?Death Crash cyclist?. Another headline giving cycling a bad name. And completely justified, this time. This was on the BBC website this week, reporting how a 17-year-old teenage girl died after being struck by cyclist Jason Howard.
Howard, 36, was convicted of dangerous cycling and fined £2,200 at Aylesbury Magistrates Court. Understandably, the family of the dead girl, Rhiannon Bennett, are still traumatised by their loss in April 2007. Now, one year later, they are also angry with what her father Mick Bennett described as a ?laughable? fine.
The family thought Howard would be on a charge of manslaughter, or even murder and that he would serve a custodial sentence.
And so another bereaved family joins the growing ranks of people disenchanted with how the law deals with people who show such blatant disregard for others, be they drivers whose vehicles kill over 3,000 people a year, or a death caused by a cyclist. It is no concern of the Bennett family that cyclists rarely kill pedestrians.
If the current and lamentable behaviour by a significant number of people now riding bikes continues, there will surely be others. The court heard how Howard had ridden straight into the teenage girl, causing her to fall and hit her head. She sustained fatal head injuries from which she died six days later.
Howard had shouted at Rhiannon to ?move because I?m not stopping?.
Sgt Dominic Mahon, of Thames Valley Police, told the BBC, Howard could have been travelling at about 17mph when he struck Rhiannon, “imparting a great deal of force” on her.
Following Howard?s conviction, the press made a beeline for Kevin Mayne, director of the CTC, the national cyclists organization, for the CTC?s view on the tragedy. For the record, Howard is not a member of the CTC.
Mayne said CCTV footage wasn?t good enough to determine where the teenager was standing, in the road or on the footpath.
?But frankly,? said Mayne, ?the behaviour of the cyclist was such that they (the police) could go ahead with the prosecution.”
?He entered this little cul-de-sac at 20mph ? they can prove the speed on the camera ? barely slowed down, barely deviated and hit the girl.?
Virginia Blackburn devoted her Daily Express column to the tragedy, and asked: ?If cyclists, of all people, have become this anti-social, what hope is there for the rest of us?.? It?s a legitimate question, given the growing concerns about the many people who cycle dangerously. It?s no use pointing the finger at the tens of thousands of dangerous drivers who pose a much greater threat.
It seems, at times, as if the very fabric of society is in meltdown. It would be fairer to acknowledge that people generally are becoming more anti-social. When the aggression manifests itself at the controls of any vehicle, then there are consequences.
The fact that a cyclist was responsible for a death has made bigger impact than if it had been a driver ? because it is so rare.
Some of the papers said the collision occurred on the pavement, when this was not clear from the CCTV footage of the collision. For the record, there has been one death of a pedestrian caused by a pavement cyclist in the last decade.
Allan Ramsay, spokesman for RoadPeace, made this observation: ?Courts have treated this (case) very seriously. The maximum fine they could have given was £2,500, they gave £2,200. That?s about 88 per cent of the maximum. Drivers are more often than not treated far more leniently.?
On average, say the CTC, the national cyclists? organisation, 10 people a day die on the roads from collisions with motor vehicles – 3,400 a year. Yet only 250 of those cases result in prosecutions for dangerous driving.
So we must also ask why is it road traffic law fails to deal adequately with road traffic offences full stop. For there was another story last week, the more usual sort of story, of how a driver was fined £275 for killing a cyclist.
The driver pulled out at a junction and hit the cyclist. The driver was only convicted of careless driving, because the new law of causing death by careless driving is not yet on the statute book. So, another example of how killers get away with it.
Mayne tells the press that the CTC?s big campaign is death by dangerous driving. He pointed out how reluctant the Crown Prosecution service seems to be to prosecute.
?You are only talking 250 prosecutions a year for dangerous driving ? out of 3,000 deaths. Our line is if dangerous cycling was to get lumped together with dangerous driving and get the same penalties, that wouldn?t be an issue. The issue is, will it ever get prosecuted?.”
?Because we can stand by all the families of cyclists who have seen people get away with careless driving??
The CTC say: In Britain as a whole there are typically around 40 pedestrians killed on pavements or verges by motor vehicles – that’s getting on for one a week. By contrast there has been just one pedestrian killed by a cyclist on a pavement this decade. Yet it was the latter (an incident in Cornwall in 2006) which made headlines.