The husband of pedestrian killed by a cyclist in London in 2016 has raised concerns that his efforts to campaign for changes to the law to introduce harsher penalties for people on bikes who kill or injure others are being thwarted because ministers are scared of what he terms the “cycling lobby.”
Speaking to Telegraph.co.uk, Matthew Briggs, whose wife Kim died after cyclist Charlie Alliston crashed into her on Old Street, also insisted that the change to the law he is calling for “is first and foremost a legal matter.”
Because of that, he maintained that it “should not actually concern” cycling campaigners – even though the reforms he is calling for what exclusively impact upon people who ride bikes.
Briggs launched his campaign after Alliston was sentenced at the Old Bailey in 2017 to 18 months’ detention in a young offenders’ institution after being found guilty of causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving. The jury cleared him of the more serious charge of manslaughter, however.
The offence of which Alliston, then 20, was convicted is a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, with a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
Briggs is calling for cyclists to be subject to similar laws to motorists, with causing death by careless driving and causing death by dangerous driving carrying maximum jail terms, respectively, of five and 14 years.
While the Department for Transport (DfT) did hold a consultation in 2018 into reforming the law, nothing has progressed in the three years since then, with Briggs blaming issues such as Brexit and the coronavirus for taking up parliamentary time, but above all the influence of what he terms the “cycling lobby” on the government.
He said: “My concern is that the cycling lobby is too close to the government and ministers are immensely fearful of this cycling lobby.
“I was told by one minister whom I won’t name, ‘Maybe we need to wait for another death like Kim Briggs’. He added, ‘No offence’.
“But we had another death when Peter McCombie was killed in East London in 2020 when he was hit by a cyclist. But still nothing changes.”
In July, the cyclist involved in that case, Ermir Loka, was jailed for two years – the maximum available – after he was convicted of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving.
“We have waited for the legal report, the consultation, the Scottish Government, for Brexit and Covid,” Briggs continued. “All these things have passed, so what exactly am I still waiting for?
“I sincerely hope it is not because the process has been hobbled by the cycling lobby because this should not actually concern them,” he added. “It is first and foremost a legal matter.”
A spokesman for the DfT told Telegraph.co.uk: “Any death on our roads is a tragedy, and though we have some of the safest roads in the world, the government is committed to making them even safer.
“We have launched a review exploring the case for specific dangerous cycling offences, and will soon publish our response.
“In addition, the Prime Minister’s ambitious Cycling and Walking Plan will deliver more continuous and direct cycling routes in towns and cities, physically separated from pedestrians and motor traffic.”
When the DfT launched its consultation in 2018, Cycling UK pointed out that the government had not yet (and three years later has still not) delivered a full review of road safety first promised in 2014, and highlighted that almost in almost all road traffic collisions that result in the death of a pedestrian, a motorist rather than a cyclist is involved.
The charity’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, said at the time: “In 2016, 448 pedestrians were killed on our roads, but only three of those cases involved bicycles. And in the last 10 years 99.4 per cent of all pedestrian deaths involved a motor vehicle.
“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,” he continued.
“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,” Dollimore added.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.