New legislation would target cyclists who kill or injure pedestrians

Law being proposed after teenager's death in 2008

by Mark Appleton   March 21, 2011  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

An MP is proposing the creation of a new offence aimed at cyclists who kill or seriously injure pedestrians.

Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, is due to use the Ten Minute Rule Motion to give the Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences) Bill its first reading in the House of Commons tomorrow, although this timing may change in view of developments in Libya.

If adopted,  the Bill would create the new offences of causing death or serious injury through dangerous or reckless cycling and set minimum sentencing and fine tariffs for those convicted of such offences.

The impetus behind the Bill comes from the tragic case of 17-year-old Rhiannon Bennett who was struck by a cyclist in Buckingham in 2008 and died as a result of her injuries.

The cyclist, Jason Howard, is said to have shouted at a group of teenagers to “move, because I’m not stopping” before colliding with the Rhiannon and knocking her over. The teenager struck her head on the pavement and died six days later.

Howard was found guilty of dangerous cycling and fined £2200, a figure which is well in excess of those handed down to many motorists convicted of killing cyclists through dangerous driving.

While it was widely reported that Howard was riding on the pavement when the collision occured, after the case, Sgt Dominic Mahon of Thames Valley Police told the BBC: "We think Rhiannon was probably a few inches, or a foot, in to the road and then she moved towards the pavement."

A CTC spokesman told road.cc that: there have been two jail sentences handed down to cyclists who have killed pedestrians in recent years so there is no need for new legislation.

While a cyclist cannot receive a custodial sentence under a charge of dangerous cycling, such an option is available in cases where a rider is found guilty of "wanton and furious driving" as under this law the term "driving" can apply to bicycles.

Department for Transport figures suggest that the incidence of pedestrians being killed by cyclists riding on pavements is extremely low with three deaths having been recorded between 1999 and 2009.

There were no pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists on roads or pavements in 2009, the last full year for which figures are available.

 

16 user comments

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Why have a law limted to cyclists, why not have a general one for all road traffic?

Howard was found guilty of dangerous cycling and fined £2200, a figure which is well in excess of those handed down to many motorists convicted of killing cyclists through dangerous driving.

Sounds like MPs might want to take a look at enforcement of the existing laws first.

Of course if it is used in the same way causing death by dangerous driver is, it will have virtually no effect.

If I remember rightly these 10 min bills almost never get anywhere. They mostly generate some headlines for the MP in their local press (good to be seem 'doing something').

posted by thereverent [295 posts]
21st March 2011 - 12:30

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From the way you describe the incident, it seems to me the isue is only that motorists are not punished severely enough, not that Howard was punished too severely - he richly deserved what he got, and I hope for his sake he had insurance, as he also deserves to be pursued for a civil claim.

I don't hwoever see that it justifies yet more rules when current ones are not properly enforced. Nationally over the decade to 2007, pedestrian deaths in collisions with cyclists accounted for one in every 263 of all pedestrian deaths in collisions with vehicles. It doesn't for example justify making cyclists' third party insurance compulsory either.

I wonder if Rhiannon would have survived if she had been wearing a helmet?

posted by Paul M [305 posts]
21st March 2011 - 14:44

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This is ridiculous. He received a heavy fine, which he deserved. Yet motorists killing cyclists tend to receive lighter fines. Why is this anomaly allowed? As for pavement cycling, it seems that with all the action being taken against cyclists at present, no-one is for example bothering to consider why so many cyclists choose to ride on the pavement. In other words, the law seems to be trying to deal with the symptom rather than the cause, which is bad driving on the part of so many motorists.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2109 posts]
21st March 2011 - 16:15

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Given that the fine in this case is already well above that handed out to many motorists who kill pedestrians or cyclists, a special law for cyclists seems like the majority (non-cycling motorists) are oppressing the minority.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
21st March 2011 - 17:24

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I remember Howard's case for several reasons. One being that the only witnesses were the friends of the girl, most being underage and under the influence of alcohol. There were no independent witnesses to his pavement riding iirc. Secondly I remember it for the newpapers stating that he had been riding in a time trial and had no reflectors or lights on his bike - he was not in a time trial, and was riding during day light iirc.

