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Government announces cycle safety review in wake of Alliston case

Two part review promises to protect cyclists but will also look at whether new offence for cyclists equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced – and it's doing that first...

Transport Minister Jesse Norman will today announce that the Government is launching what it says will be a wide ranging review in to cycle safety. The review has been launched in response “to a series of high profile incidents involving cyclists” according to the official press release of the announcement - thought to be a reference to the case in which cyclist Charlie Alliston who was was this week sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders institution for the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs when the pair collided in London’s Old Street in February 2016.  

The statement announcing the review says the first phase will look at whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists, before moving on to the question of wider improvements for cycling road safety issues.

Some of the statement announcing the review and of the structure of the review itself are likely to raise both eyebrows and hackles amongst sections of the cycling community.

Many will no doubt point out that it is over three years since the then Tory lead Coalition Government promised a review in to sentencing policy in relation to convictions for the offences of causing death by careless driving, and causing death by dangerous driving in a bid to tackle poor driving standards and make the roads safer for everyone. Despite repeated requests from Cycling UK, British Cycling, MPs, and peers the lenient sentencing review has still not published its findings and only got started in 2016 at which time the Government said it would present legislation before the end of 2017. As yet neither the review nor any new legislation have been forthcoming. In the interim over 5000 people are estimated to have been killed on UK roads - around 1200 pedestrians and over 300 cyclists.

The structure of the review is also likely to cause comment with the Government choosing to put examining the case for creating new offences of causing death by dangerous, or careless cycling ahead of actually making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  Some will no doubt wonder if following the Alliston case ministers want to be seen to be doing something to appease the clamour in sections of the right wing press (and ahead of the upcoming Conservative Party conference) rather than actually doing something.

If saving lives is the priority it certainly looks like an odd way of setting up the review given the grim fact that - as the minister mentions in his comments accompanying the announcement - while two pedestrians were killed by cyclists in 2015 that tragic figure is eclipsed by the 407 pedestrians killed by other vehicles that same year, and the 100 cyclists. 

This line from the minister is also likely to cause comment in that it would appear to give equivalence to the amounts of pain and suffering caused by dangerous cycling and dangerous driving:

“We’ve seen the devastation that reckless cycling and driving can cause, and this review will help safeguard both Britain’s cyclists and those who share the roads with them.”

While there is no argument that any death or serious injury whatever the cause will result in needless pain and suffering it seems odd that the minister chooses to mention cycling first when in 2015 - the year she uses as an example according to Department for Transport statistics two people were killed by cyclists (the minister doesn't mention whether in either case charges were brought against the cyclists) while 1,730 people were killed by other vehicles, the vast majority in incidents involving motor vehicles - that's not to mention the 22,137 people seriously injured, again mostly in incidents involving motor vehicles. 

Here are Transport Minister Jesse Norman's comments in full on the announcement of the Governments cycling safety review plus the rest of the announcement:

“Although the UK has some of the safest roads in the world, we are always looking to make them safer.

“It’s great that cycling has become so popular in recent years but we need to make sure that our road safety rules keep pace with this change.

“We already have strict laws that ensure that drivers who put people’s lives at risk are punished but, given recent cases, it is only right for us to look at whether dangerous cyclists should face the same consequences.

“We’ve seen the devastation that reckless cycling and driving can cause, and this review will help safeguard both Britain’s cyclists and those who share the roads with them.”

Since the government trebled spending on cycling between 2010 and 2017, there has been a huge increase in the number of cyclists on our roads.

In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 seriously injured after being hit by a bicycle. Every year more than 100 cyclists are killed and more than 3,000 seriously injured on British roads.

The review, which will seek to improve all elements of cycle safety, will be in two phases.

The first phase will analyse the case for creating a new offence equivalent to causing death or serious injury by careless or dangerous driving to help protect both cyclists and pedestrians. This phase will be informed by independent legal advice and the conclusions are expected to be reported in the New Year.

The second phase will be a wider consultation on road safety issues relating to cycling. It will involve a range of road safety and cycling organisations, as well as the general public and will consider different ways in which safety can be further improved between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. It will consider the rules of the road, public awareness, key safety risks and the guidance and signage for all road users.

Further details of the review will be announced shortly.

Responding to the announcement Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK’s Chief Executive said:

“The consultation on road safety issues is an opportunity to keep cyclists and pedestrians safer. Cycling UK looks forward to working with the Department for Transport on this consultation to ensure it focuses on evidenced ways that keep our most vulnerable road users safe, by addressing risks such as dangerous roads, drivers and vehicles.

“The proposed review of cycling offences needs to be carried out as part of the Government’s promised wider review of all road traffic offences and sentencing. This will ensure the justice system can deal with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users.”'s founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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