“I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE”
Thus rang out the words of Freddie Mercury and Queen in their well-known song. Indeed, the year 2018 witnessed a yet further resurgence of interest in cycling nationwide. You may even have acquired a bicycle yourself over Christmas, and now aspire to be the next Geraint Thomas or Chris Froome!
The latter part of the year gone by, however, has witnessed a public consultation taking place in relation to proposed changes in the law affecting cyclists. The Department for Transport has reported that in a recent five year period there were almost 2,500 accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists with no other vehicle involved - which resulted in 20 fatal pedestrian casualties and over 500 serious injuries. This is clearly not an insignificant problem.
A particular outcry arose in the case not so long ago of cyclist Charlie Alliston who collided with Kim Briggs on Old Street, London resulting in the sad death of Mrs Briggs. He was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Victorian offence of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving”, for which he received an 18 month prison sentence. The maximum sentence for that offence is 2 years.
It was realised at that time that for cyclists there is no equivalent to the offence of “causing death by dangerous driving” that vehicle users face. There is effectively a gap in the law.
Ahead of the public consultation about creating new offences in relation to cycling, one report concluded that there is indeed a persuasive case for legislative change to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes serious injury or death, in order to bring cycling offences in line with driving offences.
Another concern is that cyclists nowadays are “relatively silent” and are no longer required to have bells to warn of their approach (they were before 2011).
The Government has also proposed certain other changes in this whole area - for example to make cycling offences apply to any public area, not just roads. This might cover car parks and pedestrianised precincts.
There is plenty of food for thought, therefore, for cyclists at all levels. The consultation period is now closed, and it remains to be seen whether 2019 will be the year when the proposed reforms are implemented. A summary of responses to the consultation will be published in the near future.
Meanwhile, a very happy (and safe) New Year to all road users!
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FOR ADVICE ON ALL LEGAL MATTERS, CALL ALISON FIELDEN & CO, SOLICITORS ON 01285 653261