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Grant Shapps calls for new ‘death by dangerous cycling’ law

The Secretary of State for Transport said that the proposed changes form part of a “balanced package” which includes the impending Highway Code revisions

The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announced in an interview yesterday that he intends to introduce harsher penalties for people on bikes who kill or injure others through “dangerous cycling” – three years after an independent report commissioned by the Department for Transport recommended the introduction of such an offence.

Cycling UK, however, has said that any attempt to introduce new cycling offences in isolation "would simply be a sticking plaster on a broken system”.

When questioned on the impending Highway Code revisions during an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC, Shapps said: “The purpose of the changes is if you drive a lorry, you should give way to a van, which will give way to a car, which will give way to a cyclist, which will give way to a pedestrian.

“These are just common-sense changes to protect everybody.

“And there is another change I’m bringing in which you may not be aware of, which is to make sure that we’re able to prosecute cyclists who, for example, cause death by their own dangerous cycling.

“So this is quite a balanced package, and I think it’s worth noting that the injuries and deaths that take place because of cyclists are also unacceptable.”

> Cyclist who killed London pedestrian jailed for two years 

At the moment, if a cyclist kills a pedestrian through riding dangerously, the Crown Prosecution Service can charge them with manslaughter and/or causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving, a crime under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

In 2017 cyclist Charlie Alliston was convicted of causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving in connection with the death of pedestrian Kim Briggs. He was sentenced to 18 months’ detention in a young offenders institution, though the jury cleared him of the more serious charge of manslaughter. 

In the wake of Alliston’s conviction, Briggs’ husband Matthew campaigned for the creation of new offences related to causing death or serious injury while cycling. He called 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.

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

“This case has clearly demonstrated that there is a gap in the law when it comes to dealing with causing death or serious injury by dangerous cycling,” he explained at the time.

“To have to rely on either manslaughter at one end, or a Victorian law that doesn’t even mention causing death at the other end tells us that there is a gap. The fact that what happened to Kim is rare is not a reason for there to be no remedy.”

Following a review of the existing legislation on dangerous and careless cycling, in 2018 the government launched a three-month consultation into reforming the law, though there has been little progress made in the three years since it was held.

A similar fate befell a private member’s bill introduced into the House of Lords in January 2020 with the aim of creating new offences for dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling. The bill failed to make it past its first reading. 

> Pedestrian who died after RideLondon collision had been warned by marshal not to cross 

Of the 346 pedestrians killed on Britain’s roads in 2020, only four were involved in a collision with a cyclist (regardless of who may have been at fault for the incident). Car drivers, meanwhile, were involved in three-quarters of all road fatalities that year, despite the reduction in motor traffic due to lockdown restrictions. Between 2015 and 2019, 99.3% of pedestrian fatalities involved motor vehicles, while only 0.7% involved bicycles.

Responding to Shapps’ announcement, Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, told road.cc: “Changes to the Highway Code are beneficial to all road users, and it is unhelpful of the Transport Secretary to try and explain or justify them on a quid pro quo basis by linking them to the potential introduction of new cycling offences. The two issues are entirely separate. 

“As the Transport Secretary’s own minister Andrew Stephenson confirmed in December, the DfT is already working on the terms and remit of a call for evidence into road traffic offences. While that is long overdue, with a full review first promised over seven years ago after prolonged campaigning from Cycling UK, there’s little more than we can say on this issue, other than that we’ve never opposed cycling offences being be part of that review.

“Introducing new cycling offences in isolation however would simply be a sticking plaster on a broken system, because our current careless and dangerous driving offences aren’t fit for purpose – replicating them for cycling makes no sense at all.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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90 comments

Avatar
leipreachan | 2 years ago
3 likes

Yeah, sure. Why not?

Also a mandatory black box in every car in the UK + higher penalties for every driver (or cyclist) -- like 1 year's salary or the price of the involved car x2.

Also speed limits in a city: strictly below 30, mostly 20. Absolutely everywhere, checked by cameras and pedantly forced.

