Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

Government agrees to introduce tougher laws for “dangerous cyclists” who kill or injure, as Transport Secretary says “it’s only right tiny minority who recklessly disregard others face full weight of the law”

Ministers back an amendment to Criminal Justice Bill, put forward by Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, to introduce the offence of ‘causing death by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling, and causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate cycling

The government has agreed to introduce tougher legislation to prosecute cyclists who kill or injure through dangerous or careless cycling, after ministers backed a series of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill tabled by Sir Iain Duncan Smith which aim to ensure people on bikes “face the same penalties as drivers and motorcyclists” responsible for the death of pedestrians.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the proposed legislation would ensure the “tiny minority” of reckless cyclists would face the “full weight of the law”, while protecting “law-abiding cyclists”.

On Wednesday, ministers supported former Conservative leader Duncan Smith’s proposal to introduce the specific offence of “causing death by dangerous, careless, or inconsiderate cycling, and causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate cycling”, which would lead to tougher penalties for those who kill or injure while riding bikes, e-bikes, electric scooters, unicycles, and “personal transporters”.

As we reported last week, the amendments would replace the current legislation with which cyclists who kill or injure while riding recklessly can be prosecuted under the 1861 ‘wanton or furious driving’ law, which carries with it a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

According to Duncan Smith’s proposals, bikes would also be legally required to be “equipped and maintained” to standards set out in the Act.

The government will now bring forward an updated amendment to Home Secretary James Cleverly’s Criminal Justice Bill before it is put up for debate in the House of Lords.

> Iain Duncan Smith calls for creation of “causing death by dangerous, careless, or inconsiderate cycling” law

The topic of dangerous cycling has attracted widespread national print and broadcast media coverage in recent weeks in the aftermath of a coroner’s inquest being told that no charges would be brought against a cyclist who was riding laps of London’s Regent’s Park when he crashed into a pensioner, causing her fatal injuries.

The cyclist, Brian Fitzgerald, was riding in a group at a speed of between 25mph and 29mph at the time of the fatal crash, which led to the death of 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths. The speed limit in the park is 20mph, but the Metropolitan Police confirmed that it does not apply to people riding bicycles (as is the case throughout the country), and that the case had been closed because there was “insufficient evidence for a real prospect of conviction”.

Duncan Smith’s amendments were welcomed by Matthew Briggs, a longstanding campaigner for a dangerous cycling law, whose wife Kim was hit and killed by a cyclist riding with no front brakes in London in 2016, with the cyclist Charlie Alliston later being jailed for 18 months after being found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious riding”.

Announcing the government’s backing of Duncan Smith’s amendments on Wednesday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Most cyclists, like most drivers, are responsible and considerate. But it’s only right that the tiny minority who recklessly disregard others face the full weight of the law for doing so.

“Just like car drivers who flout the law, we are backing this legislation introducing new offences around dangerous cycling. These new measures will help protect law-abiding cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users, whilst ensuring justice is done.

“I would like to thank Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP for bringing forward this amendment, and to all the campaigners who have tirelessly highlighted this issue – this is in recognition of their efforts in particular.”

> Transport Secretary says tougher laws for dangerous cyclists "under review" and will be considered "with an open mind"

The government’s backing of Duncan Smith’s amendments brings an apparent end to years of debate around tougher dangerous cycling laws, in and out of parliament.

Former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps first raised the issue in January 2022, before declaring his intention to introduce the law again later that year during his infamous summer of backpedalling and U-turns that saw him suggest – and almost immediately retract – that cyclists should have licences, number plates, be insured, and subject to speed limits.

In June 2023, however, it was reported that the Department for Transport had admitted to campaigners that there is a lack of parliamentary time to implement such a law before the next general election, with attention then being turned to a private member’s bill as the primary hope of securing legislative success for the initiative.

But in September, Justice Minister Edward Argar confirmed to parliament that the government was still considering legislation to tackle “dangerous cycling”, after former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom asked what work was being done to “make sure that the sentencing for those convicted of dangerous cycling is equalised with the sentencing guidelines for those convicted of dangerous driving.”

And last week, in a clear indicator of the direction the government was intent on taking, Harper revealed that he was planning to review Duncan Smith’s amendments with “an open mind”.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the Transport Secretary also claimed his government remains committed to promoting active travel schemes, a claim many will question given the ongoing funding controversies and lack of mention of cycling policies during his party conference speech last autumn that was slammed by Cycling UK as an “ill-fated attempt to win” votes with pro-motoring policies, while “undermining” active travel success.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

Add new comment

113 comments

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
2 likes

Indeed.  There is a view that if you are driving you are competent and that's self-evident.  Tested and licenced, isn't it?  You're "official".  Plus you're a citizen in good standing - you're solvent enough to operate a car, you're careful about maintaining things to some extent (you clean the windscreen, MOT it), responsible enough and sufficiently pro-social to pay "road tax", fuel tax etc.