Thirdly I remember it for how the press made out that pedestrians were being killed left right and centre, when this has never been the case.

I personally feel Howard got a fair trial. Many drivers who kill do not, in such a way that they receive little or no sentance and victims and their families are severly let down.

There is already law in place we can use as already stated, if the collision is serious enough, just as with Darren Hall:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6793530.ece

MPs who try and put through Bills such as this are wasting public money and time when their efforts should be applied to making sure existing laws are being used properly.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [190 posts]
21st March 2011 - 21:15

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How many peds are killed annually by cyclists? 0.3, according to the article.

And how many by drivers?
- 646 in 2007
- 572 in 2008
- 500 more in 2009.
That's 1,718 in 3 years, so 5,726 over 10 years based on an average of the above.

We get misguided crap like the DfT's Be Bright, Be Seen shock tactics and heavy-handed policing.

Strikes me this is a case of ignoring the elephant in the room.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1884 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 10:42

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Dear Andrea

Could I propose a risk-based approach?

First we sort out the real Killing Machine: the vehicle driver, killing hundreds each year, including children, cyclists and also including pedestrians on pavements. So. Let’s get proportionate: Strict Liability has been asked for by walking and cycling organisations for years. Legal decisions are currently too lenient and favour the driver too readily.

Once that is done, step two: you will then realise that sorting out minority cases, like you are proposing, yields little results i.e. is a silly proposal, really.

Katja Leyendecker
kleyendecker.co.uk
newcycling.org.uk

Katsdekker's picture

posted by Katsdekker [12 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 11:20

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Below.

Katja Leyendecker
kleyendecker.co.uk
newcycling.org.uk

Katsdekker's picture

posted by Katsdekker [12 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 11:22

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Perfectly good law crafted in 1835 and applies to ALL road users on wheels updated for cycles in 1882, and motor cars in 1903 IIRC.

Proportionately one might note that the far greater gain in road safety would be to target the 5% of vehicular traffic (HGV's) which is linked to deaths and serious injuries far out of proportion to its presence on the road, and (if only we had the equivalent of RAIB or the AAIB working on road deaths) the real cause of most HGV deaths - drivers not fit to drive combined with vehicles not legal for use are tackled with due rigour by the law.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [468 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 12:06

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It is a silly approach to a serious issue, here we see a needy MP trying to make it look as if she is doing something for her constituents. It is a shame that she hasn't bothered to stop and really think things through, rather than simply feeding off the grief of one of her constituents. At the end of the day she knows perfectly well that this Bill has absolutely no chance of ever making it on to the statute book, and it purely about getting her a good headline in her local rag.

If she really wanted to do something about road safety, she could have tried to bring in a law of Strict Liability.

posted by Kim [126 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 12:31

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The press went wild with mis-infomation about the killing of Rhiannon Bennett. The cyclist was not on the pavement, that was clear from the CCTV coverage before the crash, the video is no longer on line but there is a still here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/7496757.stm

The cyclist's fine was more twice that given at the time to car drivers prosecuted for killing pedestrians - many others are never prosecuted. In this case a group of drunken pedestrians stepped into the road in front of cyclist going down a fairly steep hill. He shouted, just as a car driver may have blasted his horn. He failed to avoid the teenagers - killing one of them.

Quite rightly he was prosecuted and sentenced. Since then then there are stronger laws for prosecuting motor vehicle drivers, cyclists can still be proscuted for manslaughter and recieve jail sentences, if the evidence justifies it.

A cyclist killing a pedestrian is quite rare, maybe that explains the hysterical reaction in some of the press who pass little or no comment on the dozens of pedestrians killed by cars each month. Quite rightly Rhiannon's parents are outraged, they deserve our deepest sympathy. Unfortunately the MP is using this tragedy in a way that will increase the prejudice against cyclists and perhaps put us more at risk.
-
charlie

posted by charlie_lcc [5 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 20:13

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mmm food for thought , what would happen if a cyclist badly injured or killed a pedestrian on a shared cycle path? They seem to be increasing around the area I live, some are totally shared, others are simply segregated by a white line. Thinking

stapes78's picture

posted by stapes78 [15 posts]
22nd March 2011 - 23:24

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charlie_lcc, if what you say is right (and it seems to concur with what I read) then this cyclist shouldn't have been riding at a speed that he couldn't pull up in time. I was feeling sympathetic towards him at the time however as you say he is lucky not to have been charged with manslaughter (which was always an option).

