New offence to carry the same penalties as causing death by dangerous driving
Harrison JonesSun 4 Mar 2018 09.17 GMT
Cycling advocates have responded with dismay after reports suggested that ministers are set to outline proposals for death by dangerous cycling to become a criminal offence next week.
Labour MP Ian Austin, the head of the all-party parliamentary cycling group, suggested the government should focus on reducing deaths caused by drivers and said: “Ministers are wrong if they think this will make our roads safer.”
Last September, it emerged that MPs were considering introducing an offence for cyclists who kill pedestrians, following the death of a woman knocked over by a cyclist.
Reports on Sunday suggested that the review would recommend that the new offence should carry the same penalty as causing death by dangerous driving.
Motorists convicted of that charge face up to 14 years in prison, but the government has said it is committed to increasing the penalty to a life sentence.
Austin said: “Each death is a tragedy but what I and others have been calling for is a proper review of road safety and how the law is enforced when people are killed or injured because many more pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by people driving cars. They are a much greater danger to pedestrians and should be the focus of government resources.”
Xavier Brice, the chief executive of the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said: “Every death is a personal tragedy and I can understand the desire to close the apparent gap in the law. But every year the number of people travelling on foot and by bike killed or seriously injured by motor vehicles in this country is a national tragedy.”
The review followed the case of cyclist Charlie Alliston, who was jailed for 18 months in September for knocking over and killing 44-year-old Kim Briggs in east London. His fixed-gear bike had no front brakes.
Alliston, 20, was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving” under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. The Victorian law – originally drafted to deal with reckless handling of horses – was used because there was no cycling equivalent to the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.
Simon Munk, from the London Cycling Campaign, said: “The question here has to be: is this a proportional response? One biker using a fixie in east London has caused more action than thousands of deaths in this country. This looks and feels very much like a kneejerk response.”
In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 seriously injured after being hit by bicycles. According to the Daily Telegraph, three pedestrians were killed by cyclists in 2016, with its statistics suggesting such collisions were increasing.
More than 100 cyclists are killed and 3,000 seriously injured on British roads each year, according to government statistics.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are carrying out a review to improve all elements of cycle safety. This includes looking at the case for a new offence, equivalent to causing death or serious injury by careless or dangerous driving, to help protect both cyclists and pedestrians.”
Jesse Norman, the minister responsible for cycling policy, had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.