Government launches “urgent review” into cycling offences

Government has decided an "urgent review" for cycling offences is needed, while its road traffic offences review is still delayed by three years

Government launches “urgent review” into cycling offences

The Department for Transport today (Thursday, 21 September) announced that it will be conducting an “urgent review” into new offences relating causing death by careless or dangerous cycling.

The announcement follows the well-publicised prosecution and sentencing of Charlie Alliston for 18 months under the charge of “furious and wanton driving”. Alliston was cycling a fixed wheel bike, which lacked a front brake making it illegal, when he collided with mother of two, Kim Briggs, who was crossing Old Street in London. Kim Briggs later passed away as a result of the head injuries she incurred. 

The prosecution and sentencing has stirred wide ranging debate around the calls from widower, Matt Briggs, for new legislation to be introduced that would create new offences of causing death by careless and death by dangerous cycling, mirroring the existing laws in place for dangerous and careless driving.  

This culminated in the Prime Minister, Theresa May, indicating during Prime Minister’s Questions on 06 September that the Department for Transport was looking at this issue of legislation. 

While understanding the motives behind such calls, Cycling UK has urged caution from legislators and commentators alike, pointing out new legislation relating solely to one mode of transport was “misguided” when the whole system relating to road traffic offences and sentencing was failing to work, particularly in the offences for careless and dangerous driving. 

Cycling UK and other road safety organisations, such as RoadPeace, have long campaigned on the need to reform the way the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users.

This was recognised by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in May 2014, when Chris Grayling MP, the then Justice Secretary, announced the Government’s “intention to launch a full review of all driving offences and penalties, to ensure people who endanger lives and public safety are properly punished.” 

The proposed review of cycling offences needs to be carried out as part of the Government’s promised wider review of all road traffic offences and sentencing.

Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK CEO

From May 2014 to December 2016, there have been at least 22 interventions from MPs and Lords in both Houses of Parliaments requesting an update on the full review from Government, with no indication when the review would be launched apart from “soon”.

In December 2016, a limited review was finally announced by the MoJ and received over 9,000 responses by the time it closed at the beginning of February 2017. The results of this review have still not been published. 

Commenting on the Government’s “urgent review” of cycling offences, Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK’s Chief Executive pointed out the benefits of a holistic review, and the need to look at all road traffic offences, saying, “The proposed review of cycling offences needs to be carried out as part of the Government’s promised wider review of all road traffic offences and sentencing. This will ensure the justice system can deal with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users.”

Going largely uncommented on, but not entirely, in today’s coverage of the announcement, but of interest to the cycling community is a second but wider consultation “on road safety issues relating to cycling”. Further details are promised from the Department for Transport, but they will be looking for engagement from organisations like Cycling UK on how to improve safety between different road users. 

Suggesting a bright side to the day's announcement Paul continues: “The consultation on road safety issues is an opportunity to keep cyclists and pedestrians safer,” but he stresses the need for this consultation to use the available evidence to inform its views on tackling the known perils, and the important role Cycling UK will have to keep the DfT on track: “Cycling UK looks forward to working with the Department for Transport on this consultation to ensure it focuses on evidenced ways that keep our most vulnerable road users safe, by addressing risks such as dangerous roads, drivers and vehicles."

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I think the CTC (I *don't* like 'Cycling UK') should publicly and strongly condemn the use of illegal bikes on the road - as a PR exercise as much as anything else. A side effect of this tragic case is that it has seriously damaged the image of cycling in the UK. Other things that get up the public's nose (as well as mine) are cyclists riding through red traffic lights and without lights at night.

Alliston originally asserted his victim was using a mobile phone at the time of the crash - though
it later appeared he lied about this. Pedestrians might be the 'holy cow', but they also have a 'duty of care' - many pedestrians 'hear nothing and assume nothing is coming', and so walk out in front of a bike. It's almost certain that Alliston's victim didn't look carefully enough before stepping off the pavement - otherwise she would have seen his bike approaching and this tragedy would have been averted.

I once hit a pedestrian with my bike - at night - and my lights were on. She emerged from in front of a parked van just as I was alongside the van, deeply engrossed in a phone conversation. The inevitable happened: fortunately no personal damage, but her phone went flying and was run over by a car passing in the opposite direction. Poetic justice perhaps - but according to her it was MY fault!