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Government will struggle to introduce 'death by dangerous cycling' law before next general election, report suggests

The Department for Transport has admitted to campaigners there is a lack of parliamentary time, although ministers may now turn attention to a private member's bill...

The introduction of a 'death by dangerous cycling' law, proposed by then-Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last year, is unlikely to be passed before the next general election due to a lack of parliamentary time.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, the Department for Transport has told campaigners, many of whom are bereaved relatives, that the proposed update to the law — which can currently see a cyclist who kills while riding recklessly jailed for a maximum of two years under the 1861 wanton or furious driving law — will struggle to be passed before the next election, expected to be held in January 2025.

It has been suggested that ministers may instead turn to a private member's bill — proposed by individual MPs or Lords, rather than the government — a DfT source telling the newspaper "handout private member's bills are a normal way for the government to deliver uncontentious new statute".

> "Where is the effort being put into dangerous driving which kills, maims and destroys lives?": All the reaction to government plan to introduce death by dangerous cycling law

However, only a few bills of this type are enacted, raising fears among campaigners that the introduction of such a law, that would see cyclists guilty of the offence facing the same punishment as drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, is being delayed and may never come about.

Matthew Briggs — whose wife Kim was killed by London fixed wheel cyclist Charlie Alliston, the 20-year-old sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders institution back in 2017 — said he was "deeply disappointed" to meet Roads Minister Richard Holden a few weeks ago and be told of the delay.

Mr Briggs launched his campaign after Alliston's sentencing and suggested the DfT has "become cowed by the militant fringes of the cycling lobby". 

> Husband of pedestrian killed by cyclist claims ministers are scared of "cycling lobby"

"Or were Mr Shapps' announcements last year simply an act of political opportunism?" he asked. "At the heart of this are grieving families calling for a very straightforward legal change which the government's own advisers recommended nearly seven years ago."

A source close to Shapps, who was moved to Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero four weeks after proposing the change, insisted he had believed the change possible at the time.

grant shapps - screenshot via twitter.PNG

"Grant knows nothing can repair the pain caused by losing a loved one, but he also believed changes to the law could be made," they told the Telegraph. "However, he left his role at the Department for Transport just four weeks after proposing the change."

A DfT spokesperson added: "We are clear that dangerous cycling is completely unacceptable. There are laws in place to prosecute those who cycle irresponsibly and we are considering legislation to further address this issue."

Diana Walker was 77 when she was hit and killed in a 2016 collision involving a cyclist in Pewsey, Wiltshire, her husband Peter saying ministers' hands are being tied by "a left-wing cycling fraternity" of DfT civil servants.

"I'm absolutely fed up with them," he said. "All we are asking is that if a cyclist causes a pedestrian's death it should be treated in the same way as any other road accident with commensurate legislation."

Another bereaved relative, Christine Berridge, said she feels "terribly let down".

"These ministers have been promising to change the laws and nothing has happened. More people will have to die until something actually happens."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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39 comments

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wycombewheeler | 1 year ago
4 likes

Quote:

"I'm absolutely fed up with them," he said. "All we are asking is that if a cyclist causes a pedestrian's death it should be treated in the same way as any other road accident with commensurate legislation."

really, is this really what he wants?

Quote:

 "There was no such offence as causing death by careless driving and that would have been even worse from your point of view, when the maximum sentence would have been counted in terms of pounds rather than in terms of imprisonment.

"But Parliament recognised that there are rare cases when people die as a result of drivers’ careless driving [and] these new offences were brought into being.

"Both parties in this case agree the offence falls not the highest bracket of offending for causing death by careless driving, namely that the defendant’s driving fell not far short of dangerous driving. But it wasn’t dangerous driving, so it is not far short of dangerous driving.

"Just as Mr Coles and Mr Natale went out for a perfectly normal evening ride this defendant left work that night simply to drive home and spend that evening at home of a pleasant summer’s night. He did not go out to kill anybody. His driving was not dangerous, his inattention that lead to the deaths of these two men was to be counted in seconds. The consequences to him are nothing – nothing – like the consequences to these poor men, their families and friends. But they are serious consequences."

He concluded: "[I am] dealing with a man whose life has not been destroyed as the lives of Mr Coles and Mr Natale, but it has been completely altered negatively probably for the rest of his life.

