It is well established under current law that driving dangerously and recklessly can result in a criminal conviction. However it is now being considered whether cyclists should also come under this remit and be held responsible for their actions as a result of dangerous cycling.
Many of you will be aware of the recent Charlie Alliston case. On the 12th February 2016, Mr Alliston was travelling at approximately 18mph along a street in London. He was riding his second hand fixed-gear bike when he collided with a pedestrian, Kim Briggs as she stepped out into the Street. Unfortunately Mrs Briggs suffered with catastrophic head injuries and died as a result.
Mr Alliston’s bike had no front brakes and it was illegal to use on the road. As stated by Judge Wendy Joseph QC, he chose to ride at a speed and on a bike that he could not stop and his attitude was that everyone else would just have to get out of the way. He was found to have been aware of the risks associated with such behaviour and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Under the current law, cyclists can be charged with careless or dangerous cycling that carries maximum fines of £1,000.00 and £2,500.00. There is however no criminal offence that applies specifically to cyclists who cause death or injury by dangerous or careless cycling.
Mr Alliston was cleared of manslaughter but later found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving,” a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. This is an obscure law that dates back to the Victorian era and carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
This case has demonstrated that there is clearly a gap in the law when dealing with death or serious injury that is caused by dangerous cycling. According to a review by Cycling UK (Using Department for Transport figures) there were 32 deaths and 820 serious injuries caused by collisions between cyclists and pedestrians between 2005 and 2015.
Following this case, the transport minister Jesse Norman has announced in September 2017 that the Government will hold an urgent review examining whether there should be new road laws covering cyclists who cause serious injury or death as a result of dangerous cycling. This could result in a new charge for causing death by dangerous cycling.
The review will consist of two phases; the first being a review of the current legislation and is set to conclude in early 2018.The second phase will examine the broader issues relating to road safety.
The results of this review on cycling law is yet to be seen but there does appear to be a lot of support in favour of cyclists owing a greater duty of care to pedestrians and those around them.