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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.

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113 comments

Avatar
Hirsute | 2 months ago
25 likes

Things that the Government could do (and have said they would do), but haven’t, instead prioritising the creation of dangerous cycling laws:

- New laws for hit and run offenders, campaigned for by
@RoadPeace

- 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

https://twitter.com/adamtranter/status/1790824877718475062

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TheBillder | 2 months ago
13 likes

None of this is about improving the law or society. It's about signalling that something is being done, especially this close to a general election.

There's a general failure to realise that laws only change behaviour if they are enforced. Some MPs care little about real outcomes, but an awful lot about posturing.

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chrisonabike replied to TheBillder | 2 months ago
10 likes

Exactly.  Whatever you feel about this, the headline is not "tens of thousands of additional police on the roads, new reporting portals to be set up".  Not even "courts to be directed to limit excuses / bring in new expert witnesses (perhaps driving / cycling test examiners?)".  (AFAIK - perhaps the main bill has all that?)

Instead the heading on the Gov't anouncement is:

"Measures will help protect law-abiding cyclists, pedestrians and other road users while ensuring justice is done."

Does it actually protect anyone? (And which "other road users"?  Motorists?  Bus passengers?)  It's a bit pedantic I know, obviously most laws cut in after some bad thing has happened, we hope that "prison will change them" - but is this likely to deter the dangerous or careless cyclist?

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Cyclo1964 | 2 months ago
4 likes

I think the other bit of the wording I would be concerned about if it is implemented is the bike would have to legally equipped and maintained etc. Legally equipped with what ? 

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chrisonabike replied to Cyclo1964 | 2 months ago
8 likes

Pedal reflectors, visible from the rear?  I'm clearly going to shortly "feel the full force of the law" when riding my recumbent.  Even if my pedals had reflectors, and even if my ankles and feet were designed differently so the "back" of them faced more horizontally than vertically, my body is in the way...  (Some have suggested carrying an extra set of pedals, attached and visible on the back of the seat.)

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Benthic replied to Cyclo1964 | 2 months ago
5 likes

Daily Mail aficionados are obsessed with bicycle bells so keep an eye out for that. 

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Backladder replied to Benthic | 2 months ago
9 likes

Benthic wrote:

Daily Mail aficionados are obsessed with bicycle bells so keep an eye out for that. 

It is my understanding that the law says "audible warning device" so if this law passes my default of saying "ding ding" on approach to someone who clearly isn't aware of my presence will change to a shout of "Out of my fucking way". Purely for compliance with the new law of course!

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AidanR | 2 months ago
21 likes

If I'm seriously injured by a pedestrian jumping out in front of me, leaving me no time to avoid a collision, will they be prosecuted for causing serious injury by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate pedestrianing?

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kingleo replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
2 likes

No, because the cyclist is always the cause of the accident: two pedestrians walked out onto the road without first looking carefully to see if anything was coming, they hit a cyclist and they were all knocked to the ground. At the trial, the judge decided that the accident was caused by the cyclist because he did not swerve or brake, the two pedestrians tried to sue the cyclist for compensation but could not because he was not insured - they demanded that all cyclists should be insured.

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eburtthebike replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
5 likes

A more likely event than the cyclist being at fault.  I'm sure that nice Mr Harper, my MP, will make certain that pedestrians will also be subject to the same laws and penalties for knocking off cyclists.*

 

 

*No he won't: he's effing useless at anything except having his picture taken at a ritual pothole filling in ceremony.

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Backladder replied to eburtthebike | 2 months ago
3 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

*No he won't: he's effing useless at anything except having his picture taken at a ritual pothole filling in ceremony.

Can you arrange for him to be standing in the next pothole the fill?

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chrisonabike replied to Backladder | 2 months ago
3 likes

Ooh, there's an idea for traffic calming - "sleeping politicians"!

To pinch from Ambrose Bierce - "here lies Boris Johnson, as usual". (Pity it was Boris who happened to like a bike...)