I have had to stop before when people have stepped out in front of me when driving and cycling. One time someone stepped off the pavement right in front of me without looking on Oxford Street and I knocked him to the ground. The idiot then tried to start a fight, so I just rode off.

Like the other posters say, this is just a publicity stunt.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
23rd March 2011 - 0:43

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The response to this is uncomfortable reading. Is it really relevant to the fact that someone was run down and died that motorists wipe out many cyclists every year, or is this a just defensive posture from cyclists who want the rest to "Get out my way!"?

No; we should not need an extra law for this, but the action taken by this MP shows despair that a person minding her owon business can just be killed. People like to walk in safety - should they not be able to? What difference should there be in law between hitting a girl with a metal tube held in your hand, and killing her, and riding on metal tubes and killing her?

MP's (apart from all the bad things politicians are) are mandated to represent their constituents. Logically, you could moan at the dead girl's family and friends over this proposal - or would that lack decorum?

I see near misses every day; prams and walking sticks are no defence, and the cyclists are often in the full protective gear. Is this how cycling wants itself to be seen - just one more vocal interest group willing to bully those seen as less strong?

How many of us are ONLY pedestrians or cyclists or motorists? How many of us think, if this is true of us, that things will always be this way? What is wrong with expecting the human "Soft Machine" to have certain rights above all other? We break and cannot be replaced.

I am no longer fit to push pedals round (Walking Wounded), and am tired of confronting people who ride within inches of me where this is illegal. My father had a way of expressing the Golden Rule; "How would you like it if someone did it to you?"

Answers, anyone?

Walking Wounded

posted by WalkingWounded8 [2 posts]
23rd March 2011 - 11:47

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WalkingWounded8 wrote:
The response to this is uncomfortable reading.

The response is a reaction to an MP wasting parliamentary time (which is paid for by the public) so that she can grandstand to her constituents. MPs have a choice as to how they represent their constituents - and in this case, rather than a reactionary singling out of one type of road user, the representation should have taken the form of questioning the generally poor enforcement of laws governing road and vehicle safety. MPs are supposed to be acting in the public interest - an additional law which irrationally singles out one user group is not in the public interest. Better enforcement and better education about road safety is.

WalkingWounded8 wrote:
What difference should there be in law between hitting a girl with a metal tube held in your hand, and killing her, and riding on metal tubes and killing her?

Most people attach different levels of culpability to intentionally causing harm, causing it negligently (without giving proper thought to the risks) and causing it with no fault (harm caused even though a person acted reasonably). All of these things could be criminal offences, but there are good arguments for attaching different levels of punishment to different levels of culpability (I won't go into detailed legal and philosophical arguments, because I think everyone gets the point).

To be clear, I am not saying that what Mr Howard did should not be a criminal offence - but it already is. We have comprehensive laws covering road safety already, and we don't need more - what we need is proper enforcement accross the board to reduce the overall level of risk and consequent harm.

posted by step-hent [644 posts]
23rd March 2011 - 12:24

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In reply to Step-Hent, is it not accepted that the cyclist warned the girl who died that he had no intention of stopping? You appear to have some knowledge of Law; where does this place his "culpability"? Was she in some way negligent?

What I found disquieting about parts of the responses in this column was that the death of (a named)someone, guilty only of putting one foot in front of the other, seemed to be regarded as less important than ranting about:

1. the evident fact that motorists sometimes kill cyclists (un named)
ALL avoidable deaths are an offence to "civilisation"

2. a piece of standard issue opportunism from someone who is, after all, only a politican

ALL avoidable deaths are an offence to "civilisation". If there is indeed criminal law which already covers this, we might reflect on the fact that this girl's life was held to be worth just a few thousand quid.

Yours Sincerely

Walking Wounded

posted by WalkingWounded8 [2 posts]
24th March 2011 - 18:20

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