On a bike?  You clearly can't be responsible - after all we let kids ride them.  There aren't even speed limits!  There's no test, "don't pay road tax", no numberplates etc.  Plus "I wouldn't cycle there with all those cars" - you've called your own judgement/responsibility into question.

You've already opted into the awkward squad - and that's the more charitable view!  Failures in life - overgrown manchildren, wannabe TDF racers, eco-zealots, "bloody students", dodgy immigrant delivery riders, young thugs and thieves who aren't even successful enough to get a car ... those with disdain for the mainstream, no responsibility or accountability...

Looking at it with my cycling helmet on* it seems bizarre that riding a bike is seen as being less responsible / pro-social and driving a car the opposite, but that is definitely a view.

Albeit I suspect that (outside rare surges of media interest) most people don't actively think about cycling at all, and alternatives to driving rather infrequently.

* which may be a cap, now it's summer...

Avatar
brooksby | 2 months ago
2 likes

For the purposes of this proposed law, will "cycling" include any micromobility device? (eg. 30mph illegal e-scooters, electric motorbikes, e-unicycles, and - based on the stats quoted by little onion - mobility scooters)

Avatar
HoarseMann | 2 months ago
5 likes

Is this going to replace the "wanton and furious cycling" legislation? We are being told, afterall, that it is an archaic and inappropriate law*, so surely it will be rescinded?

(* despite seemingly able to result in a custodial sentance far longer than most dangerous drivers have received). 

Avatar
Steve K | 2 months ago
13 likes

This is clearly part of the anti-cycling culture war.  To be honest, it's real world effect is likely to minimal, so I'm not overly concerned.  I do worry about the definition of "inconsiderate" cycling - is there a law on "inconsiderate driving"?  But the real test will be if and when the law is tested - and in particular the sentencing.  Will the sentencing for a cyclist who causes death by careless cycling be in any way comparable for that for a motorist who causes death by careless driving?  I think we all know the likely answer to that.

Avatar
anotherflat replied to Steve K | 2 months ago
5 likes

I think you're underestimating the likelihood that PCSOs will be deployed to stop cyclists and inexpertly check that their cycles "comply with the regulations" in "cycling safety" crackdowns whenever the Mail etc whip up anti-cycling hysteria and fines issued for lack of reflectors (front, rear or pedal) etc.

Avatar
quiff replied to Steve K | 2 months ago
0 likes

Steve K wrote:

I do worry about the definition of "inconsiderate" cycling - is there a law on "inconsiderate driving"?  

Yes. They're both in the Road Traffic Act 1988. All that's new is adding a separate level of "death by" for the cycling offences.

Avatar
AidanR | 2 months ago
7 likes

Apparently the maximum sentence for death by dangerous cycling will be life in prison, in line with the proposed increase of the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving.

One effect of this new law is to equate the danger posed by cyclists to the danger posed by drivers. This is laughable. Drivers are capable of speeds well in excess of 100mph, in 2+ tons of metal, insulated from major personal injury in the event of a crash. Cyclists might reach 30mph, and for all intents and purposes are otherwise just as vulnerable as a pedestrian.

It's not hard to conceive of a scenario in which a driver could receive a life sentence, but I cannot think of a scenario in which giving a cyclist a life sentence could be justified.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
5 likes

Well ... being fair, if your dangerous cycling *has* killed someone then it would appear to be as dangerous as killing someone with a car?

There *may* be a secondary effect of "see - cycling is a dangerous as driving" which in ways *apart* from the new law causes a change in public perception.

I think the public perception of cycling is pretty polarised, with a chunk of it strongly negative.

Being charitable you could say them bashing cycling to play to a baying core vote is "not proven". The government have just allowed some minor details to be tacked on the end of a bigger bill - perhaps "we're probably gone soon, why not let in a few things which *some* people might like and ideologically we don't care about".

... Except as Hirsute reminds us* they've a long history of failing to take opportunities to *actually* address road safety and legal inequalities on our roads. So in practice they've done almost nothing - and have avoided what seems to be "open goals" ... Except of course that would be upsetting the motor trade, the motorist and maybe some "concerned pedestrians".