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chrisonabike | 2 months ago
10 likes

I think Duncan Dollimore was good on this - didn't diminish anyone's loss, avoided whataboutery but still noted that the law had managed to impose similar penalties on cyclists as other road users who have killed and (IIRC) expressed a hope that the government would hasten to address the bigger picture of road safety (realistically - the next government, probably in the never never).

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brooksby | 2 months ago
18 likes

Briggs goes on about how Alliston was charged under an antiquated law, but he went to jail for eighteen months so it clearly still works.

I mean - assault is still charged under the 18xx offences against the person act, yet I don't hear the govt saying that they desperately need to introduce a new law for that...

Lets face it- they're never going to do a comprehensive review of road safety law, are they? It might find that they have to be tougher on motorists, and they can't have that.

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Backladder replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
2 likes

brooksby wrote:

Briggs goes on about how Alliston was charged under an antiquated law, but he went to jail for eighteen months so it clearly still works.

I mean - assault is still charged under the 18xx offences against the person act, yet I don't hear the govt saying that they desperately need to introduce a new law for that...

Lets face it- they're never going to do a comprehensive review of road safety law, are they? It might find that they have to be tougher on motorists, and they can't have that.

Its as though they think that laws wear out like tyres do!

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ROOTminus1 replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
5 likes

With all due respect to the loss he suffered, Mr Briggs needs to find a healthier way to deal with his grief than to villify an entire mode of transport.
Mr Alliston was a grade-A prick whose harshness of sentence was more reflective of his entitlement and lack of remorse than his culpability of the incident.

My thought is that had any such laws been introduced prior to this media hype, say under the review of the RTA that was promised at the start of of Toryranny, the burden of proof for equivalent death by cycling charges would be comparable to the driving counterparts, and significantly higher than the burden of proof for the Wanton and Furious Alliston was slapped with.
In this knee-jerk climate, being on a bicycle and making contact would be enough for the noose if the Conservatives thought it might get them a few extra votes. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm crossing my fingers that the HoL throws this out with so many comments and amendments it's tied up in bureaucracy before the year is out

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Homebaker | 2 months ago
16 likes

I think we're seeing a government pushing culture war issues because they need something other than their record to go on. Also, in the news today was the teaching of sex to under nines which already doesn't happen, but conspiracy websites would tell you that they're trying to get people to dress up as cross-gender (gender is a congested idea). Like the kitty litter boxes in classrooms. No truth in the UK.

As little onion has already said on this thread. The numbers don't support the actions, pedestrians much more likely to be killed by car on a footpath than by a cyclist.

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Cyclo1964 replied to Homebaker | 2 months ago
11 likes

Looking around at various stats since 2021 on average around 35 pedestrians per year.

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eburtthebike replied to Cyclo1964 | 2 months ago
10 likes

And every driver who kills a pedestrian on the footpath is sentenced to life.

No, sorry, got that the wrong way around: no driver who kills a pedestrian on the footpath gets life, and most of them only get a slap on the wrist.

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chrisonabike | 2 months ago
12 likes

Is it me, or do the current lot in power seem generally keen to ensure that tiny minorities "face the full weight of the law"?

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marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
9 likes

The usual rightwing fascist tactics, othering, scapegoating, discriminating.

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momove replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
3 likes

Cruelty is the point.

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the little onion | 2 months ago
20 likes

Statistically speaking, based on DfT stats on who is more likely to be harmed in pedestrian-cyclist crashes, they are better off creating a 'dangerous pedestrianing' offence.

 

Also, given that mobility scooter-pedestrian crashes kill about 10 times as many people as cyclist-pedestrian crashes, why not cover mobility scooters under driving offences?

(IMPORTANT NOTE - whilst these assertions are based on DfT data, the key fact is that the numbers are so low as to be meaningless, so it is actually difficult to draw any serious conclusions abour risk, harm etc, other than it is rare and therefore probably not worth bothering with. Unlike the 1,700 road deaths annually from incidents involving  motor vehicles)

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