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New laws on dangerous cycling? What you need to know

A number of high-profile road accidents in recent months involving cyclists have led to calls for changes to the law on dangerous cycling.

Following the sentencing of a young cyclist, Charlie Alliston, in September 2017, the Government called for an urgent review into how the law deals with those who cycle in a reckless or dangerous way. Mr Alliston was found guilty of causing the death of a pedestrian, Kim Briggs, while riding a bike without a front brake.

With new policies due to be announced shortly, here is what you need to know about the law as it stands, and what changes may be coming.

What does the law currently say about dangerous cycling?

As it stands, cyclists who are convicted of careless cycling can be fined £1,000, or £2,500 if the charge is one of dangerous cycling.

There are currently no offences that apply specifically to those who cause injury or death as a result of cycling in a dangerous way.  However, if a rider causes another person to suffer bodily harm they may be prosecuted under the Offences Against the Person Act. This law, which dates from 1861 and was originally intended to apply to horse-drawn carriages, covers “wanton and furious” driving. Those convicted under this Act, as Mr Alliston was, can receive a maximum punishment of two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Why does the current law create problems?

The main problem is that society has changed, and the law has not developed to reflect this.

Cycling is a much more popular form of transport today than it previously was, and incidents in which pedestrians are injured or killed as a result of dangerous cycling are more common as a consequence. The laws, which are designed to prevent or punish this behaviour, are seen to be insufficient as judges are only able to hand down short sentences, which do not reflect the potentially serious consequences.

What changes are likely to be made to the law?

Many expect the Government to announce a new criminal offence of causing death by dangerous cycling, equivalent to the existing crime of causing death by dangerous driving. MPs are likely to have a vote on creating similar sentencing powers for those convicted of committing a similar offence when cycling.

This article was written by Stephen Smith MBE, Wilford Smith 

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Wilford Smith directly.

Published on 16th March 2018
(Last updated 7th May 2021)