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jh2727 | 2 years ago
7 likes

I don't know how many people are aware of this, but there is already a 'dangerous cycling' offence in the Road Traffic Act 1998 (amendment was added in 2012, I think).  This is section 28.  The penalty for this is just below the penalty for "careless, and inconsiderate, driving" - level 5 on the standard scale vs level 4.

The "Road Traffic Offences (Cycling) Bill 2021" proposes a change to section 27 (Dogs on designated roads without being held on lead). And it talks about (for example) "27A Causing death by dangerous cycling - A person who causes the death of another person by riding a cycle dangerously (as defined in section 28) on a road or other public place". However, section 28 limits the offence of dangerous cycling to cycling on the road.

I know if is the first draft of this bill, but there are been lots of other failed bills with the same aim that Baroness Pickering has presented to the Lords. It begs the questions about:

  1. What does it have to do with keeping dogs on leads.
  2. Why does it relate to any public place when dangerous cycling is later defined as only being on a road or bridleway.
  3. Why are the penalties comparable with causing death by danger driving and causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, when the penalty of dangerous cycling is lower than the penalty for careless and inconsiderate driving - surely by extension the penalty for causing death by dangerous cycling ought to be lower than the penalty for causing death by careless, and inconsiderate, driving.  This would fit in nicely with the hierarchy of responsiblity.

Presently the bill is recommending the same level of punishment, when engaged in an activity that is much lower on the hierarchy of responsibilty.

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Brightspark replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
1 like

Good spot. 

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Brightspark replied to Brightspark | 2 years ago
0 likes

I have seen why this is there. It is a holding clause until the Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences)" bill is promised. It was put there by our old friend Barroness "cycle in the middle of a country lane, it is going to be impossible for other road users to pass them safely"McIntosh of Pickering. I will continue the comment on the Highway Code comments of 29/01/2022.

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wycombewheeler replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
2 likes

jh2727 wrote:

 

  1. Why are the penalties comparable with causing death by danger driving and causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, when the penalty of dangerous cycling is lower than the penalty for careless and inconsiderate driving - surely by extension the penalty for causing death by dangerous cycling ought to be lower than the penalty for causing death by careless, and inconsiderate, driving.  This would fit in nicely with the hierarchy of responsiblity.

 

I don't know, I'd argue that dangerous cycling penalties should be below dangerous driving penalties because the level of danger is inherently lower.

But death is death, so I can't see why it should be argued that the penalty be lower.

{erhaps the question to ask in relation to this law is 

Will the defence of I was looking ahead but just didn't see them, hold up for cyclists in the same way it does for drivers?

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Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
1 like

In theory, I can appreciate the need to have some level of parity across all road users in relation to 'death by' laws. This is especially pertinent now as we move closer to a presumed liability structure. 

However, I have reservations, namely;

 - Without any legal requirement to undertake training before cycling on the road, it seems impractical / unfair to prosecute cyclists on the assumption they have the same safety awareness as a trained (licenced) motorist. I appreciate this one is opening up a big can of worms!

 - The rules of safe cycling are significantly less clearly defined than that of safe driving, so how is a jury supposed to decide if the cyclist's actions meet / exceed the threshold for dangerous cycling?

 - Without a legal requirement to have a speedometer, how can cyclists realistically be expected to comply with speed limits? Accordingly, how can the appropriateness of a cyclist's speed at any given time be judged without defined limits in place?

As already mentioned, mindful of the above, and that any jury is likely to include minimal if any cyclist representation, I can not reasonably see any cyclist brought before a jury escaping a guilty verdict. 

Which would be a very different experience to that of similarly positioned drivers. 
 

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Brightspark replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
1 like

I am sure that you are aware that speed limits only apply to mechanically driven vehicles. This was tested quite early by a vehicle powered by a kite to get around the red flag act.

You have hit the nail on the head, what is the test for dangerous cycling and how will any jury decide what is reasonable. That point has been mentioned by others in these comments and more importantly in the Laura Thomas report.

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joe9090 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Lets get these clowns out of Whitehall. What an absolute idiot that Shapps is. 

