The government has confirmed the launch today of a consultation on introducing new offences of causing death or serious injury while cycling, as well as changes to existing laws regarding dangerous or careless cycling.
Cycling UK has said that the move is merely “tinkering around the edges” of the full road safety review that the government said it would conduct in 2014.
The consultation, which opens today, will run until 11.45pm on 5 November 2018 and as we reported yesterday follows a review of existing laws following the conviction last year of cyclist Charlie Alliston in connection with the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs.
Alliston, who had been riding a fixed wheel bike with no front brake when he collided with Mrs Briggs in 2016, fatally injuring her, was acquitted of manslaughter but found guilty of causing bodily injury through wanton or furious driving under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
The case led to calls for the law to be updated, rather than prosecutors having to rely on outdated legislation in such circumstances and last year the government announvced that it was conducting a review of the law.
Announcing the consultation today, transport minister Jesse Norman, who has responsibility for cycling and walking, said: “In recent weeks we have announced a range of measures designed to protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
“These include new measures to combat close passing, training for driving instructors, better collision investigation and £100 million in new investment through the Safer Roads Fund.
“Now we are taking further steps. These include a consultation on new cycling offences, further work on national guidance on cycling and walking infrastructure, and improvements to the Highway Code.
“All these measures are designed to support the continued growth of cycling and walking, with all the benefits they bring to our communities, economy, environment and society.”
In response to today’s announcement, Cycling UK has repeated its call for the government to deliver the full road safety review that it pledged to undertake in 2014.
The charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said: “We need a full review – something promised by the government in 2014 – because the way the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users hasn’t been fit for purpose for years.”
The charity pointed out that cases of pedestrians being killed in collisions involving cyclists was very low.
“In 2016, 448 pedestrians were killed on our roads, but only three of those cases involved bicycles,” it said. “And in the last 10 years 99.4 per cent of all pedestrian deaths involved a motor vehicle.”
Cycling UK also highlighted its belief that both cyclists and pedestrians are being failed by the legal system, citing the fact that only 27 per cent of drivers convicted of causing death by careless driving, which has a maximum prison sentence of five years, are sent to jail with an average term of 14 months.
Dollimore said: “Whether someone is prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving is often something of a lottery, as are the resulting sentences, leaving thousands of victims and their relatives feeling massively let down by the justice system’s failure to reflect the seriousness of bad driving.
“Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges.
“If the government is serious about addressing behaviour that puts others at risk on our roads, they should grasp the opportunity to do the job properly, rather than attempt to patch up an area of legislation that’s simply not working.”
Today’s announcement from the Department for Transport also confirmed that the government is considering making changes to the Highway Code to address the issue of motorists making close passes on cyclists, and we shall cover that issue in a separate article.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.