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The government could bring in a 'dangerous cycling' law – cycling law expert Mark Hambleton argues that there are more important things to review on our roads

A new law will shortly introduce the offence of ‘causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling’.

Laura Thomas of Birketts LLP recommends this new ‘dangerous cycling’ law in her report written as part of the Government’s cycle safety review. The report concludes that there is a persuasive case for legislative change to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes serious injury or death, in order to bring cycling into line with driving offences.

Let that sink in, the message to Government is that dangerous cycling needs to be brought into line with motoring offences.

This report is the first phase of the cycle safety review with the second phase being a consultation on road safety issues relating to cyclists and pedestrians. I’ve had my say and would encourage you to do the same on the government’s website before the deadline on 1 June 2018.

Do we really need this new law?

The recommendation for a new law follows the tragic death of Mrs Briggs in February 2016 and the passing of an 18-month sentence for Mr Alliston in September 2017.

The report states that this tragedy was the trigger rather than the cause for the review. I don’t agree with that view because I cannot see a good reason (or public/political appetite) for the new law in the absence of this high profile case.

The report states that there have been nine cases in the past ten years with sufficient levels of culpability to be relevant to the review – less than one per year. Imagine if motoring offences that kill or injure vulnerable road users were reviewed with such frequency.

This new law could, therefore (in theory) go for years without ever being needed. I am not against a general review of road traffic laws but the speed with which this law change has come about is shocking and is indicative of the bias against cyclists in the application of current law.

The stats show that it is motorists who remain (by far) the greatest danger on our roads, which makes this new law even more disproportionate in terms of making a real impact on the real dangers on our roads. The statistics in the 2016 DFT survey (and associated media articles) make stark reading:

  • 3 deaths and 108 serious injuries were caused by cyclists
  • 1,792 people were killed on our roads. 448 pedestrians were killed and 102 cyclists were killed. 99.33% of pedestrian deaths are caused by motorists (or some other cause which is not motoring or cycling related).
  • 24,101 people were seriously injured on our roads. 99.55% of serious injuries to pedestrians are caused by motorists (or some other cause which is not motoring or cycling related)

What should the Government prioritise?

The proposed new law has somehow managed to leap ahead of a 2014 review of road traffic offences which still hasn’t been published four years later. No such delays for this new law.

If the powers that be really want to improve road safety, perhaps they should sort out the following:

  • focus on motorists as the road users who pose the greatest danger. Stamping out speeding or poor behaviour around cyclists could be achieved by applying our existing laws without the current levels of sympathy for motorists.
  • introduce presumed liability for drivers who hit cyclists.
  • improve infrastructure to help cyclists keep away from traffic.
  • increase mandatory training (around cyclists and pedestrians) for motorists before they are licensed to drive on our roads.
  • publicise the importance of cycling to our health, referencing pollution, congestion, public health and the burden on the NHS.

It is encouraging to hear that a review of our road laws is back on the agenda but a real disappointment to see that, instead of taking steps to improve the safety of our roads for vulnerable road users, a law change is being proposed that will only affect a minute number of people.

 

After taking up cycling to commute between Bristol and Bath, Mark has seen all sorts of incidents and has become a keen advocate for cycling and protecting the rights of cyclists.

Mark is now lucky enough to combine his passion for cycling with his day job as a cycling solicitor at Royds Withy King.

17 comments

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hawkinspeter [1985 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politician%27s_syllogism:

  1. We must do something

  2. This is something

  3. Therefore, we must do this.

It seems that the Conservatives and Labour have a vanishingly small interest in promoting cycling. Shame.

 

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Alessandro [170 posts] 3 months ago
10 likes

Laura Thomas is not an independent party to this and should not have been involved. She has previously held a board position at the Frieght Transport Association and is a serving Deputy Traffic Commissioner. 

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Jimmy Ray Will [921 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes

Surprising news... or should I say, not in the least bit surprising news. 

For me it raises the question... is it OK to create legislation purely to pander to the masses?

The obvious thought is no, however, when you look at it, you could argue most legislation in some ways panders to public opinion, so maybe we are just seeing how the world really works in an area we have a vested interest / deeper insight into? 

I'd also argue that if this law will effect so few people, is it really the end of the world bringing this law into effect? 

The big counter argument is yes, there is a problem here, because by pandering to the masses to you are confirming to the masses that their opinions, which by and by are formed through ignornce, are right. Cyclists are dangerous and are acting as a law onto themselves currently. That to me is totally unacceptable.

 

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Eton Rifle [88 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes

Let's just remind ourselves of the actual facts of the matter. 