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TriTaxMan | 2 years ago
1 like

I have no real issues with the introduction of these new laws provided that they are treated on a par with causing death by dangerous driving... so that every excuse that drivers can come up with to avoid a charge under the law becomes available to cyclists.... like the good old trusty the sun was in my eyes etc

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Muddy Ford | 2 years ago
4 likes

So 3yrs after the law changes were recommended, they are trumped out by the Transport Secretary. And Camden council reluctantly announce they would revise a junction that has had more cyclist deaths in 3yrs at one junction than pedestrians have been killed by furious and wanton cyclists in the whole of the UK in the same timeframe. But its important Grant knows whats important for him to announce isnt it.

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Spats Bellini | 2 years ago
8 likes

How about an offence of stepping into the road whilst messing with your phone

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Captain Badger replied to Spats Bellini | 2 years ago
2 likes

Spats Bellini wrote:

How about an offence of stepping into the road whilst messing with your phone

Sounds like jaywalking laws to me. None of that American nonsense - drivists have got a big enough sense of entitlement as it is.

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Rome73 | 2 years ago
6 likes

it's red meat for the Brexit  demographic. Just throw them a lump of raw flesh to slaver over so they miss all the real facts: air pollution, lorry parks, increased Brexit paperwork, drop in exports, BYOB . . . . Broken Brexit promises? LOOK! Over there, a cyclist! 

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Car Delenda Est replied to Rome73 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Mmm yes this definitely has something to do with Brexit, I can smell it..
S/

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Prosper0 | 2 years ago
0 likes

.

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Rich_cb | 2 years ago
7 likes

I've no problem with this proposal.

The current law used to prosecute cyclists is quite obviously archaic and a new law providing higher potential penalties for those offences not reaching the threshold for manslaughter seems perfectly sensible.

Realistically it won't make the blindest bit of difference to 99.9% of cyclists as these incidents are so rare.

What it does do is provide a bit of cost free placation for the angry motorists/press and, hopefully, serve as a precursor to a similar review of driving offences.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
3 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I've no problem with this proposal. The current law used to prosecute cyclists is quite obviously archaic and a new law providing higher potential penalties for those offences not reaching the threshold for manslaughter seems perfectly sensible. Realistically it won't make the blindest bit of difference to 99.9% of cyclists as these incidents are so rare. What it does do is provide a bit of cost free placation for the angry motorists/press and, hopefully, serve as a precursor to a similar review of driving offences.

Clearly put. I think "provide a bit of cost free placation for the angry motorists/press" is wishful thinking though. Some motorists will be oblivious to this and the highway code changes. Likely most motorists are not bothered.  Angry people will remain angry.  The press will continue to seek "contention". Governments under political pressure will seek distractions (although this one is probably only distracting a small minority of people...)

People will continue to cycle anyway. If this does get enacted and anyone has concerns about the law no doubt the national cycling organisations will offer guidance.  Currently e.g. Cycling UK already provides liability insurance with membership and can also direct you to appropriate legal consel.

I do hope the review of driving etc. is improved by maturation.  I'm worried it might be "corked" or even soured by the time we get to it.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
5 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I've no problem with this proposal. The current law used to prosecute cyclists is quite obviously archaic and a new law providing higher potential penalties for those offences not reaching the threshold for manslaughter seems perfectly sensible. Realistically it won't make the blindest bit of difference to 99.9% of cyclists as these incidents are so rare. What it does do is provide a bit of cost free placation for the angry motorists/press and, hopefully, serve as a precursor to a similar review of driving offences.

I kind of agree in that this law is hardly ever going to be applied and won't actually affect us, but it's wrong that laws should be enacted just to placate angry motorists as a type of political bargaining. If it leads to a decent review of driving offences, then I'd probably be placated too, but there are many victims and their families that fail to see justice because of poor driving and the way it is prosecuted, so surely that needs addressing first.

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Rich_cb replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
1 like

I agree that, in an ideal world, parliamentary time should be spent on higher priority legal reforms but politics is the art of compromise and all that.