* Thanks Hirsute, had forgotten some of those. I can only think of one "positive" (in theory) - increasing maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving. Which I doubt has any effect on safety, but "being seen to be tough". And perhaps you could count them knocking back a couple of weird ideas like cycle numberplates and compulsory helmets if being completely fair. Any others?

Avatar
AidanR replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
6 likes

I'll break this into two strands:

1) Assuming no intent to harm, the fact that harm is in fact caused is to some degree down to luck. The majority of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians that result in death involved either an elderly person, or someone who has struck their head on a kerb or similar. A driver speeding and driving recklessly has much greater potential to kill. They are therefore more dangerous.

2) If harm is intended, a vehicle is a convenient and safe (for the driver) weapon. A bicycle is not - the cyclist is roughly as likely to be seriously injured as their target.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
3 likes

I would agree - with a car you've the possibility not just to kill but to dismantle, and kill the person behind also. But ... driving is not only legal, its seen as a pretty unexceptional thing to do (almost "waking down the street"). Perhaps I should have emphasised the "appear" part in my comment - just wanted to acknowledge the "but it's the same, dangerous behaviour on the road leading to someone being killed" concern.

Yes we do have precedent for variable penalties for killing people - I think this will just look "the same" if it was your child / partner etc.

In practice - and as noted this is likely to be newsworthy as perhaps once our twice per year - I suspect people are likely to apply the distorted standards we have with driver-caused deaths but in reverse.

So (1) in the driving case we tend to assume no intent ("it was an accident"), because that's how we and everyone we know drives. Plus we *have to drive*. Whereas cycling is clearly a deliberate choice (you could have driven, walked, got the bus...)!

(2) For similar reasons to above people tend to minimise the decisions of those in motor vehicles ("suddenly saw red ... only intended to push them out of the way..."). So just a normal human whose actions were unfortunately magnified because they were wearing a powerful exoskeleton. I suspect that the same result on a bicycle will be seen as worse - because it is so "extreme" and *personal*. You're likely to physically hit anyone you choose to ride into...

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
2 likes

Oh, and (Presumably what the amendment mentioned about "equipped") "but cars have MOTs and drivers are trained and licensed". Some people are going to consider a bike aggravates things, as if you'd fitted road wheels to a sofa and gone out "for a play" on the roads...

Avatar
AidanR replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
2 likes

It will be interesting to see how the charging and sentencing compares between the driving and cycling offences.

There is likely to be a bias against cyclists, despite their "vehicles" being inherently being less dangerous than cars, due to being the out group and the normalisation of (bad) driving.

Of course, it will take some time for there to be enough convictions to make a comparison, because there are so few deaths caused by cyclists.

Avatar
Backladder replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
1 like

chrisonabike wrote:

Plus we *have to drive*. Whereas cycling is clearly a deliberate choice (you could have driven, walked, got the bus...)!

Getting a bus is also a deliberate decision so if a bus driver kills someone with his bus, all the passengers share liability with him because without them making the decision to get a bus he wouldn't have been there!

Avatar
Patrick9-32 replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
3 likes

Maybe this is in place to massively reduce the threshold for dangerous driving convictions. "If a cyclist is convicted for killing someone while going 25 in a 20 and having a pedestrian step out in front of them then a drunk driver looking at their phone and blowing through a crossing and killing someone can't possibly be considered merely 'careless'."

Avatar
Backladder replied to Patrick9-32 | 2 months ago
5 likes

Patrick9-32 wrote:

Maybe this is in place to massively reduce the threshold for dangerous driving convictions. "If a cyclist is convicted for killing someone while going 25 in a 20 and having a pedestrian step out in front of them then a drunk driver looking at their phone and blowing through a crossing and killing someone can't possibly be considered merely 'careless'."

You wish!

Avatar
Patrick9-32 replied to Backladder | 2 months ago
4 likes

Backladder wrote:

You wish!

It doesn't seem very likely does it...

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Patrick9-32 | 2 months ago
3 likes

Patrick9-32 wrote:

Maybe this is in place to massively reduce the threshold for dangerous driving convictions.

I really, really doubt it!  That would be that "comprehensive review of road traffic offenses" from just ... 10 years back.  Along with lots of other things which the government declined to support, dropped, gave the nod to but then kicked into the long grass or otherwise did not follow through with in practice.  (This is when they've had a stonking majority for some time also, don't forget).

Along with the usual announcing "support for active travel" then either not delivering on the money or indeed cutting this back (practiced by all the main political groups, barring e.g. the Greens - oh and a point for Welsh Labour for renumbering the (existing, arbitrary) default 30mph to 20mph of course!)

