It was extremely sad that on the National Cycle to Work Day last week, a cyclist was killed in a collision with a lorry; the seventh cyclist this year to be killed in London. According to Government statistics, each year over 100 cyclists are killed in the UK and more than 3000 seriously injured. 1 Conversely, in 2016, 3 pedestrians were killed by cyclists, with 108 seriously injured.2
It was therefore not surprising that when the Government recently opened a public consultation regarding introducing a new law of causing death or serious injury by cycling, many campaigners and cyclists alike felt that the Government’s priorities were wrong.
Before I have my say, let’s look into this further to understand the laws relating to ‘dangerous cycling’ and why this consultation has been introduced by the Government.
Currently, a cyclist may be charged with dangerous or careless cycling under the Road Traffic Act 1988, with a range of penalties as follows:
- Dangerous cycling contrary to section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, punishable by a maximum penalty of a £2,500 fine;
- Careless and inconsiderate cycling contrary to section 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, punishable by a maximum penalty of a £1,000 fine;
- It is also an offence under Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to ride a cycle when unfit to ride through drink or drugs. If found guilty, offenders face a fine of up to £1,000.
However, when it comes to causing death or serious injury when cycling, the Government believes there is a gap in the law when compared with those offences that can be committed using a motor vehicle. There is no specific offence of causing death or causing serious injury through careless or dangerous cycling. In cases where a pedestrian has been killed or seriously injured, the only offences the cyclist could be charged with are:
- Manslaughter (in the event of death of the pedestrian), which is punishable by life imprisonment;
- Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH), which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment;
- Wanton or furious driving, which carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
However, it is likely that the prosecution would only seek to prosecute a cyclist for the above offences if they can demonstrate extreme cases of reckless cycling behavior, whereas:
- the test for dangerous cycling would be whether the standard of the cycling fell far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist and that it would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist that riding in that way would be dangerous.
- the test for cycling without due care and attention is whether the cycling fell below the standard (rather than far below) that would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist.
I confess, as a former lawyer, I do accept that there is a gap in the law and therefore understand why the Government has proposed these new laws. However, the focus should surely be well and truly aimed towards keeping cyclists and pedestrians safe from motorists… the number of offences, injuries and deaths are astronomical in comparison. Sadly it smacks of fiddling with the smaller details and populist politics rather than tackling the larger issue.
After all, are we not all encouraged to live healthier and cleaner lives? Surely, the Government has the responsibility to ensure that we can all do that without us having to take our lives into our hands.
I would like to see the Government commit more money to making the roads safer for both pedestrians and cyclists alike with more dedicated cycle infrastructure and tougher sentences passed down to motorists whose intimidating behaviour makes cyclists feel less safer on the road. These should be the headlines!
We would encourage all havebike followers to have their say on the Government consultation here:
About the author
Before founding havebike in 2010, Nick was a practising finance lawyer with 10 years’ experience with an international law firm. Nick is now the Managing Director of havebike. He is a fully qualified Bicycle Mechanic and Mountain Bike Guide, and has been cycling in London for over 15 years.