Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

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I want to ride my bicycle

We have heard a lot more in the news recently about accidents involving cyclists, often with serious injuries being sustained. However, this doesn’t just include cyclists themselves being injured; it can also include pedestrians being injured as a result of cyclists riding dangerously.

The Government commissioned a review into cycle safety to consider whether there is a need for a change in the law for cyclists. It has been questioned whether there should be a more up to date offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling, similar to current driving offences.

In September 2017, 20-year-old Charlie Alliston (”Charlie”), was cleared of manslaughter but convicted of wanton and furious driving, an old-fashioned law deriving from 1861.

Charlie was cycling down a road at approximately 18mph, when he collided with Mrs Briggs who was crossing a junction, despite the right of way being for the road users. In the sentencing remarks, it was commented that the judge was sure Charlie would have seen Mrs Briggs step off the kerb and that Charlie had shouted to Mrs Briggs to move out of the way and also swerved to reduce his speed. However, when Mrs Briggs was unable to move, Charlie continued to cycle on, arguing “I was entitled to go on”. It was also discovered that Charlie was riding an illegal pushbike, with no front brake, so he could not stop. Charlie collided with Mrs Briggs and she died as a result of catastrophic injuries.

The judge commented that the illegal bike did not solely cause the incident, but Charlie’s manner of riding and attitude that Mrs Briggs should have moved out of his way was irresponsible and dangerous. Charlie was sentenced to 18 months in a Young Offender’s Institution.

Currently, there is no criminal offence specifically for cyclists that cause death or injury to other road users. Cyclists can be charged with careless or dangerous cycling, but this carries a maximum fine of £1000/£2500. The closest offence to dangerous cycling that carries a criminal punishment is wanton and furious driving, which arises when a cyclist causes bodily harm and carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and an unlimited fine.  

A cyclist may, however, be convicted of manslaughter if as a road user, they cause the death of another which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

How might the law be reformed?

It has been proposed that existing dangerous driving laws should also apply to cyclists, rather than just “mechanically propelled vehicles”. If the terminology “mechanically propelled vehicles” is removed from the Road Traffic Act, the offence of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless driving would also apply to cyclists. This is considered a positive move because cyclists share the road with motor vehicles, and it has been seen that cyclists can cause just as significant harm as motorists.

Removing the requirements of having a “mechanically propelled vehicle” for the offence to apply will also prevent the law from becoming out-dated due to advances in bike technically. For example, removing the ‘mechanically propelled vehicle” requirement will include e-bikes into the offence and any other future environmental developments that may arise.

Alternatively, a new law could be introduced specifically for cyclists, such as death by dangerous cycling.

It is unclear as to when (and if) any reforms will be introduced, and against the backdrop of Government proposals to double the number of cyclists on the road by 2025, this may prove difficult. However, the recently commissioned report has so far recommended that changes do need to be made. Watch this space!

If you would like any advice or assistance arising out of a fatal accident or negligence claim on the roads, please contact our personal injury specialist Louise Plant on 01473 232121 or e-mail lplant@prettys.co.uk

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