A bill proposed by British backbench Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, which would create a new offence of ‘death by dangerous cycling’ and introduce harsher penalties for errant cyclists, is being seriously considered and could receive government backing.
The motion was put forward last month during a Ten-Minute Rule, with the Tory arguing that all road users should take equal responsibility for their actions. It was immediately condemned by UK cyclists’ organisation CTC, who called it a distraction from the more serious issue of cyclists being killed by motorists. They argued that because fatal collisions involving bikes and pedestrians were rare, there was no need for such a law.
Bills introduced in this way rarely make it into law, but Leadsom’s proposals appear to have support within the Con-Lib Dem coalition. Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “I’m clear that everyone who uses the road – including cyclists – has a responsibility to behave safely and with consideration for others. My department will consider the merits of the proposed Dangerous and Reckless Cycling Bill in consultation with the Ministry of Justice.”
Chris Peck, CTC’s policy co-ordinator, told BikeRadar that reckless cycling and driving can’t be compared because of the disproportionate level of harm they cause. “We welcome the discussion, but the whole principle of road traffic law needs to be looked at and not just with a focus on cycling because it does seem to be easy to attack,” he said. “Currently, only around 25 percent of road deaths are prosecuted using causing death by careless or dangerous, or causing death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We’ve recorded dozens of cases where the deaths of vulnerable users, including many cyclists, are simply never prosecuted.”
Jorren Knibbe, barrister and blogger on the UK Cycle Rules website, takes a similar view to the CTC. “The current approach to sentences reflects the vastly different levels of risk which cycling and driving pose to others,” he said. “The number of pedestrian casualties brought about by cyclists each year is tiny, whereas the risk posed by cars is (statistically) much greater. In other words, a bicycle being ridden dangerously isn’t very likely to hurt anyone other than the rider; a car being driven dangerously is, comparatively, a death machine. So, much greater deterrents are needed for motorists – it’s much more important for everyone’s safety that motorists are made to think twice before driving dangerously or carelessly.”