If you'd have offered me the highway code changes and ATE in exchange for a 'death by dangerous cycling' law I'd have taken that deal in a heartbeat.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
0 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I agree that, in an ideal world, parliamentary time should be spent on higher priority legal reforms but politics is the art of compromise and all that. If you'd have offered me the highway code changes and ATE in exchange for a 'death by dangerous cycling' law I'd have taken that deal in a heartbeat.

I hear you, but it just bugs me that he's virtually condoning the driver-vs-cyclist divisive claptrap. Public safety initiatives should be enacted based on their own merit. (We've tightened up fire safety regulations, but to balance it out, we've loosened the electrical regulations).

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
2 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

I've no problem with this proposal. The current law used to prosecute cyclists is quite obviously archaic and a new law providing higher potential penalties for those offences not reaching the threshold for manslaughter seems perfectly sensible. Realistically it won't make the blindest bit of difference to 99.9% of cyclists as these incidents are so rare. What it does do is provide a bit of cost free placation for the angry motorists/press and, hopefully, serve as a precursor to a similar review of driving offences.

Agreed. This is a detail that will be useable in a vanishingly small number of cases. In any case, a statement of intent during an interview with a radio f-wit is not a manifesto of policy

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Prosper0 | 2 years ago
7 likes

I'm all for fairness on Britain's roads. However more people die from bee stings than from people on bikes, it's so very rare that it's not worth the time legislating for, it's so ridiculous that it's clearly a political anti cycling measure, nothing based on fact.

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ah...

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eburtthebike replied to Prosper0 | 2 years ago
3 likes

Prosper0 wrote:

I'm all for fairness on Britain's roads. However more people die from bee stings than from people on bikes, it's so very rare that it's not worth the time legislating for, it's so ridiculous that it's clearly a political anti cycling measure, nothing based on fact.

Fear not; Shapps will be introducing legislation to prosecute killer bees.

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Prosper0 wrote:

I'm all for fairness on Britain's roads. However more people die from bee stings than from people on bikes, it's so very rare that it's not worth the time legislating for, it's so ridiculous that it's clearly a political anti cycling measure, nothing based on fact.

Fear not; Shapps will be introducing legislation to prosecute killer bees.

Only if he considers apiphobes (?) to be a group worth buying off.

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mdavidford replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
4 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Fear not; Shapps will be introducing legislation to prosecute killer bees.

Is that what the buzz is in the Westminster Village?

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Captain Badger replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
4 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

......

Fear not; Shapps will be introducing legislation to prosecute killer bees.

No need  Ecocidal Tory vandals have got that covered

Bees will die as ministers approve toxic banned pesticide for second time, warn experts

 

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chrisonabike replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
0 likes

I thought you liked a bit of entomology? Or is that Entymology (the study of words that bug you)?

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
1 like

chrisonatrike wrote:

I thought you liked a bit of entomology? Or is that Entymology (the study of words that bug you)?

Entymology? Hadn't heard of that until now, thanks. I wonder what it's origins are....

Avatar
Captain Badger replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
2 likes

Captain Badger wrote:

chrisonatrike wrote:

I thought you liked a bit of entomology? Or is that Entymology (the study of words that bug you)?

Entymology? Hadn't heard of that until now, thanks. I wonder what it's origins are....

Couldn't find it, but I did find the etymology of "etymology"

This is serious, cutting edge, high-risk, lexicographical research - due to the extreme semantic forces generated a rupture in L-space is possible, and there is a small but measurable risk of the formation of a micro blackhole, which would result in the end of this planet in a matter of hours.

If you don't hear from me in the next half hour, assume the worst. seek out  those dearest to you to be with. Gods bless you all.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
0 likes

Captain Badger wrote:

Couldn't find it, but I did find the etymology of "etymology"

This is serious, cutting edge, high-risk, lexicographical research - due to the extreme semantic forces generated a rupture in L-space is possible, and there is a small but measurable risk of the formation of a micro blackhole, which would result in the end of this planet in a matter of hours.

If you don't hear from me in the next half hour, assume the worst. seek out  those dearest to you to be with. Gods bless you all.

Ever read 'The Raw Shark Texts'?  Keep an eye out for those semantic hagfish: they're nasty...

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