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Could Cyclists who kill pedestrians in the UK be prosecuted the same as motorists?

The Government has recently proposed a new law seeking to prosecute cyclists who kill pedestrians by “dangerous driving” in the same way as motorists. The new cycling law is expected to be added to the transport bill due to be put before parliament this Autumn.


The purpose of this new law proposal is to make cyclists aware of the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care. In other words, the law is aimed at tackling a “selfish minority” of cyclists who does not seem to have quite understood the major risks of cycling in a reckless manner or believe that they are “immune” to red lights.


This law proposal comes four years after the Government had run a consultation on proposals for new offences for causing serious injury or death while cycling.


At present, the 1991 Road Traffic Act provides for a maximum fine of just £1,000 for careless cycling or £2,500 for dangerous cycling. If such actions end up causing personal injury to an individual, cyclists can also be prosecuted for wanton and furious driving under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, for which the maximum penalty is up to two years’ imprisonment. The 1988 Road Traffic Act also recognises as an offence to ride a bicycle on a road or in public under the effects of alcohol or drugs, giving rise to a maximum fine of just £1,000.


Whilst it is quite rare for pedestrians to be killed or seriously injured as a result of a cyclist dangerous driving – according to a parliamentary report published in 2020, there were only five reported pedestrian deaths involving a bicycle in 2019 as opposed to the 48 cyclists and 305 pedestrians killed by cars in the same year- it is nevertheless expected that the addition of this new offence will simplify the legal system and bring a degree of comfort to relatives of those killed or left seriously injured by cyclists.


In that regard, the UK’s Government Department for Transport recently declared:


“Any death on our roads is a tragedy, and though we have some of the safest roads in the world, the government is committed to making them even safer. We are exploring changes to allow dangerous cyclists to be prosecuted more easily and delivering more continuous and direct cycling routes in towns and cities which are physically separated from pedestrians and motor traffic.”


Publication of the Transport Bill is still awaited. However, given that the new Prime Minister has publicly committed to improving transport links, it is likely that she will support the draft Bill, which is expected to be published this Autumn.


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