A Conservative MP has urged the government to bring in a law relating to causing death by dangerous cycling, something ministers have been promising for several years now but which has not yet entered the statute books.
In a question put to Mark Spencer, the Tory MP for Sherwood and Leader of the House of Commons, Devizes MP Danny Kruger cited the case of Diana Walker, who was killed on Pewsey High Street in May 2016 in a crash involving a cyclist. No charges have ever been brought against the rider.
“The following year the Government announced a consultation on a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling,” Mr Kruger noted. “The year after that, in 2018, my predecessor Claire Perry was assured by the Government that the response to the consultation would be issued shortly.
“Four years on, we still have no response. Since 2019, I have written to the Government four times to ask for a date for when it will happen,” he added, urging Mr Spencer to speak to the Department for Transport (DfT) to draw up a timetable for the drafting and implementation of the legislation.
In response, Mr Spencer said that Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps “is planning to publish our response to the consultation as soon as we can and has already announced that we are considering bringing forward legislation to introduce new offences around dangerous cycling.
“We will do that as part of a suite of measures to improve the safety of all road and pavement users.”
Currently, cyclists involved in a crash in which a pedestrian is killed can face charges of manslaughter and of causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving – the latter falling under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
Calls for a specific offence of causing death by dangerous cycling intensified in 2017 after cyclist Charlie Alliston was convicted of causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving following a crash in London’s Old Street in which pedestrian Kim Briggs lost her life. Alliston was acquitted by an Old Bailey jury of manslaughter, however.
In the wake of the case the victim’s widower, Matthew Briggs, has been campaigning for a specific law to be drawn up relating to causing death or serious injury while cycling, saying that bike riders should be subjected to similar laws to motorists.
In January this year, Shapps confirmed that legislation would be brought in to create a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling.
Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari about the changes to the Highway Code that were due to take effect towards the end of that month, he said: “The purpose of the changes is if you drive a lorry, you should give way to a van, which will give way to a car, which will give way to a cyclist, which will give way to a pedestrian. These are just common-sense changes to protect everybody.
“And there is another change I’m bringing in which you may not be aware of, which is to make sure that we’re able to prosecute cyclists who, for example, cause death by their own dangerous cycling.
“So this is quite a balanced package, and I think it’s worth noting that the injuries and deaths that take place because of cyclists are also unacceptable,” Shapps added.
At the time, Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at the charity Cycling UK, told road.cc: “Changes to the Highway Code are beneficial to all road users, and it is unhelpful of the Transport Secretary to try and explain or justify them on a quid pro quo basis by linking them to the potential introduction of new cycling offences. The two issues are entirely separate.
“As the Transport Secretary’s own minister Andrew Stephenson confirmed in December, the DfT is already working on the terms and remit of a call for evidence into road traffic offences. While that is long overdue, with a full review first promised over seven years ago after prolonged campaigning from Cycling UK, there’s little more than we can say on this issue, other than that we’ve never opposed cycling offences being be part of that review.
“Introducing new cycling offences in isolation however would simply be a sticking plaster on a broken system, because our current careless and dangerous driving offences aren’t fit for purpose – replicating them for cycling makes no sense at all,” he added.
During 2020, 346 pedestrians lost their lives in road traffic collisions in Great Britain, but cyclists were involved in only four of those fatal crashes, and it should also be noted that those figures, which come from the DfT, do not seek to apportion blame.
Due to their comparative rarity, however, crashes that result in a cyclist being prosecuted following the death of a pedestrian do tend to attract a disproportionate amount of coverage in the national press – typically accompanied by calls for the law to be updated.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.