Cycling and disability rights campaign groups have urged for highways authorities to remove conflict between cyclists and pedestrians in the wake of a court case that yesterday saw 49-year-old Auriol Grey jailed for three years for manslaughter after causing cyclist Celia Ward, 77, to fall off her bike into the path of a car, sustaining fatal injuries.
> Three years in jail for pedestrian convicted of manslaughter after cyclist’s death
CCTV footage of the incident in Huntingdon in October 2020 showed Ms Grey telling Mrs Ward to “get off the f*ck*ng pavement” and gesturing towards the cyclist. While it is impossible to tell from the video whether contact was made, the pedestrian’s hostile demeanour caused Mrs Ward to swerve and lose control of her bike.
In a statement released following the sentencing, Camcycle, the cycling campaign group for Cambridgeshire, said that action was urgently needed in locations where there is “unnecessary conflict” between cyclists and pedestrians if Vision Zero targets are to be met, citing road traffic casualty data compiled ahead of a meeting of the county council’s Highways and Transport Committee next week.
Camcycle, which is the UK’s largest cycling campaign group outside London, said: “All deaths on our roads are avoidable tragedies and this case is particularly heartbreaking.
“It highlights a situation in which people walking and cycling were placed in unnecessary conflict next to a busy road of fast-moving motor vehicles. Cambridgeshire County Council has committed to reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads to zero by 2040, but reports published this week show that it is not currently on target to meet this goal.
Highlighting that “318 people were killed or seriously injured within the last year, leaving too many families suffering,” the group said that “no-one should be hurt on their way to school, work, the shops or to see loved ones.
“It's time to turn positive words and policies on safe routes for walking, cycling and wheeling into action on streets across the county,” it added.
Grey, who plans to appeal against her sentence, has cerebral palsy and is partially sighted, but sentencing her yesterday at Peterborough Crown Court, Judge Sean Enright insisted that her actions “are not explained by disability.”
Despite that, much of the mainstream media coverage of the sentencing has focused on her disabilities.
Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK, told MailOnline that the sentence appeared “extremely harsh,” but echoed Camcycle’s call for highways authorities properly segregate road users to provide safety for all.
Ms Hadi, who is also a non-executive director of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, told Mail Online: “This was a really tragic incident, where Celia lost her life, and I feel sadness and sympathy for all involved. The sentence given to Auriol does seem extremely harsh.
“With the number of cyclists increasing, we need proper separation of pedestrians, cyclists and cars, so that we can all keep each other safe. Government and councils need to review guidance, to ensure safe streets.”
While the hierarchy of road users introduced to the Highway Code in January last year makes clear that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they pose to other road users – so, a cyclist would bear that responsibility towards a pedestrian – in this case, which in any event predates that change to the rules of the road, what the prosecution described as the “hostile and aggressive” manner in which Grey confronted Mrs Ward was clearly a factor.
It is unclear whether the location where the incident happened is a shared use path – both Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire County Council have said they are unable to determine the status of the footway either way, while the judge in his sentencing remarks yesterday was clear that he believed it was designed for people both on foot and on bikes.
While cycling on the footway where it is not a shared use path may be punishable by a fine, Home Office guidance first laid out by former Labour minister Paul Boateng in 1999, and backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (now the National Police Chiefs’ Council) is that police officers and local authority civil enforcement officers should exercise discretion.
> Transport minister: Responsible cyclists CAN ride on the pavement
Boateng’s guidance, subsequently reiterated in 2014 by Conservative former transport minister Robert Goodwill, stated: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so.
“Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”
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