Buried in footnote 30 on page 26 of Laura Thomas' "independent" review is this gem commenting on the 20 pedestrian fatalities arising from collisions with cyclists between 2011 and 2016:

For completeness, not all of these fatalities were attributed to cyclist error:"15/20 fatalities were assigned at least one contributory factor, with 6/20 assigning a factor to the pedestrian only, 5/20 assigning a factor to both the pedestrian and the cyclist, and 4/20 assigning a factor to the cyclist only."

Let's take that first phrase:  "not all of those fatalities".  Actually only four out of the twenty are the fault of the cyclist.  That's ONE in FIVE.  20%.  Too fucking right not all of them were attributable to cyclist error.  In fact, more were attributable to pedestrian error.  Surely the correct phrase should be "not all of those fatalities were attributed to pedestrian error".  Mathematics not your strong point, is it, Laura?

So, with a massive FOUR potential charges every six years of causing death by dangerous cycling, as Mark points out, this new law will not even be used once a year.  However, you can be sure that if it is introduced, there will be a fanfare of publicity claiming improved safety while drivers carry on killing and maiming thousands of people every fucking year,  with impunity in most cases.  

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davel [2390 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Thoroughly depressing: the main article, and all of the comments I've read here are spot on.

Oppose this for all the reasons you've noted, to anyone who'll listen: it could well be that a Joe Bloggs who doesn't give a shit about cycling doesn't want the government faffing around with pointless laws. It could be that your useless Labour MP just wants any reason to kick the Tories and make it look like they're not putting everything possible into Brexit.

Oppose it because the author is possibly biased; oppose it because it's definitely a biased, poor quality report; oppose it because it is stupid, pandering law; and oppose it because more members of the public will think that this is the 'right' way to go than keep things as is.

 

Remember - the roads review report hasn't even been published yet (4 years now?). If we put up with this, they will keep pulling this utter bullshit.

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brooksby [3289 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

How often does the CPS seem to use "careless driving" as the offence when they should have used "dangerous driving" but thought they had a better chance of a conviction using the lesser charge?  It looks like this new law will be just one law: "dangerous or careless cycling".  Bringing in a new law for the sake of it seems like a waste of time and effort; after all, "wanton or furious cycling" (an old law, though not as old as the one which covers GBH, IIRC) was clearly fine given that was what Mr Alliston was convicted under... 

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hawkinspeter [1985 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

@Davel - my useless Labour MP can't even be bothered to kick the Tories. She just seems to go along with whatever comes out of Westminster. Opposition, my arse.

Avatar
Bluebug [351 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Surprising news... or should I say, not in the least bit surprising news. 

For me it raises the question... is it OK to create legislation purely to pander to the masses?

The obvious thought is no, however, when you look at it, you could argue most legislation in some ways panders to public opinion, so maybe we are just seeing how the world really works in an area we have a vested interest / deeper insight into? 

I'd also argue that if this law will effect so few people, is it really the end of the world bringing this law into effect? 

The big counter argument is yes, there is a problem here, because by pandering to the masses to you are confirming to the masses that their opinions, which by and by are formed through ignornce, are right. Cyclists are dangerous and are acting as a law onto themselves currently. That to me is totally unacceptable.

This legislation reminds me in some way of the Dangerous Dogs Act another law pushed through as "something must be done".  

This law is going to rarely be used, is a waste of parliament's time and isn't going to increase Tory votes.

Avatar
davel [2390 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:

@Davel - my useless Labour MP can't even be bothered to kick the Tories. She just seems to go along with whatever comes out of Westminster. Opposition, my arse.

Urgh. Could still be worth nudging her over this. It's an open goal, to me. If she's not even interested in open goals, yeah she needs getting rid of, ASAP.

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BehindTheBikesheds [2018 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Road CC are you sure 3 deaths and 108 serious injuries were actually the fault of/caused by cyclists in 2016? This doesn't tally up with the report as linked by Eaton Rifle/below which shows that a signigicant/majority of deaths are not caused by people on bikes, or are these figures including deaths of motorists caused by bicyclists and/or other cyclists?

Eaton Rifle already mentioned this but it's massively, massively important!

When looking at implementing a new law the report clearly states that only 4 out of 20 pedestrian deaths (over the last 6 years including 2016) involving a pedal cycle were attributed to be the fault of the person on a bike.

This is the footnote, unsurprisingly left right to the end despite its importance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycle-safety-review thia review covers 2011-2016 inclusive.

"For completeness, not all of these fatalities were attributed to cyclist error: “15/20 fatalities were assigned at least one contributory factor, with 6/20 assigning a factor to the pedestrian only, 5/20 assigning a factor to both the pedestrian and the cyclist, and 4/20 assigning a factor to the cyclist only.”

Avatar
Jambalaya [3 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
davel wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

@Davel - my useless Labour MP can't even be bothered to kick the Tories. She just seems to go along with whatever comes out of Westminster. Opposition, my arse.

