Friday 17 May 2024

Freewheeling: Closing a legal loophole so cyclists are no longer above the law

From now on cyclists can face prosecution and up to 14 years in prison for causing death or serious injury by dangerous cycling. Causing death by careless cycling is also set to become a criminal offence. 

Hilda Griffiths died in collision with a cyclist in June 2022

These changes to the law will then bring cyclists into line with motorists and motorbikers who do the same. It comes at a time when Gerald Griffiths has had to commemorate the sorrowful two-year anniversary of the death of his mother.

81-year old Hilda died after suffering multiple major injuries when she was struck by a cyclist, Brian Fitzgerald in Regents Park early one morning in June 2022. 

The cyclist was travellng at 29mph at the time of the collision - 9 mph over the speed limit in the royal park

However, Fitzgerald could not be prosecuted under UK law because the speed limit does not apply to non-motorised vehicles. 

In another case in 2017 when a cyclist knocked down and killed a pedestrian the perpetrator, Charlie Alliston was prosecuted under a law from 1861. He was charged with "wanton furious driving" when he rode along Old Street, London, at 20 miles an hour on a track bike, an illegal vehicle as it had no front brake, and collided with Kim Briggs. The 44-year old mother of two later died from catastrophic head injuries she suffered in the collision. Alliston didn't help his case when at the scene of the crash he shouted at the HR manager who had been crossing the road while out on her lunch break, and he later wrote in social media about how it was her fault and this incident would teach her a lesson.

In the case of the accident in Regents Park the cyclist, who was doing training laps on a legal bicycle, there was no evidence of wanton furious riding. This loophole means that the cyclist was beyond prosecution.

I must say, that does not make me feel comfortable to think that in such situations, crudely put, a person can literally get away with murder.

I don't believe that a person riding a bicycle can be above the law, and so I think this law, proposed by the MP Iain Duncan Smith is reasonable and correct, given thatcthe loophole needs closing. It is true that there are infinitely fewer incidents of pedestrians being injured or killed by cyclists than there are pedestrians killed by motorists.

There are also much more cases of cyclists being killed by motorists than pedestrians being killed by cyclists too. But that doesn't mean that there should be nothing in the statute book to deal with those rare occasions when such a tragic incident occurs. The judiciary should not have to be reverting to laws that date back to the 19th century. 

This must have been even more devastating for the family of Hilda Griffiths when dealing with their loss, and then the Crown Prosecution says "Sorry but there's nothing we can do about it."

Certain cyclists give we other bike riders on the road a bad name doing things like running red lights, or riding on the pavements and they are beyond punishment. Folks resent the fact that cyclists can and do escape legal action given that there's no way to identify them or stop them when they jump the lights. There's no wonder that the general public get pretty irate with cyclists. 

So I must say I welcome this proposed new law which will bring cyclists in line with other vehicles on UK roads. Not only does it close that problematic loophole, but it can also make cyclists more wise to the fact that they could be prosecuted. That way they'll ride more responsibly - which will be a positive thing, particularly in the way that we will be perceived by the public, moving forward.

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