Killer cyclists face tougher jail sentences under a crackdown proposed by the Transport Secretary.
Grant Shapps wants to close an ‘archaic’ legal hole which means riders who kill pedestrians can be jailed for a maximum of only two years.
Mr Shapps wants reckless cyclists to be treated the same as reckless motorists, and hit out at ‘a selfish minority’ of aggressive riders. He said an overhaul was needed to ‘impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care’.
Under his proposal, a new law of causing death by dangerous cycling would be included in the forthcoming Transport Bill, due before Parliament in the autumn.
Grieving relatives of victims of killer cyclists have ‘waited too long for this straightforward measure’, he told The Mail+.
In February 2016, Kim Briggs was killed by reckless cyclist Charlie Alliston (pictured) after sufferring 'catastrophic injuries' when he hit her as she crossed OId Street in East London
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he wants to close an ‘archaic’ legal loophole which means reckless cyclists who kill pedestrians can only be jailed for a maximum of two years
Campaigners have been calling for cyclists to be treated the same as drivers since mother-of-two Kim Briggs, 44, was killed as she crossed a road in east London in February 2016. She was hit by Charlie Alliston, then 18, who was illegally riding a fixed-wheel bike with no front brakes at 18mph.
He was jailed for just 18 months because no law existed to charge him with the equivalent of causing death by dangerous driving.
Prosecutors had to rely on the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, designed to cover offences with horse-drawn carriages, to secure a conviction of causing bodily harm by ‘wanton or furious driving’. By contrast, motorists can be sentenced to life in prison for causing death by dangerous driving.
Mr Shapps said the current ‘archaic law’ means prosecutions of killer cyclists must rely on ‘a legal relic of the horse-drawn era or invoke manslaughter, a draconian option’.
He added: ‘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.
‘For example, traffic lights are there to regulate all traffic. But a selfish minority of cyclists appear to believe that they are somehow immune to red lights.
‘We need to crack down on this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this straightforward measure.’
Mr Shapps hits out at ‘a selfish minority’ of aggressive riders and says the overhaul is needed to ‘impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care’
He added: ‘As we move into an era of sustained mass cycling, a thoroughly good thing, we must bring home to cyclists – too often themselves the victims of careless or reckless motoring – that the obligation to put safety first applies equally to every road user.
‘There can be no exceptions.’
Mr Shapps may no longer be Transport Secretary when the new prime minister, announced on September 5, reshuffles the Cabinet.
But it is understood he will urge any successor to press ahead with the proposal. The change would also be dependent on the new PM backing it.
Mrs Briggs’s husband Matthew, who has been campaigning for the change, said the overhaul would reduce the suffering endured by families of victims. He added: ‘Nothing’s ever going to take that grief away and the enormous pain a tragedy like a road collision brings.
‘But at the moment, when they are trying to prosecute, the law is so archaic and that just compounds your grief because you want simplicity, clarity and efficiency to the process. It’s not just about the punishment – surely there should be an equivalence in the sentence available to judges whether it’s a car, lorry or cyclist that’s killed someone. The mode of transport shouldn’t matter.’
In 2019, 470 pedestrians were killed on the country’s roads. This dropped to 346 in 2020 during the pandemic. Only a handful of cases in recent years have involved bicycles, but Mr Shapps said even ‘one life [lost] is too many’.
Prominent road laws solicitor Nick Freeman, also known as Mr Loophole, said manslaughter legislation was not geared towards prosecuting road deaths caused by cyclists and juries were unlikely to find people guilty of this, strengthening the need for fresh laws.
He said: ‘I’ve been petitioning the Government to do this for a long time. There should be parity between all road users – motorists, cyclists, e-scooter users.
‘How perverse is it that at the moment there is no speed limit for cyclists? You can have a 20mph limit but many fit cyclists can go faster than that – but there is nothing to stop or deter them.
‘There’s also no drink-drive limit for cyclists. The law in relation to motorists is moving swiftly, but the law in relation to cyclists remains in the Dark Ages.’
In January, Mr Shapps’s department announced controversial changes to the Highway Code which gave cyclists priority over drivers.
It means drivers must give way to cyclists at junctions. Cyclists are also encouraged to ride in the middle of the road on certain roads to be more visible.
Groups of cyclists should pedal two abreast under the changes, with overtaking motorists having to leave at least 5ft (1.5m) between the car and the closest bike.
The teenage cyclist who killed a mother of two
Mother-of-two Kim Briggs was killed by 18-year-old cyclist Charlie Alliston in east London in 2016.
Alliston, who hit Mrs Briggs, 44, as she crossed a road, was jailed for only 18 months because a legal equivalent of death by dangerous driving for cyclists did not exist.
Her campaigning husband Matthew said he had received backing from politicians for a law change, but added: ‘I think Covid and Brexit has got in the way of anything happening and I’m so glad Grant Shapps has gripped this.
Kim Briggs was killed when she was hit by a bike in 2016
‘This is a gap in the law that needs to be closed. The more people cycle, these things will happen, and in a modern, civilised society there should be laws to cope with everything.’
Charlie Alliston hit Kim Briggs while cycling in East London - he was jailed for 18 months
In a second case, Peter McCombie, 72, died of head injuries after being hit by cyclist Ermir Loka, 23, as he walked home from work in east London in July 2020.
CCTV footage showed Mr McCombie stop on a central island in the road, waiting for a green pedestrian light. Another cyclist narrowly avoided him before Loka ran a red light and hit him.
After the crash, Loka, an Albanian who had entered the country illegally, rode off. He was found not guilty of manslaughter and jailed for two years for causing bodily harm by ‘wanton or furious driving’.
A third incident involved retired teacher Jane Stone, who was left for dead after being hit by cyclist Stewart McGinn, 29.
The 79-year-old was hit by McGinn as she waited to cross a road near her home in Monmouth, South Wales.
Instead of stopping, he got back on his bike and sped off. Mrs Stone died of serious head injuries in hospital after the crash on June 7. McGinn was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to ‘wanton or furious driving’.