Focus on small number of cycling offences distracts from bigger issues in road safety, say campaigners

Cycling campaigners have criticised plans for new laws to tackle dangerous cycling, saying that the government is wrong to focus purely on cycling and should instead instigate a full review of traffic offences.

According to reports, the government is due to publish the findings of a review, launched in the wake of the Charlie Alliston case, later this week, with the review recommending new cycling laws including a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling.

The review will reportedly recommend that the offence of causing death by dangerous driving will carry the same penalties of causing death by dangerous driving, with the maximum sentence for this offence currently being 14 years in prison, but with ministers committed to raising this to life in prison.

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However the plans have been criticised by cycling campaigners and MPs, who say that the focus on a new offence which will be used just a few times each year (three pedestrians were killed in collisions with cyclists in 2016) made no sense given that thousands of people are killed in collisions with motor vehicles each year, and the relatively lenient sentences which often accompany such collisions.

“The way in which the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users hasn’t been fit for purpose for years,” said Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns.

“Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would just be tinkering around the edges, when what’s needed is a full review of all road traffic offences and penalties, something the government promised back in 2014 but have yet to deliver.”

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That view was echoed by Ian Austin MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, who said that the government’s focus needed to be on the hundreds of motorists who kill each year, rather than a handful of dangerous cyclists.

“Each death is a tragedy,” the Labour MP told the Guardian. “But what I and others have been calling for is a proper review of road safety and how the law is enforced when people are killed or injured because many more pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by people driving cars. They are a much greater danger to pedestrians and should be the focus of government resources.”

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The Department for Transport’s review into cycling safety was launched in the wake of the Charlie Alliston case, in which Alliston was involved in a fatal collision with pedestrian Kim Briggs while riding a fixed gear bike that was not fitted with a front brake as required by law.

Due to the lack of a specific law targetting cyclists involved in fatal collisions, Alliston was convicted of the offence of ‘wanton and furious driving’, which dates from 1861.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail, with Alliston sentenced to 18 months in prison in September.