Proposed Law of Death by Dangerous Cycling to Offer Greater Protection to Pedestrians

3 minute read

Bicycle handlebars

As a solicitor who has acted for many innocent cyclists who have been injured in collisions with motor vehicles, I read with interest that proposals have been made to make cyclists more accountable for their actions on our roads.

Whilst it is not disputed that cars cause a far greater number of serious injuries to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, there has been increased unease in recent years that cyclists are in many ways unaccountable for their actions on English roads. So called “Lycra Louts” who jump red lights, speed through urban areas and fail to give sufficient heed to pedestrians crossing the road often avoid any form of prosecution or requirement to pay compensation, either because they cannot be identified or the applicable laws are weak and outdated.

The issue has become more high profile recently after a spate of ineffective penalties given to cyclists who have caused serious road traffic accidents. In 2016 a cyclist, who was riding a bicycle without brakes, killed a pedestrian crossing the road. He was jailed for just 18 months under an outdated law of “wanton or furious driving”. Earlier this year another cyclist was jailed for just over a year for killing an elderly pedestrian when dangerously cycling on the pavement. The maximum sentence at present for dangerous cycling under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is 2 years in prison and the maximum fine for dangerous cycling under the Road Traffic Act 1991 is only £2,500.

Number plates for cyclists?

In response, it has been suggested that cyclists should display number plates, be required to have public liability insurance and even be subject to 20 mph limits in built up areas. The suggested requirement for number plates may appear a little heavy handed, but many cyclists who jump read lights for example cannot be identified by traffic cameras and number plates would greatly assist. This could lead to a greater number of prosecutions leading to fines and possibly even driving licence penalty points.

The proposed requirement for insurance would certainly be of great benefit to pedestrians hit by cyclists and would assist me in my role of seeking compensation for them. At present, if a reckless cyclist who injures a pedestrian has no public liability insurance on say a household policy and has limited or no personal assets or income then the victim can go uncompensated.

Proposed New Law

Whilst number plates and compulsory cycling insurance may not become a reality any time soon, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has stated that a proposed new law will be put before MP’s in the Autumn of Death by Dangerous Cycling. Under this proposal, the maximum penalty for death by dangerous cycling would be brought in line with Death by Dangerous Driving, for which the driver can be given a life sentence. This would certainly focus the minds of the minority of cyclists who sadly do not take care on our roads and do not give priority to pedestrians.

A recent report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety found that of 470 pedestrian fatalities in 2019, 5 were caused by cyclists. Whilst this would appear at first glance to be a very small proportion, it is sufficient to bolster the views of some road user groups that reforms are needed to bring cycling in line with motor vehicle offences.

It has been suggested that a number of taxi firms, who are well used to sharing roads with cyclists in our towns and cities, have welcomed the proposals. Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licenced Taxi Drivers’ Association, is reported as stating that cyclists should obey the same rules of the road, should be accountable for their actions and that the proposals are long overdue.

Certainly, the recent changes to the Highway Code go some way to prioritise pedestrians over cyclists on British roads, and the Government is keen not to be seen to be penalising cycling which is undoubtedly a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transport.  However, it is hoped that the proposed severe penalties for dangerous cycling will lead to safer roads for pedestrians and ultimately fewer road deaths.

If you have been the victim of a road traffic accident, either as a cyclist or pedestrian through no fault of your own, we can help you seek compensation. Our team of personal injury solicitors is able to offer no win no fee type agreements and will strive to secure you the maximum compensation you deserve.

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