Legal Eagle: Should road traffic laws be amended to include cyclists?

Bikes in a city centre.
Bikes in a city centre.

Earlier this year Charlie Alliston was convicted of ‘causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving’. He was on trial at the Old Bailey for manslaughter in relation to the incident on February 12, 2016, which led to the death of Kim Briggs.

Charlie Alliston was said to have been riding his track bike (an Olympic style bike) which had no front brake at 15 to 18mph when he collided with Mrs Briggs.

She suffered a serious brain injury ultimately leading to her death.

The fact that the bike should have been fitted with a front brake to be legally ridden on a road is said to be the prosecution justification for charging manslaughter.

The jury were given a majority direction after many hours deliberating.Following this Charlie Alliston was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Wanton and Furious Driving offence. This offence is contrary to section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Whilst this may seem like archaic legislation, it is the same Act that is used to prosecute offences of GBH and ABH.

Section 35 is committed when injury is caused to a person as a result of the manner of driving.

The wording of the offence is actually: “by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever”.

The offence covers any vehicle or carriage and therefore includes horse drawn vehicles and bikes.

The Crown Prosecution say that this offence is only prosecuted in cases where the Road Traffic Act does not apply – such as this case where the defendant was riding a bike.

The maximum sentence is two years custody as opposed to life imprisonment for manslaughter.

There has been much discussion about changing the road traffic legislation to include cyclists. This would cover the current offences of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving and Causing Death by Careless Driving, as well as the same offences of Causing Serious Injury by Dangerous and Careless Driving.

Between 2010 and 2014, 19 pedestrians were killed by cyclists and 431 pedestrians were injured. The number of accidents with cyclists and pedestrians has increased by nearly 50% between 2009 and 2015, with the number of incidents in London increasing by 98%.

Many cyclists would not appreciate the danger they pose to pedestrians in the same way that they would if they were driving a car.

As people become more heavily reliant on alternative modes of transport maybe there will come a time for the legislation to be reconsidered.