The drama began early in August when lawmakers looked to pass legislation to increase the maximum punishment for cyclists that cause the death of pedestrians. The law has been aptly named "death by dangerous cycling" and has opened the flood gate to a slew of other concerns. The bill has been spearheaded by the Transportation Secretary, Grant Shapps, who is the same individual now proposing license plates and speed limits for cyclists.
Grant Shapps pictured here behind a podium, as he has never been seen on a bike.
The Transport Secretary has vowed to bring forward a law targeted at cyclists who kill pedestrians.
Shapps said the measure, to be included in the Transport Bill set to be brought forward under the next Prime Minister in the autumn, would create a specific offense for dangerous cyclists and close a loophole where cyclists who kill can currently only face a two-year jail sentence. He told the Daily Mail, “We need the cycling equivalent of death by dangerous driving to close a gap in the law and impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care.”
Matthew Briggs, whose wife was killed by a cyclist in 2016 and has spent years campaigning for the change, contributed, “For me, it’s never been about the degree of punishment… it’s been about the complication, the chaos, and the hurt and the confusion that comes along with the fact that there are no (specific) laws which apply to cyclists.”
Dr Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive of the London Cycling Campaign, added that while he has no issue with the change in principle, it is important to also focus on the much greater number of driving-related deaths. He said, “The greatest number of deaths and serious injuries to pedestrians and cyclists are caused by cars.”
Professor Chris Oliver, a cycling enthusiast and retired surgeon stated, “It’s very rare for a pedestrian to be killed by a cyclist. In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 seriously injured after being in a collision with a bicycle. These accidents created a huge amount of interest in the media. ... To put those deaths in context, every year in the last decade, about 100 cyclists are killed and more than 3,000 seriously injured on UK roads. By far, the majority is by car-driving motorists.”
Six years ago, Kim Briggs was killed when she was hit by a bike while crossing the road in east London. The person responsible, Charlie Alliston, was only 18 years old at the time and illegally riding a fixed-wheel bike without front brakes at 18mph. Despite this clear negligence on his part, Alliston could only be charged with causing bodily harm by 'wanton or furious driving,' under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 - which is normally reserved for offenses related to horse-drawn carriages. This meant that he could only be jailed for 18 months.
The Government launched a review in 2017 to investigate whether an equivalent offense to causing death by dangerous driving was needed for cyclists. Changes to the Highway Code earlier this year reinforced priority for pedestrians crossing a road in some situations.
Most recently, Shapps went even further by suggesting to the Daily Mail that an update to the legislation would require license plates and impose speed limits on cyclists, "Somewhere where cyclists are actually not breaking the law is when they speed, and that cannot be right, so I absolutely propose extending speed limit restrictions to cyclists ... Particularly where you've got 20mph limits on increasing numbers of roads, cyclists can easily exceed those, so I want to make speed limits apply to cyclists ... That obviously does then lead you into the question of, well, how are you going to recognize the cyclist? Do you need registration plates and insurance? And that sort of thing."