What Is The Government Review Into Cycling Laws?


The Law Of… Cycling Dangerously

One of the big cases of 2017 concerned a mother killed by a cyclist. The cyclist had been riding an illegally configured bicycle and was handed a prison sentence under an archaic law originally drawn up to deal with horses and carriages.

A government review was ordered in response to the case. Road Traffic Accident Associate, Damian Ryder, takes a look.

Bike Without A Front Brake

The criminal case that led to the review was brought following the death of Kim Briggs, hit by a cyclist as she crossed the road. Being an unmodified track bike that lacked a front brake, the guilty party's bike was not road legal.

Despite the fact Mrs Briggs was killed in the collision, the cyclist was cleared of a manslaughter conviction and instead imprisoned for causing bodily harm by 'wanton and furious driving'.

What Is Wanton And Furious Driving?

Before bicycles were a popular form of transport and the motor car was yet to be invented, the chief method of getting from A to B, aside from walking, was the horse and carriage.

The charge of 'wanton and furious driving' was devised as a deterrent for those who drove their horse and carriage without due care or attention:

'An offence against the public police may be committed by any person wantonly and furiously driving or riding on the highway, so as to endanger persons passing […] subjecting the offender to an imprisonment, with or without hard labour, not exceeding two years.'

Why Was The Cyclist Charged With Wanton And Furious Driving?

The reason a law from the nineteenth century and bearing little relevance to modern day was used to convict the guilty cyclist due to the lack of a 'dangerous driving' equivalent with regards to cyclists. The charge of 'wanton and furious driving' was the closest available charge.

What Is The Purpose Of The Government Review Into Cycling Law?

The outcome of the criminal case led to an outcry over the maximum allowable sentence of 2 years in prison. Mrs Briggs' widower called for a change in the law and the introduction of a new charge of causing death by dangerous cycling. Following an intervention by his Labour Member of Parliament, the review was given the go ahead.

Incorporating independent legal advice, the review will examine ways in which the laws surrounding cycling on the UK's roads can be brought more into line with those governing drivers. It will also look at safety on the roads, with a highly disproportionate amount of cyclists and pedestrians injured or killed compared to drivers.

Mr Briggs, who welcomed the government's response said:

"What I want is for the police and CPS to have a coherent law to be able to reach for in the future … Just because what happened to Kim is rare, it doesn't mean there shouldn't be a remedy in law."

The review is expected to report its findings in 2018.

Damian Ryder comments:

"Some thought the charge of manslaughter in this case, along with the possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment, to be too excessive. Others thought that the charge of wanton and furious driving and its maximum sentence of 2 years were too lenient."

"These extremes highlight the present inadequacies in UK law when it comes to those cyclists who disregard the safety of pedestrians."

"A change is perhaps long overdue. Although it won't bring back Mrs Briggs or change the circumstances for anybody else who has been injured in a bicycle collision, it may offer some small comfort that people have been listened to and action is being taken."

If you are a pedestrian who has been injured by a cyclist on the road, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Simpson Millar's Road Traffic Accident department today.

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