applicable to cyclists, and removing the reference in the Road Traffic Act 1988 that currently only applies dangerous driving laws to ‘mechanically propelled vehicles’
- Tougher laws and sentencing around bikes in particular; for example, a new law called “Death by Dangerous Cycling” could be introduced
- Cycling licensing options, which would see those wishing to cycle for either leisure or work to pay for a license. This is perhaps the least likely, as it would be very difficult to enforce and cause outrage in the community.
Whatever happens, it is clear that our laws on dangerous cycling need updating, if for no other reason but to bring them into this century and to allow more for the amount of bikes on the road. Thoughts? Let us know in the comments!