Should cyclists who kill or seriously injure other road users face the same penalties as drivers? The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents thinks so, according to a story in The Times earlier this week.
The subject's in the news because investment banker Andrej Schipka was found guilty of careless cycling and fined £850 plus £930 costs and a £15 surcharge for injuring solicitor Clive Hyer last July. The court found Schipka had run a red light at about 26mph and the collision left Hyer with a fractured skull and lasting impairment.
To deal with similar cases involving motor vehicles, the government has announced a new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, punishable by five years in jail and an unlimited fine. That offence doesn't apply to cyclists, however.
Commenting on the issue in general, and not on whether cyclists should be included in the new law, as some news outlets have implied, Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Cyclists have to follow the law just as much as drivers and if they seriously injure or kill someone by riding carelessly or dangerously, then they should face the same level of penalty.
“The effects that these sorts of injuries have on victims and their families are just as devastating when caused by cyclists as they are caused by irresponsible drivers.”
Roger Geffen, campaigns & policy director thinks RoSPA should be careful what they wish for. In an unpublished letter to The Times, Geffen writes: “If irresponsible cyclists faced the same penalties as drivers, as some safety groups are apparently calling for this would in many cases actually mean lighter penalties.”
While the CTC doesn't defend irresponsible cycling any more than the AA or RAC would defend bad driving, Geffen points out: “It is common – routine almost – for drivers who kill pedestrians or cyclists to receive far lower penalties than the £850 handed down to Andrej Shipka who jumped a red light and left pedestrian Clive Hyler with a brain injury.”
Geffen cites the cases of the 17-year old with a previous speeding conviction who killed British Cycling coach Rob Jefferies, and who received a 200-hour community sentence and a fine of just £85; and the drivers who killed 85-year old Barbara Taylor and 89-year old Vera Chaplin who both received 100-hour community sentences.
The problem, says Geffen, is the Crown Prosecution Service. “The common strand in these, and many other similar cases recorded on CTC’s website, is that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided the driving wasn’t 'dangerous', and only prosecuted for a 'careless' offence. CTC has long believed the CPS has got the law wrong on this matter.
“The solution isn’t simply to toughen up the penalties for law-breaking cyclists – we would have no problem with this, if there is consistency with other road user groups. But first, the CPS should start applying the current law correctly, and stop dismissing driving which causes obviously foreseeable danger as mere 'carelessness', regardless of who is involved.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.