"Do I suspend the sentence? Although it will disappoint many, I think I have been able to explain why I am going to suspend the sentence. He will have this hanging over his head for the rest of his life."

Wouldn't he be happier with the outcome similar to Charlie Alliston, who got jailed for 18 months?

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joe9090 | 1 year ago
5 likes

Weirdy beardy man still raging at ALL cyclists for the death of his mrs, who was not looking properly, while crossing the road not at a crossing, and likely distracted by smartphone use.
I think he needs to move on. 

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cyclisto replied to joe9090 | 1 year ago
3 likes

This particular man who lost his wife for any possible reason has a right to be angry and seek justice. And many people leave beard when in grief.

The many though who think a cyclist moving with a speed slightly higher than a good runner (on my bad days I was unable to overtake a couple of runners running uphill, but there should be no shame when cycling) is equally dangerous with a car 10+ times heavier, are out of their minds.

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chrisonabike replied to cyclisto | 1 year ago
0 likes

Generally agree.  Pedantry: it's not the weight so much as the speed (energy increases as the square of the velocity).  Although that is possibly a factor in why larger vehicles e.g. vans and trucks are proportionally more lethal per distance travelled.  There are certainly some crush deaths / mangling of people going under larger / higher ground clearance vehicles.

Yes - some cyclists can be going at the speed of cars or greater - particularly in urban environments where the average vehicle speed comes right down.  However motor vehicles accelerate very quickly and their pattern of movement tends to be either stopped or very slow, then a quick accelleration up to the minimum speed limit or more until the next light / queue.

Motor vehicles other than motor bikes are wider also - more chance of hitting you per car.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
3 likes

I personally struggle to see how a death by dangerous cycling conviction can be objectively administered when there is currently no legal obligation for cyclists to fully understand UK road laws. 

Unless the act of 'dangerous cycling' is clearly defined and crucially widely understood, how can a jury fairly convict? 

I am sure there will be some cut and dry cases, but this will only be a small percentage of an already tiny number of fatalities. 

I can see a lot of frustrated relatives not getting justice in court, or indeed, a lot (ok tiny number but a large percentage) of conviction appeals unless there is some significant background work done. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
0 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I personally struggle to see how a death by dangerous cycling conviction can be objectively administered when there is currently no legal obligation for cyclists to fully understand UK road laws. 

Unless the act of 'dangerous cycling' is clearly defined and crucially widely understood, how can a jury fairly convict? 

I am sure there will be some cut and dry cases, but this will only be a small percentage of an already tiny number of fatalities. 

I can see a lot of frustrated relatives not getting justice in court, or indeed, a lot (ok tiny number but a large percentage) of conviction appeals unless there is some significant background work done. 

Would the UK road laws be relevant though? Surely the main point of careless/dangerous laws is the endangerment of others and specifically colliding with them for dangerous cycling?

I.e. cycling on the wrong side of the road whilst avoiding people would be going against traffic laws, but is unlikely to be prosecuted, whereas cycling on the correct side of the road and hitting someone could lead to a prosecution. There's also the consideration that ignorance of a law is not a valid defense.

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the little onion replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 1 year ago
2 likes

The current definition of careless driving is that which "falls below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver". For dangerous driving, this is "falls far below". Obviously subjective and problematic, given the average standard of driving.

 

Are juries of non-cyclists going to be expected to know what the standard of a careful and competent cyclist is, and how bad it has to be before it is "far below"?

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hawkinspeter replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
0 likes

the little onion wrote:

The current definition of careless driving is that which "falls below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver". For dangerous driving, this is "falls far below". Obviously subjective and problematic, given the average standard of driving.

Are juries of non-cyclists going to be expected to know what the standard of a careful and competent cyclist is, and how bad it has to be before it is "far below"?

As there's no official test, I reckon that there isn't a "standard" to judge cyclists against. Maybe just being in control and not hitting things would be considered careful and competent.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Which by definition, and my concern, would mean that any situation where you hit something you would be judged not in control and therfore automatically riding dangerously. 

Similarly, cyclists are not held to speed limits, instead speed is subjectively judged as appropriate or not. Again, should you fail to stop in time, you are arguably riding too fast, no matter the situation, which would make you guilty of dangerous cycling. 

I cant see how this can be fairly implemented. 

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ChrisB200SX replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

As there's no official test, I reckon that there isn't a "standard" to judge cyclists against. Maybe just being in control and not hitting things would be considered careful and competent.

