Cyclists who kill pedestrians could face charges of “death by dangerous cycling” or “death by careless cycling”, under government proposals.
The Department for Transport has launched a 12-week consultation looking at whether new offences should be introduced for dangerous cyclists.
Matt Briggs, whose wife was killed by a cyclist, welcomed the proposed changes to current “arcane laws”.
But campaigners accused the government of “tinkering”.
Causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. Death by careless driving has a maximum sentence of five years.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges.
“If the government is serious about addressing behaviour that puts others at risk on our roads, they should grasp the opportunity to do the job properly, rather than attempt to patch up an area of legislation that’s simply not working.”
But Mr Briggs said there was a “gap in the law” after cyclist Charlie Alliston was jailed for 18 months for the death of his wife, Kim Briggs, last year.
Alliston was riding a fixed gear bike with no front brakes when he hit the 44-year-old mother-of-two as she crossed a road in east London in February 2016.
The cyclist was cleared of manslaughter, but found guilty of causing bodily harm by “wanton or furious driving” – a Victorian-era law intended for drivers of horse-drawn carriages which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
Under the current law, this offence is the closest thing to dangerous driving a cyclist can be charged with.
“This public consultation is an important step towards updating the arcane laws that are currently being used to prosecute cycling offences,” said Mr Briggs.
‘Not fit for purpose’
The number of cases involving collisions between cyclists and pedestrians remains relatively low.
Department for Transport figures for 2016 show that 448 pedestrians were killed on Britain’s roads, but only three cases involved bicycles.
By contrast, Cycling UK said that 99.4% of deaths on the road in the last ten years involved a motor vehicle.
The charity claims both cyclists and pedestrians are regularly being failed by existing road safety legislation.
“The way the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users hasn’t been fit for purpose for years,” said Mr Dollimore.
Cycling and Walking Minister Jesse Norman said the government had already announced a range of measures to protect “vulnerable road users” including:
- Training for driving instructors to raise awareness of cyclists’ safety
- Better investigation of crashes
- £100 million investment to improve dangerous roads
In addition, the Department for Transport has announced further measures, including a review of the Highway Code to make it clearer to motorists how to safely pass cyclists.
Mr Norman said: “All these measures are designed to support the continued growth of cycling and walking, with all the benefits they bring to our communities, economy, environment and society.”