Late on Friday, images emerged online of the Daily Mail's Saturday front page, informed by an editorial published inside by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, reporting that 'reckless cyclists face jail crackdown'.
While the majority of the national newspapers focused on recession, bleak Bank of England forecasts and the reaction of the two candidates to be the next PM, the Daily Mail broke the news that the government hopes to introduce a causing death by dangerous cycling law that would see bike riders found guilty of the offence face the same punishment as drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
> Government to crack down on "reckless" riders with causing death by dangerous cycling law
Shapps told the Mail the current legislation which means cyclists involved in crashes in which a pedestrian is killed or injured can face prosecution under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 for causing bodily harm through wanton or furious driving, and carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment, is "archaic" and "a legal relic of the horse-drawn era".
The minister for transport described the alternative, charging a cyclist involved in such a case with manslaughter, "draconian" and concluded while his government has been a "consistent supporter of the cyclist" it is necessary for a "cycling equivalent of death by dangerous driving to close a gap in the law and impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care".
By Saturday, the rest of the national newspapers and broadcast media outlets had shared the news, the Metro headlining its story: 'Killer cyclists could face life behind bars in legal loophole crackdown', while The Telegraph reported: 'New death by dangerous cycling law could punish killer riders'.
Conservative MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, Danny Kruger, hailed the news, thanking Shapps and saying he is "glad the campaigning by one of my constituents, and many others around the country tragically bereaved by dangerous cycling, has been heard".
Nick Freeman, the lawyer nicknamed 'Mr Loophole' for obtaining not guilty verdicts for celebrities charged with motoring offences, welcomed the "tinkering" of legislation, but added it "doesn't go nearly far enough" and "needs other changes such as compulsory ID".
"Where is the effort being put into dangerous driving which kills, maims and destroys lives?"
Following Shapps' announcement the Independent heard from Dr Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive of the London Cycling Campaign, who said while it is "fine to change the [cycling] sentencing regime", there are questions to be asked about the much greater number of driving-related deaths.
"The greatest number of deaths and serious injuries to pedestrians and cyclists are caused by cars. We routinely see every single day law breaking by motorists – running red lights, turning corners at speed without any attention to pedestrians crossing," he said.
"It's fine to change the [cycling] sentencing regime. But where is the commensurate effort being put into dangerous driving which kills, maims and destroys lives, routinely? I would like to see action taken to address that."
The newspaper also heard from Professor Chris Oliver, a retired surgeon, who stressed it is "very rare for a pedestrian to be killed by a cyclist".
"In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 seriously injured after being in a collision with a bicycle. These accidents created a huge amount of interest in the media," Professor Oliver explained.
"To put those deaths in context, every year in the last decade, about 100 cyclists are killed and more than 3,000 seriously injured on UK roads. By far, the majority is by car-driving motorists.
"There does need to be some proportionate tightening of the law for cyclists accidentally killing pedestrians. Everyone should obey the Highway Code."
In Shapps' editorial he referenced the case of Kim Briggs, a 44-year-old wife and mother who was killed after being hit by a cyclist in 2016.
Briggs' husband Matthew has campaigned for new legislation and told the Today programme: "It's never been about the degree of punishment… it's been about the complication, the chaos and the hurt and the confusion that comes along with the fact that there are no (specific) laws which apply to cyclists.
"It is rare, but it keeps happening. And it needs to be sorted. It is a very simple clarification, a tidying up of the law."
What do you think? Does the law need 'tidying up'? Is enough being done to combat dangerous driving on Britain's roads? Let us know in the comments, by email to info [at] road.cc or on Facebook.
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