10 years on from the government announcing a full review of all road traffic offences, and we’re still waiting

A woman and two children are cycling on a shared-use path, a pedestrian is in the background. There's a van driving along the road next to them and a line of cones on the road.
Cycling UK campaigns for better provision for cyclists and pedestrians; inset: Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns
Listen to Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns, on the Today programme

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, appeared on the BBC Today programme in response to calls from campaigners looking to introduce a new offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling – therefore bringing cycling laws into line with the Road Traffic Act.

The story follows on from weekend coverage of a cyclist involved in a fatal collision with a pensioner in The Regent’s Park, London.

Listen to Duncan Dollimore


BBC presenter:
On Monday, we heard from Matt Briggs, whose wife Kim was killed by a cyclist in central London in 2016.

Matt Briggs:
My wife was on her lunch break. She was crossing the road in Old Street in central London, and she was hit by a cyclist and died one week later in hospital. About a week later, I was informed that there may have been criminality and that the bike being used was a track bike, illegal for road use. But then came the line from the police that we have nothing to charge him with. It is literally a lawless activity in the sense that the Road Traffic Act only applies to motorists and does not apply to cyclists.

BBC presenter:
Well, we’ve had a big response from listeners to that very moving interview and a fair number have asked to hear from a cycling organisation or someone who can speak for cyclists, not just on this particular case, of course, but on the wider issue as well about the rules, the laws that govern cycling. Duncan Dollimore is head of campaigns for Cycling UK and joins us now.

Duncan, good morning. Good morning. Thanks very much indeed for joining us.

Is one of the difficulties in this area that extensive regulation of cycling is very hard to do?

Duncan Dollimore:
Yes. Countries across the world have occasionally thought about regulation of cycling. It comes up, as you will know, in relation to chat show conversations asking should cyclists be more regulated? But the reality is where that’s been tried, it discourages people from cycling. In the UK, for example, we have around 30 million bikes. We have 7 million children aged five to about 15 who have bikes. A system where you regulated the ownership of those bikes risks criminalising young children. And so, areas that have considered this before in states places like Toronto and Canada, they’ve quickly abandoned it. The only country in the world that has a licensing registration, really formal system for registering cyclists is North Korea.

BBC presenter:
I thought that’s where that sentence was going to end. What do you say to, I mean, obviously I know you wouldn’t necessarily know the specifics of the case, and I’m sure you’re hugely moved by hearing what Matt Briggs was saying on this programme earlier this week, but I just wonder if you could address his the last point we heard in that clip where he asserts that this is essentially a lawless activity. Is it in your view?

Duncan Dollimore: 
I don’t think it is, but I should start by saying I have met with Matt. I have huge respect for him and massive compassion and sympathy for everyone who has lost a loved one in relation to a road traffic collision. I’ve dealt with many families in the last nine years that have been in that position, and it’s heartbreaking and we need to do more to deal with it. 
But he has said on a number of occasions that he was told by the police that there was nothing to charge the particular cyclist with. I’ve got no doubt that’s what he was told by the police, but it is factually untrue because actually what happened in that case is the cyclist was charged with manslaughter and wanton and furious driving and was convicted of the latter and sent to prison. It’s a rare number because these incidents are rare, and a number of cyclists have been charged with that offence and convicted and sent to prison. So, the idea that there’s this huge gap in the law is not quite as accurate as it states.

BBC presenter:
And it’s also the case, I should say, so our listeners know, the Road Traffic Act of 1991 created cycling offences parallel to those of careless or dangerous driving, maximum fines of £1,000 to £2,500, respectively.

Do you think there’s a clear enough definition of what constitutes careless or dangerous cycling?

Duncan Dollimore: 
I don’t think there’s a clear definition of that, or what constitutes careless or dangerous driving. It’s the point we’ve been making for about 14 years. Ten years ago yesterday, Chris Grayling, who was then the secretary of state for justice, announced that the government was going to have a wide review of all road traffic offences.

BBC presenter:
And we’re still waiting for it, aren’t we?

Duncan Dollimore:
Ten years on, we’re still waiting.

What we have said many, many times is that we don’t object to cycling offences being looked at and a consideration of whether any changes need to be made. But it needs to be in the context of a wider review of road traffic offences, because there are multiple problems with the way we classify irresponsible, careless and dangerous behaviour by a number of road users.

Which is why a few years ago, the AA, the RAC, the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety and a number of road safety organisations supported our call again for the government to get on with this review of road traffic offences, which would include looking at cycling offences, but doing it in isolation is just doing part of a job badly.

BBC presenter:
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns for Cycling UK. Thank you very much indeed for joining.