Urgh. Could still be worth nudging her over this. It's an open goal, to me. If she's not even interested in open goals, yeah she needs getting rid of, ASAP.

Sometimes it's not that easy. Ok for those living in a marginal, ours has just celebrated 20 years and only local fallouts could get her to go. 

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Bill Tucker [5 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

No problems with the proposed law as long as it is extended to every one using the roads;- pedestrians, horse riders, mobility scooter users, roller skaters, skateboarders etc.

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Bill Tucker [5 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Having read the consultation document it does have the following horrendous misstatement in it - 

7.6 Bicycles used on the road must comply with Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations. These require braking systems on both front and rear wheels.

Have they never heard of penny farthings, recumbent bicycles, tricycles and worst of all fixed wheel bikes without front brakes imported by temporary visitors to the U.K. Makes you wonder if they know what they are talking about.

 

 

 

Avatar
hirsute [295 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Road CC are you sure 3 deaths and 108 serious injuries were actually the fault of/caused by cyclists in 2016? This doesn't tally up with the report as linked by Eaton Rifle/below which shows that a signigicant/majority of deaths are not caused by people on bikes, or are these figures including deaths of motorists caused by bicyclists and/or other cyclists?

Eaton Rifle already mentioned this but it's massively, massively important!

When looking at implementing a new law the report clearly states that only 4 out of 20 pedestrian deaths (over the last 6 years including 2016) involving a pedal cycle were attributed to be the fault of the person on a bike.

This is the footnote, unsurprisingly left right to the end despite its importance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycle-safety-review thia review covers 2011-2016 inclusive.

"For completeness, not all of these fatalities were attributed to cyclist error: “15/20 fatalities were assigned at least one contributory factor, with 6/20 assigning a factor to the pedestrian only, 5/20 assigning a factor to both the pedestrian and the cyclist, and 4/20 assigning a factor to the cyclist only.”

Those numbers are from dft stats. But you are right, they are just a record of 'incidents', there is no indication of blame to a party.

Avatar
Mark Hambleton [7 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politician%27s_syllogism:

  1. We must do something

  2. This is something

  3. Therefore, we must do this.

It seems that the Conservatives and Labour have a vanishingly small interest in promoting cycling. Shame.

 

 

Totally agree - it's a knee jerk reaction based upon the strength of feeling generated by the Alliston case and the reporting of it by the media. It's clear the same reaction does not follow the many more deaths caused by motor vehicles - these seem to be accepted as some sort of collateral damage that is an inevitable by-product of travel in this country.

 

Avatar
Mark Hambleton [7 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Surprising news... or should I say, not in the least bit surprising news. 

For me it raises the question... is it OK to create legislation purely to pander to the masses?

The obvious thought is no, however, when you look at it, you could argue most legislation in some ways panders to public opinion, so maybe we are just seeing how the world really works in an area we have a vested interest / deeper insight into? 

I'd also argue that if this law will effect so few people, is it really the end of the world bringing this law into effect? 

The big counter argument is yes, there is a problem here, because by pandering to the masses to you are confirming to the masses that their opinions, which by and by are formed through ignornce, are right. Cyclists are dangerous and are acting as a law onto themselves currently. That to me is totally unacceptable.

 

 

I see your point about the law affecting so few, so why should we worry about it. It paints a very misleading picture and reinforces the ill informed belief of many that cyclists are a danger to pedestrians while at the same time missing the point as to how we could take steps to actually reduce road deaths . 

Avatar
Mark Hambleton [7 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

hirsute wrote:

BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

Road CC are you sure 3 deaths and 108 serious injuries were actually the fault of/caused by cyclists in 2016? This doesn't tally up with the report as linked by Eaton Rifle/below which shows that a signigicant/majority of deaths are not caused by people on bikes, or are these figures including deaths of motorists caused by bicyclists and/or other cyclists?

Eaton Rifle already mentioned this but it's massively, massively important!

When looking at implementing a new law the report clearly states that only 4 out of 20 pedestrian deaths (over the last 6 years including 2016) involving a pedal cycle were attributed to be the fault of the person on a bike.

This is the footnote, unsurprisingly left right to the end despite its importance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycle-safety-review thia review covers 2011-2016 inclusive.

"For completeness, not all of these fatalities were attributed to cyclist error: “15/20 fatalities were assigned at least one contributory factor, with 6/20 assigning a factor to the pedestrian only, 5/20 assigning a factor to both the pedestrian and the cyclist, and 4/20 assigning a factor to the cyclist only.”

Those numbers are from dft stats. But you are right, they are just a record of 'incidents', there is no indication of blame to a party.

 

No matter who was at fault, it's an astonishingly small number of occurrences. I'd be interested to find out the split