13:47, September 06 313 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-06 13:47:02
Government to look at extending dangerous driving offence to cyclists

The government is to examine whether the offence of dangerous driving should be extended to cyclists after a case in which a woman died after being struck by a rider whose bike had no front brake.

Speaking at prime minister’s questions, Theresa May said the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, would look at whether there was a need for a law change after the death of Kim Briggs.

Briggs, 44, was left with fatal head injuries when she stepped into a road in central London in February 2016 and was hit by Charlie Alliston, then 18, who was riding a bike where the only braking was provided by the fixed rear wheel, illegal on the type of bicycle he was riding.

Last month Alliston was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted by a majority verdict of wanton and furious driving, an offence falling under an act from 1861.

After the verdict, Briggs’s widower, Matt, questioned whether the law should be updated to allow such incidents to fall under the offence of dangerous driving. He is to meet the roads minister, Jesse Norman, to discuss the issue soon.

But some cycling organisations have argued that with incidents such as that involving Briggs being so rare – of the 400 or so pedestrians killed on the roads each year in the UK, about one or two are struck by bicycles – a better way to improve safety would be a more general revamp of road laws.

May was asked by the Labour MP Heidi Alexander, in whose Lewisham East constituency Briggs lived, about the possible need to update laws on dangerous cycling. She replied: “She’s raised an important issue. I think we should welcome the fact that the prosecution were able to find legislation under which they were able to take a prosecution.

“But the point she makes is a general one about ensuring that our legislation keeps up to date with developments that take place. I’m sure this is an issue that the secretary of state for transport will look at.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said this would mean a review of the laws taking place soon.

She said: “Protecting pedestrians and all road users is a top priority. We already have some of the safest roads in the world but are always looking at ways to make them safer. There already are strict laws that apply for cyclists and police have the power to prosecute if these are broken.

“But, as the PM said, the transport secretary is looking at the implications of the case, including whether dangerous driving should apply to cyclists who pose a danger to other road users.

“This will take into account the specific issue of types of bikes that lack the necessary safety equipment such as front brakes.”

After May’s comments, the former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, who campaigns for safer cycling and has taken on a role helping Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, tweeted that there was a greater safety benefit in tackling unsafe driving.

Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman)

Now, do you take that as to protect people on bikes (2%) from people in vehicles (97%) or to prosecute them? Which will improve safety more https://t.co/ED66vd12nr

September 6, 2017

Duncan Dollimore from Cycling UK, the country’s main cycle campaign group, said there was a need for broader change.

“Cycling UK believes it doesn’t make sense to mirror new cycling offences with those we have for driving,” he said. “The reality is that the way in which the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users has long been inadequate.

“If new offences regarding the behaviour of cyclists are to be considered, that needs to be part of a wide review of all road traffic offences, as promised by the Ministry of Justice three years ago.”