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
10 likes

Road Peace released a list this morning of the things the government has said it will do to improve the roads but hasn't had time/inclination for whilst having the time for this measure:

 

  • New laws for hit and run offenders
  • Publishing of England road safety strategy 
  • Undertake full review of motoring offences and penalties, first promised in 2014 
  • Transport’s Roads policing review: call for evidence began in 13 July 2020 with recommendations due in Spring 2021; to date, no update has been published
  • Pavement parking consultation review - closed November 2020. No update has been published 
  • Allowing death by careless driving sentences to be appealed by families under the unduly lenient sentences scheme 
  • Establishing the Road Crash Investigation Bureau: promised, then quietly shelved 
  • Clarify the difference between careless and dangerous driving
     
Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
6 likes

And what it did find time for:

Cutting funding for active travel (in 2023) (more on that from Sustrans)

Declaring they're "on the side of the motorist".

Ordering a review of LTNs.

Apparently - the Conservative party this is, not government - running a network of attack groups touting ULEZ and LTN nonsense (and worse) to have a crack at Sadiq.

Brought in legislation on "Automated vehicles" - by itself this could be seen as necessary and just dealing with reality, but they blocked things like sorting out the definition of "careful and competent drivers" at the same time or creating some advisory council.  So it seems as much "how can we help the industry get these sold?"

Ran a consultation on upping the power on EAPCs / throttle-only ones.  Who was calling for this again?

Consultation on restricting the generation of "surplus funds" by local authorities policing traffic.

This current one they have made space for, as an amendment it seems to be a case of "tacked on at the last minute".  I'm not sure how much "deliberately choosing to have a go at cycling" this has?  Someone more knowledgeable about parliamentary proceedings could tell us perhaps.

Avatar
lio | 2 months ago
13 likes

Tory War on Cycling.

No one is safer for this. It's just virtue signaling to those that want to get cyclists off the road permanently.

Avatar
Rome73 | 2 months ago
3 likes

'According to Duncan Smith’s proposals, bikes would also be legally required to be “equipped and maintained” to standards set out in the Act'.

how would this be managed and enforced? Could there be an MOT for cycles? That would be great news for bike shops. 

Avatar
Clem Fandango replied to Rome73 | 2 months ago
3 likes

That'll be interesting - I'm pretty sure no Tory politican or culture warrior could even explain how a bicycle works, let alone set "appropriate" standards for maintenance & safe operation.   Just sounds like them pandering to the "TheY SHouLD HaVE RegIsTrATiOn PlAtES" crowd small but loud gathering.

Avatar
stonojnr replied to Rome73 | 2 months ago
8 likes

Halfords can't even build bikes properly how the hell can they be trusted to do a bike MOT competently ?

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 months ago
16 likes

Never mind about food banks, homeless people, NHS falling apart, MP scandals, look over there!  Cyclists!!  And rainbow coloured lanyards!  With 99% of the media supporting them.

Avatar
lesterama | 2 months ago
7 likes

Will drivers who kill cyclists by dooring feel the full force of the law? No, they'll get a £1000 fine.

Avatar
Rome73 replied to lesterama | 2 months ago
9 likes

Would they even get a fine? 

Avatar
giff77 replied to lesterama | 2 months ago
2 likes

Nah. They'll just get a tongue lashing and told to be more careful in the future. Meanwhile the cyclist's estate will be sued for damages to the door and the mental well being of the motorist. 

Avatar
lonpfrb | 2 months ago
15 likes

Dog whistle politics of no merit.

Where is their record of effective and efficient enforcement of existing road traffic law..

No, didn't think so.

Avatar
Clem Fandango | 2 months ago
18 likes

Yawn.
They'll be deporting us to Rwanda for inconveniencing hard working drivists and not having RoaD TAx next.

Given that their record on delivery of manifesto promises & such like, plus they'll not survive beyond January at the latest, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it

Avatar
giff77 | 2 months ago
14 likes

So will the Right Honourable Mark Harper be ensuring that motorists who recklessly disregard others will also feel the full weight of the law?  We've seen how many motorists appear to be treated with leniency by juries and judges/magistrates over the years and no recollection has become an acceptable defence. While I've no issue with a new offence being created. I do question the legitimacy of such an offence due to the numbers of fatalities and the rarity of such an offence being charged. I'm nearly sure I read somewhere that 50% of fatalities between a cyclist and pedestrian it was the later who was at fault. 

I really can't remember individuals and the press being as vocal over drivers being locked up or laws changed as they are with cyclists. 

Pages

Latest Comments