Earlier this month the Government announced that it is launching a 12 week consultation to consider whether or not to introduce a new offence of “causing death by dangerous cycling”. The move was announced on Conservative Party official twitter account with a posting “We’re launching a consultation into dangerous cycling so that our most vulnerable road users are protected”. This follows the case involving cyclist Charlie Alliston who was jailed last year after he collided with Kim Briggs as she was crossing a road. Tragically Mrs Briggs was killed. Mr Alliston was riding a bike which did not have front brakes. Alliston was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted under the rarely used legislation of “wanton and furious driving” under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
The Government consultation has not been well received by road safety campaigners who point out that over 99% of pedestrian deaths involve motor vehicles. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, supported by Brake, the road safety charity and RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims has called for a wider review of traffic laws. It calls for improvements in 3 main areas:
- Simplifying and improving the legal definitions of unsafe driving behaviour;
- Increasing use of driving disqualifications and closing the “exceptional hardship loophole”; and
- Increasing the maximum sentence for drivers who fail to stop from the current maximum of 6 months.
Olympic cyclist, Chris Boardman has said that the proposals do not address the real dangers of the road whilst the broadcaster and cyclist Jeremy Vine has pointed out that “in 2016 there were 1,700 road deaths; three were caused by cyclists”. Duncan Dollimore from Cycling UK has said that “adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would merely be tinkering around the edges”.
Since 2012 there have been between 1,700 and 1,800 road deaths per annum in Great Britain. Road fatalities have been on a downward trajectory since the end of the mid 1960s (in 1966 there were 7,985 road deaths) though in 2016 there was a 4% rise in deaths bringing it up to the highest level since 2011. In 2016 there were 1,792 fatalities (816 car occupants, 448 pedestrians, 319 motorcyclists and 102 cyclists). Only 3 of the fatalities in 2016 are reported to have been caused by cyclists. It is unlikely that there will be more than 2 or 3 fatalities per annum caused by cyclists. Statistically, the chances of being killed by a cyclist are about the same as the risk of killed by a lightning strike. Safety campaigners are therefore right to point out that the Government should focus on the real danger which is bad drivers, not bad cyclists.