Ministers ‘still considering’ the case for new death by dangerous cycling offence
Ministers are reportedly set to outline proposals later this week for death by dangerous cycling to be framed in law.
But the Department for Transport (DfT) insisted today that the Government was still “looking at the case for a new offence” in its drive to “help protect” both cyclists and pedestrians.
And MP Jesse Norman, the minister responsible for cycling laws, said on Monday (March 5) that it was advisable to adopt a “wait and see” approach to what recommendations the departmental review would make, tweeting: “It is important to be clear that press reports are speculative and in some cases misleading.”
Last September, it was revealed MPs were considering introducing the new offence for cyclists who kill pedestrians, in a review designed to reflect public concern over safety on the roads.
But media speculation over the weekend intimated that the review is expected to recommend a new offence, and it would carry the same penalties as causing death by dangerous driving.
Currently, motorists convicted of this charge face up to 14 years in prison – but the Government has already said it is committed to upping the penalty to a life sentence.
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 as he sped through east London on a bike with no front brakes.
Alliston, 20, was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving”, a crime under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.
The Victorian law, originally drafted to deal with reckless handling of horses, was used because there was no cycling equivalent in the law of the offence of causing death by dangerous driving.
Mrs Briggs’s widower Matthew, from Lewisham, south London, told the Mail on Sunday it would be a “big achievement” to get the law changed.
He said: “I can’t make sense of what happened. I have no idea how my kids can make sense of it. I want to make sure that Kim’s dying wasn’t the end.
“I want the kids to look back in the future and see something was accomplished. That she made it a little bit easier for people in the future.”
In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 were seriously injured when hit by a cycle. That figure has reportedly risen to three pedestrians being killed by cyclists in 2016, with statistics suggesting such collisions were increasing.
Meanwhile, more than 100 bike users are killed and 3,000 seriously injured on British roads each year.
A DfT spokesperson told Police Professional: “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.”
The DfT launched the first ever statutory Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
last April, to encourage more people to cycle and walk – backed by funding of £1.2 billion up to 2021.
Last month it announced £7 million of Government funding for projects to
improve road safety and help create more bike-friendly areas with a further £77 million of cycling and walking schemes through the National Productivity Investment Fund, and a £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund.
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.”
Other cycling campaigners have also questioned the wisdom of a possible new law.
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.”
Simon Munk, from the London Cycling Campaign, said: “The question here has to be: Is this a proportional response? This looks and feels very much like a kneejerk response.”