Cyclists – a danger to pedestrians?
26 October 2017 by Lauren Hancock
We often hear of the risks to cyclists on the roads, with more than 23,000 cyclists having been killed or injured across the country in 2016. Less often do we hear of the risk cyclists may cause to other road users, specifically the dangers posed to pedestrians. In 2016, there were 460 reported accidents in which pedestrians were hit by cyclists. Whilst the frequency of such incidents is far fewer, their consequences can be equally devastating.
Following the death of 44-year-old Kim Briggs on 12th February last year, the law governing accidents of this nature has been considered by the government in recent months.
Mrs Briggs, a mother of two, was struck by cyclist Charlie Alliston as she crossed Old Street in East London on her lunch break. Mr Alliston’s bicycle was travelling at approximately 18mph and was not equipped with front brakes, required by law for the type of track bike he was riding. As a result of the impact, Mrs Briggs sustained catastrophic head injuries and sadly died in hospital a week later.
The incident drew national media attention, not least because of the reliance of the Courts on 19th Century legislation to convict Mr Alliston. Whilst offences of death by dangerous or careless driving exist for the prosecution of drivers, at present, there is no comparable legislation relating to death caused by dangerous or careless cycling.
Currently, the law governing death by dangerous driving applies only to vehicles which are “mechanically propelled”, thus excluding bicycles. Those convicted of the offence are subject to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
Given no equivalent statute exists in relation to cyclists, in Mrs Briggs’ case the Courts were instead forced to rely upon the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. By virtue of the act, it is an offence to cause bodily harm to any person as a result of “wanton or furious driving”. This offence carries a considerably lower maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment, a point of controversy for those involved in Mrs Briggs case.
On the 18th September this year, Mr Alliston was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in a young offenders institution. This sentence left many to question whether the law as it stands adequately protects pedestrians.
Since the incident Matthew Briggs, Mrs Briggs’ widow has called for changes to the law in the hopes of preventing similar accidents in the future. Mr Briggs believes that offences of death by dangerous cycling and death by careless cycling should be incorporated into national law.
Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, constituency of Mr and Mrs Briggs raised the issue with the Prime Minister in September. She described the current law of wanton and furious driving as “hopelessly outdated” and “wholly inadequate” and asked the PM for an extension of the law on dangerous driving. Theresa May acknowledged that UK laws must be kept up to date and advised that the matter would be considered by the Secretary of State for Transport.
There are now an increasing number of cyclists on UK roads with 3.5 billion miles cycled nationally in 2016, a 23% increase in 10 years. With this upturn, it seems inevitable that there will too be an increase in risk to pedestrians. Whether the government will review current law in the wake of this tragic case remains to be seen however it seems clear that there exists a void in the law which needs to be filled.
If you have been injured as a result of a road traffic accident which was not your fault within the last three years, either as a pedestrian, cyclist, driver or passenger we at Fisher Jones Greenwood can help. Please call our personal injury team on 01206 217524.
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