It doesn't seem to work that way for killers driving motor vehicles?

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the little onion | 1 year ago
6 likes

Your annual reminder that mobility scooters kill more pedestrians in the UK than bicycles, but are not VED'd, insured, or have registration plates.

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ChrisB200SX replied to the little onion | 1 year ago
1 like

Mobility Scooters do the killing or were the operators at fault?

Great stat to know though to put things in perspective, along with Cows killing 4-5 people per year, waaay more than cyclists kill. 

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cyclisto | 1 year ago
3 likes

We have to convince the world that the 1 or 2 people per year killed by bicycles is a freak accident.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/oct/28/mortality-statisti...

Please send me a better source, but as I undestand it, it is equally or more likely to get drown, burnt, bitten by a dog or wasps, struck by a lightning, suffocate in bed, cold, bad doctors.

What I don't fully understand is why people want to prosecute so badly cyclists in such rare accidents. Why so many people dislike cyclists? The only I may think that sometimes they can seem to slow down motor traffic and cycle routes take up space that would be attributed to cars. But when they see a 2m cycle route filled with bicycle don't they undestand how full roads would be with them having cars instead?

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hawkinspeter replied to cyclisto | 1 year ago
6 likes

cyclisto wrote:

We have to convince the world that the 1 or 2 people per year killed by bicycles is a freak accident.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/oct/28/mortality-statisti...

Please send me a better source, but as I undestand it, it is equally or more likely to get drown, burnt, bitten by a dog or wasps, struck by a lightning, suffocate in bed, cold, bad doctors.

What I don't fully understand is why people want to prosecute so badly cyclists in such rare accidents. Why so many people dislike cyclists? The only I may think that sometimes they can seem to slow down motor traffic and cycle routes take up space that would be attributed to cars. But when they see a 2m cycle route filled with bicycle don't they undestand how full roads would be with them having cars instead?

That's a good point about wasps. They might be wearing hi-viz, but it's about time we got them number plates. It's not right that they can just sting people with impunity.

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ChrisB200SX replied to cyclisto | 1 year ago
3 likes

Cows kill 4-5 people per year in the UK... They need to be made to wear Hi-Viz and registration plates and helmets and pay road tax and have insurance and pass an MoT.

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hawkinspeter replied to ChrisB200SX | 1 year ago
5 likes

ChrisB200SX wrote:

Cows kill 4-5 people per year in the UK... They need to be made to wear Hi-Viz and registration plates and helmets and pay road tax and have insurance and pass an MooT.

FTFY.

(Their annual inspection is mainly to check whether their horns work)

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chrisonabike replied to cyclisto | 1 year ago
0 likes

Don't forget the scaling factor / rate though.  You need to look at the relative death rate for the frequency of cyclists (or per trip / hour / mile travelled). If cyclists were as numerous as wasps our entire population would be cyclists everyone would be dead in a day.  What would the casualty figures look like if we had, say, as many cyclists as NL?

However the "extrapolate from present UK rate" isn't really applicable here.  Without radical changes (e.g. proper safe cycling infra AND some motor traffic volume reduction) there is a negligable chance that everyone - or even ten times the current 1 - 2% - would take up cycling as a mode of transport.

However it's possibly a good argument to bear in mind when having to confront the UK standard view that "cycle infra" = "shared use paths".  Or our failure to understand we need to clearly mark the separate space for both walking and cycling.

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the little onion replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
3 likes

Whilst scaling is important, and all kinds of important statistical considerations like quasi-experimental counterfactuals, the simple fact is that these kinds of incidents are so vanishingly rare that any kind of statistical extrapolation is meaningless, as the error bars would be huge.

Unlike deaths caused by drivers, which are far more common.

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
13 likes

Matthew Briggs "become cowed by the militant fringes of the cycling lobby"

Delusional.  While I understand his frustration at this utterly incompetent government, it is they rather than the cyclists delaying this.  I can't recall any cycling organisation, or indeed, any cyclist, opposing this except on the grounds of balance: if drivers get away with it regularly, why should cyclists be more culpable?

"At the heart of this are grieving families calling for a very straightforward legal change which the government's own advisers recommended nearly seven years ago."

And they reccommended a comprehensive review of road laws to fix the glaring anomalies at the same time, but only the "death by dangerous cycling" law has been proposed.  Not biased at all, but obviously pedestrians are worth a lot more than cyclists.

