Public Consultation on Cycling Offences

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.

The ABD 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

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Past articles:

More Pedestrian Deaths Caused by or to Cyclists: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/more-pedestrian-deaths-caused-by-or-to-cyclists/

Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/cyclist-convicted-in-pedestrian-death-case/

Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/549/

Banker Fined for Dangerous Cycling: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/banker-fined-for-dangerous-cycling/

London Divided and Cycling Accident Rates: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/london-divided-and-cycling-accident-rates/

Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/are-cyclists-racing-on-londons-streets/

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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

Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge

The case of Charlie Alliston who is currently in court facing a manslaughter charge for killing a pedestrian is getting a lot of media coverage, and it’s surely not just because of the shortage of good news stories in August.

Mr Alliston ran into Mrs Kim Briggs, 44, on Old Street in London. She suffered major head injuries and died a week later. It has been revealed that not only was he doing over 18 mph, but the bike he was riding was a racing model – a “fixie” with no brakes, i.e. with fixed pedals and no front brake when it is illegal to ride such bikes on public roads. He apparently shouted to her to get out of the way, and even shouted at her after the crash.

This is not the first such case. The Daily Mail published a good article by Chris Greenwood earlier this year giving some of the data and other cases. He reported that the number of accidents between cyclists and pedestrians had soared by 47% in seven years, rising to 408 in 2015. He noted several pedestrians were killed which resulted in prosecutions of cyclists. He also reported that the biggest regional spike in the numbers was in London (226 accidents in 2015).

Now I have commented on the problems caused by some cyclists riding “furiously” on London streets before – in a blog post entitled “Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets?” where I came to the conclusion that they were – if not against each other, against themselves – based on the recording on Strava of trip times. As a result I got an enormous amount of abuse from a few cyclists.

After a lot of analysis, I came to the conclusion that the comments did not undermine the main point of the article and I said “it is very clear from anyone who walks, cycles or drives in London that there are a minority of cyclists acting in a somewhat dangerous way both to themselves and other people. In other words, cycling at an excessive speed in relation to road hazards and other road users”. This latest case simply reinforces the message that there are dangerous cyclists in London and the problem is getting worse if anything.

Roger Lawson