New Death by Dangerous Cycling Law Change - A Disproportionate Focus?


New Death by Dangerous Cycling Law Change: A Disproportionate Focus?

Cows and bees—don’t ask me in which order—kill more pedestrians each year than cyclists. It’s a stark but accurate statistic that illustrates how rare these tragic events are. Yet, these uncommon cycling offences have been punished excessively. 

Existing Laws and High-Profile Cases

Many of us remember the Kim Briggs/Charlie Alliston case, where the cyclist was imprisoned for two years. This case arguably demonstrates that the existing law was already sufficient to ensure that a "killer cyclist" received punishment. While it is true that basing a charge on a highway code designed for horse carriages is not ideal, it did serve its purpose. 

Disparities in Legal Treatment

A more significant and uncomfortable truth is that Alliston was, in my judgment, dealt with more harshly than motorists who kill pedestrians or cyclists through dangerous driving. This isn't to take anything away from the work Matthew Briggs put in after the tragedy. However, comparing dangerous cycling cases can be challenging, as there are countless examples of motorists avoiding jail after killing vulnerable road users. The disproportionate media attention given to cyclists when they cause the death of a pedestrian is, in my view, a significant reason why cyclists are dealt with more harshly than motorists in similar situations. Thus, the reputation of dangerous cyclists grows. 

Personal Advocacy and Systemic Issues

Last year, I wrote to the Attorney General asking them to review what I believed to be an incredibly lenient non-custodial sentence given to a driver who maimed a cyclist for life, fled the scene, and then refused to provide a breath test. The issue of criminal justice disparities is something I frequently contemplate as I work to help my clients. Especially since motorists are a far more dangerous road user than cyclists.

Resource Challenges in Law Enforcement

The last fifteen or so years have starved the Met Police of resources. In my experience, this has led to the police closing investigations prematurely—often before they have even asked the injured cyclist for their version of events, searched for CCTV, or adequately pursued witnesses.

In two cases, the cyclist stated that the motorist drove at them deliberately. The response from the police and CPS? Minimal investigation, no charges, and the result was a devastated client, maimed for life, further traumatized by police inaction, and a motorist who escaped completely.

Conclusion: A Call for Better Resource Allocation

The government would provide a far better service to society by adequately funding the police and CPS to investigate and prosecute motorists who drive around with lethal weapons, rather than focusing on the vanishingly rare instances of death by dangerous cycling. Alas, the cyclist is expected to stick to their bike lane, while we await the damning verdict from the rare new offence. 

In my opinion, road laws also need to be looked at. I deal with several law abiding cyclists who suffer personal injury from the ire of furious driving and reckless behaviour behind the wheel. The offence is not punished as it should be. Bicyclists have just as much right to use the roads. We need to allocate resources more effectively to improve road safety for all road users out there. 

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