The Department for Transport is considering new charges for “death by dangerous cycling” or “death by careless cycling” under government proposals to be examined in a new 12-week consultation launched this week.
The proposals are already proving divisive, with Matt Briggs, whose wife was killed by a cyclist, welcoming the amendments to current “arcane laws” while other campaigners accuse the government of “tinkering”.
As the law stands now, causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, while death by careless driving a maximum of five years.
According to Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns for Cycling UK: “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.”
Mr Briggs says, however: “This public consultation is an important step towards updating the arcane laws that are currently being used to prosecute cycling offences,”
Following the death of his wife, Kim, Mr Brigg said there was a “gap in the law”. Cyclist Charlie Alliston was jailed for her death last year.
Alliston was riding a fixed gear bike with no front brakes when he collided with Mr Briggs’ wife in East London in February 2016. He was cleared of manslaughter, but found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton or furious driving”. A charge from the Victorian era intended against drivers of horse-drawn carriages and which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
There are arguments to state that the current legislation is not fit for purpose, however, the number of cases involving cyclists and pedestrians is relatively low, with DfT figures for 2016 showing that only three cases of the 448 pedestrians killed on Britain’s roads involved cyclists.
Cycling UK said, in contrast, that 99.4% of UK road deaths in the last ten years involved, but did state that both pedestrians and cyclists alike are regularly being failed by current legislation.
“The way the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users hasn’t been fit for purpose for years,” said Mr Dollimore.
Jesse Norman, Minister for Cycling and Walking said that the government had already announced a range of measures to protect “vulnerable road users” including:
*Training for driving instructors to raise awareness of cyclists’ safety.
*Better investigation of crashes
*£100m investment to improve dangerous roads.
The DfT has also announced additional measures for road safety, including a review of the Highway Code to make it clearer to motorists how to pass cyclists more safely.
Said Mr Norman: “All these measures are designed to support the continued growth of cycling and walking, with all the benefits they bring to our communities, economy, environment and society.”
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