By the age of five on average, we can ride a bike, whilst learning there are many times that you fall off and sob uncontrollably to your mother that you’ve “broken your leg”, when in fact it was just a scrape. On average, every year at least 3 people are killed by cyclists. In this modern world of equality and rights for all, there is a major flaw in the laws of today, if a loved one or yourself were injured or killed by a cyclist, you could be at risk of receiving little to no justice. We are aware that a bike can cause the rider harm but, if a rider can be hurt then so can a passer-by. So why does it seem that we, as a society, are so dismissive that a bike can seriously injure a non-rider. Killed by a car? Manslaughter. Killed by a cyclist?…
Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, dangerous cycling incidents can only be heard in a Magistrates Court with a charge from £1000 to £2500. But there are no laws that cover incidents which caused a death or injury, so why are we following and not adapting laws that are far too old. These laws are finally being looked at and possibly changed by the government, but only following a tragic incident.
In February 2016, in East London, mother of two Kim Briggs was struck down and killed by a cyclist riding an illegal bike. Charlie Alliston, who was aged 18 at the time of the incident was riding a fixed gear bike built for track use, that had no front brake. He was cleared of the more serious offence of manslaughter but charged in September of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving”, and was sentenced to 18 months in a youth offenders’ institution. It is concerning to think that even the law can’t protect us from harm.
Matthew Briggs, who is the widower of Kim Briggs, has since been campaigning to get these laws updated and changed. I interviewed Mr Briggs on what he thinks about the lack of laws he told me that he believes “the law should cover every eventuality, no matter how rare”. However, some still view it as not an important enough issue due to the rarity. Matthew Bond, vice-president of the cycling club at the University of Essex says this incident “has been used to whip up a lot of anti-cycling rhetoric”. In some sense, it has done this but there if there were no dangerous cyclists then incidents, like what happened to Kim Briggs and more wouldn’t have occurred and these laws wouldn’t need to be put into place. It’s easy enough to say that not all cyclist are dangerous drivers, but neither are all car owners’ bad drivers but there is still a law put into place for the drivers and everyone else’s safety. Especially now as there are bikes that have engines giving them the ability to go even faster than ever, which is a speed that can easily kill.
From 2007-2015, there have been 17 deaths caused by cyclists, although this is not a big number it means that 17 deaths received little to no justice for what happened to them. If some bikes now have the ability to get to such speeds, just as fast as the average speed of a car then surely, they should be covered under the laws that restrict drivers in order to make them safer on the road. If a cyclist on one of these bikes is riding at 30mph in a 20mph zone, then what is there to ensure that they and those around them are safe. Some believe that a good implication onto cyclists to ensure safety could be a number plate system for bikes that travel on the road.
Especially as riding bikes are now a select few jobs; Deliveroo is a takeaway app that employs predominantly cyclists to deliver food to homes from an array of high street restaurants. One of their riders (or roo’s as they call them!) Daniel Barnes who rides his bike every day and works most days, and he says from what I’ve seen it would be a great idea to have a number plate system. “I’ve witnessed many cyclists’ most days speed through roads squeezing past traffic and through red lights”. So, this way there would be the possibility that those cyclists who do behave in such manner either get repercussions to their dangerous driving or stop out of fear of getting caught.
There are a few remedies currently being considered by the government by editing the Road Traffic Act to cover more than just ‘mechanical vehicles’ or a more serious offence to be added into the law of ‘death by dangerous cycling’. If these laws aren’t introduced soon then who knows what could happen when bikes can become more advanced and faster, all we know for now is that something has to be done.
Special Thanks to Matthew Briggs for his input into this piece.