Plans to introduce new 'death by dangerous cycling' law 'frustrating in isolation'

Transport secretary Grant Shapps says law will tackle "selfish minority" of cyclists

Cycling
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Government plans to prosecute cyclists who kill pedestrians in the same way as motorists have been criticised as "frustrating in isolation" by a cycling charity.

On Saturday, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, revealed plans in The Daily Mail (opens in new tab) for a new law to prosecute dangerous cyclists in order to "impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care".

Matt Mallinder, the director of Cycling UK said that while the charity is not opposed to a new law for dangerous cycling, it should be accompanied by a review of "ineffective" driving offences.

Shapps wrote that a “selfish minority” of cyclists believe they are “immune” to red lights.

“For example, traffic lights are there to regulate all traffic," he said. "But a selfish minority of cyclists appear to believe that they are somehow immune to red lights.

“We need to crack down on this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this straightforward measure.”

Under the 1991 Road Traffic Act, a maximum fine of £1,000 can be issued for careless cycling and £2,500 for dangerous cycling. If bodily harm is caused, cyclists can be prosecuted for "wanton and furious driving" under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, for which the maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment.

“It’s frustrating to see a new offence for death by dangerous cycling added to the statute book in isolation when it is merely mirroring ineffective driving offences," Mallinder said in a statement. "Cycling UK is not opposed to an update of the law regarding cycling offences, but if government is to proceed with this new law, then it must make finally make good on its commitment of 2014 to review all road traffic offences and sentencing - including the new cycling offence. 

“To do less is to ignore the heartache and anguish families of all those thousands – pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists – who see love ones killed on our roads, and then witness the injustice of a failed legal system which allows dangerous drivers continued access to our roads.”

According to a 2020 report  (opens in new tab)by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety, which used Department for Transport numbers, “pedal cyclists and small motorcycles were involved in very few collisions where pedestrians were killed”. In 2019, five pedestrian deaths involved a bicycle. Meanwhile, 48 cyclists and 305 pedestrians were killed by cars.

Shapps wrote: "As we move into an era of sustained mass cycling, a thoroughly good thing, we must bring home to cyclists – too often themselves the victims of careless or reckless motoring – that the obligation to put safety first applies equally to every road user.

"There can be no exceptions."

The Transport Secretary said that he proposed to add the proposal to the transport bill which come before parliament this autumn. It is unclear whether this would change based on the winner of the Conservative Party's leadership election.

In 2014, Cycling UK were part of a group of road safety organisations that got the Government to agree to conduct a full review of road traffic offences and sentencing, after they argued successfully that current definitions for careless and dangerous driving were not working. However, that review has still not happened.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Any death on our roads is a tragedy, and though we have some of the safest roads in the world, the government is committed to making them even safer.

“We are exploring changes to allow dangerous cyclists to be prosecuted more easily and delivering more continuous and direct cycling routes in towns and cities which are physically separated from pedestrians and motor traffic.”

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