A DfT spokesperson added: "We are clear that dangerous cycling is completely unacceptable.

Such a pity they don't treat dangerous driving the same way.  Slaughtering cyclists is allowable with any old flannel of an excuse, but cyclists have to prove their innocence.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
11 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Matthew Briggs "become cowed by the militant fringes of the cycling lobby"

Delusional.  While I understand his frustration at this utterly incompetent government, it is they rather than the cyclists delaying this.  I can't recall any cycling organisation, or indeed, any cyclist, opposing this except on the grounds of balance: if drivers get away with it regularly, why should cyclists be more culpable?

"At the heart of this are grieving families calling for a very straightforward legal change which the government's own advisers recommended nearly seven years ago."

And they reccommended a comprehensive review of road laws to fix the glaring anomalies at the same time, but only the "death by dangerous cycling" law has been proposed.  Not biased at all, but obviously pedestrians are worth a lot more than cyclists.

A DfT spokesperson added: "We are clear that dangerous cycling is completely unacceptable.

Such a pity they don't treat dangerous driving the same way.  Slaughtering cyclists is allowable with any old flannel of an excuse, but cyclists have to prove their innocence.

I know this is victim blaming, but Matthew Briggs should by rights be campaigning for pedestrian helmets as Kim Briggs would most likely have survived hitting her head on the road if she had been wearing one.

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joe9090 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

And this...

 

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brooksby replied to joe9090 | 1 year ago
2 likes

joe9090 wrote:

And this...

 

Isn't that Darth Vader, on his day off?  3

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chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

A DfT spokesperson added: "We are clear that dangerous cycling is completely unacceptable.

Such a pity they don't treat dangerous driving the same way.  Slaughtering cyclists is allowable with any old flannel of an excuse, but cyclists have to prove their innocence.

Don't forget pedestrians - mowing down those walking on the pavement [1] [2] won't necessarily involve going to jail.  Presumably the same applies when a car drives into someone's house - pity the poor driver who'll "have to live with the consequences" of their machine's malfunction.

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the little onion replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
13 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Matthew Briggs "become cowed by the militant fringes of the cycling lobby"

 

 

Look, some absolute cock womble crashed into his wife (who stepped into the road without looking), and she died, and I feel great sympathy for him. However, he has undeniably got into bed with some very bad people. For example, certain taxi lobbyists who frantically campaign against any kind of measures to hold taxi drivers to account, or impose safety measures to protect the general public, such as tachographs and maximum driving hours for cabbies. He gets into bed with them because they both share a hatred of cyclists - "my enemy's enemy is my friend" leads to some very bad choices.

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qwerty360 replied to eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

As far as I can see the issues with the cycling lobby have been twofold.

1. The government aggreed they would review dangerous driving charges - why isn't this a general, trivial part of that (instead being something special to avoid dealing with killer drivers)

2. Cycling lobbiests pointing out, with references, that the likely outcome would be shorter jail sentences for cyclists who kill because they would have to be inline with driving offences (including sentencing adjustment/allowance for the far lower lethality of the bicycle)

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ChrisB200SX | 1 year ago
22 likes

Death by Dangerous Cycling?? The courts can't even jail a driver for killing two cyclists minding their own business FFS!

The laws regarding anyone being rarely killed by a "dangerous" cyclist have been fine for over 100 years and cycling really has not changed in that time so this law simply isn't required.

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Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
15 likes

So who actually is campaigning for this law change apart from a tiny number of (rightfully) bitter people who's spouses have died.  Does the size of the problem warrant the parliamentary time needed?

What about all the relatives of someone killed by Careless or Dangerous driving where the culprit doesnt feel the full weight of the law.  Dont those relatives outweigh these ones by something like 300:1?

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the little onion replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
10 likes

One man, and a million other people who latch onto his anger/sorrow to launch their own culture wars and advance their own agendas 

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brooksby replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
8 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

Does the size of the problem warrant the parliamentary time needed?

Same argument holds for the new requirement to show photo ID to enable you to vote...

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
12 likes

brooksby wrote:

Same argument holds for the new requirement to show photo ID to enable you to vote...

That was just to make it more difficult for young people to vote as they're less likely to vote Tory. It was so blatant when OAP bus cards could be used as ID, but not young people bus cards.

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