New ‘death by dangerous cycling’ law could punish killer riders

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, wants to replace ‘archaic’ laws that limit maximum sentence for dangerous behaviour on the road

Killer cyclists will be prosecuted in a similar way to motorists who cause death by dangerous driving under proposed new laws.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has proposed to replace the current “archaic” laws that limit the maximum sentence to two years, with a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling.

He said grieving relatives of victims of killer cyclists had “waited too long for this straightforward measure” to tackle a “selfish minority” of aggressive riders.

Mr Shapps said the overhaul was needed to “impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care”.

Campaigners have been calling for cyclists to be treated the same as drivers since mother-of-two Kim Briggs, 44, was killed by a rider 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.

Kim Briggs died after being hit a rider as she crossed a road in east London in February 2016

Prosecutors have 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”.

Killer cyclists can also be charged with manslaughter, but legal experts say it is not designed to prosecute riders and juries are unlikely to find people guilty.

By contrast, motorists face a maximum jail term of 14 years for causing death by dangerous driving if the offence was before June 28 this year. For offences after that, the maximum sentence is life, following a law change

The new offence causing death by dangerous cycling would be included in the Transport Bill, due before Parliament in the autumn. Although Mr Shapps may not be Transport Secretary under a new Tory leader after Sept 5, he said he would continue to press for the change.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Shapps said the current “archaic law” meant 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.

“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.”

Riders ignoring red lights at the Old Street junction with Charlotte Road, in east London, where mother-of-two Kim Briggs was killed following a collision with a cyclist Credit: Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

Mrs Briggs’ husband Matthew, who has been campaigning for the change since his wife’s death, said the overhaul would reduce the suffering endured by relatives of victims.

He said: “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.

“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.”

Matthew Briggs said: 'Surely there should be an equivalence in the sentence available to judges' Credit: Julian Simmonds for The Telegraph

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, with more than 99 per cent of pedestrian deaths involving a motor vehicle in the last decade.