A step in the right direction but more needs to be done

A cyclist was jailed for seven months yesterday at Dorchester Crown Court for the offence of “wanton furious riding causing bodily harm”, an obscure piece of legislation dating back to the 19th Century. They were also banned from driving for twelve months.

Rather than stop at a red light, the cyclist had mounted the pavement, hurtled round a blind corner “like a bat out of hell” and struck and elderly man who fell into the road and sustained head injuries from which he subsequently died.

The sentence is a step in the right direction but it is incredible that there is no legislation available to the judiciary for the specific offence of causing death by dangerous cycling. The CPS was forced to fall back on the obscure 19th Century Offences against the Person act of 1861.

Needless to say cyclist organisation CTC wasted no time in saying that this proved that the law did not need to be changed before bleating on about how many more cyclists are killed by motorists than pedestrians by cyclists. Unless the CTC spokesperson believes that two wrongs somehow make a right, I fail to see the relevance of their last remark. I also suspect that fatalities among cyclists would be significantly reduced if they realised that red lights do actually apply to them as well as motorists.

It is patently obvious that the law does need to be changed as the problem with cyclists on the pavement, certainly in London, is endemic. Walk down Holloway Road in North London and within a few minutes I guarantee you will see a cyclist on the pavement. A couple of weeks ago a cyclist travelling on the pavement at least 20mph missed me by about two inches, nearly hit a woman pushing a pram and then, without making the slightest attempt to check his speed, veered around several pedestrians before disappearing down a side street. This is hardly an unusual occurrence. Barely a month goes by without my being involved in a near-miss with one of these lunatics. I have lost track of the number of verbal altercations I have had with them – even mild remonstrations are invariably met with a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse.

Certainly in London cyclists seem to regard themselves as above the law. Unfortunately there is so much buy-in to the “two wheels good four wheels bad” nonsense that there is no will to make the streets safe from cyclists.

There is a clear need for tough legislation to deal with the problem with specific offences of dangerous cycling and causing death by dangerous cycling, with cycling on the pavement being classed as dangerous cycling. Dangerous cycling should carry an automatic minimum driving ban of twelve months and causing death by dangerous cycling an automatic jail sentence.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Sort out cyclists!

As a pedestrian, I’m going to say it out loud: it’s time cyclists were licensed like other road users and bicycles were taxed, insured and carried number-plates like other vehicles. I am what might be termed a super-pedestrian in that I walk some 90 minutes to work every morning. This has enabled me to avoid the horror of the tube (and the gym), but has brought its own problems. At least once a week I experience what would be known in aviation circles as a near-miss involving a cyclist travelling at Tour-de-France speeds along the pavement. In addition, when crossing a road I have to bear in mind that at pedestrian crossings, the green man does not confer right of way over cyclists; “No Entry” signs do not apply to cyclists; and of course red lights certainly do not apply to cyclists. That I have not to date been involved in a collision with one of these selfish idiots is a matter of pure luck, which can hardly continue forever.

I would introduce a category for bicycles on the current driving licence and require all cyclists aged 16 and over to take a test. I would combine motoring and cycling offences into a single category of road traffic offences, which would mean that miscreant cyclists could find themselves banned from driving as well as cycling. Cycling on the pavement would carry a minimum six-month ban from all classes of vehicle. Stiffer penalties would be imposed in cases involving pedestrian injury, including possible jail sentences.

Calls for registration of cyclists and bicycles invariably meet with howls of protest from cycling groups. Only a “tiny minority” of cyclists flout the rules is the usual line. It’s a nonsensical argument. Should we legalise armed robbery because only a “tiny minority” hold up banks? More to the point, there are a lot of cyclists in London, the number having almost doubled since 2000. According to TfL, around half-a-million journeys are now made by bicycle per day. It only takes a small percentage consistently flouting the rules to cause mayhem.

Other frankly lame arguments include “bureaucracy”, “cost”, “it’ll put people off cycling”, etc. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. Until cyclists are subject to the same regulations as other road users, pedestrians will continue to be at constant risk from lawless idiots and the public perception of cyclists – good and bad alike – is unlikely to improve.

(This 400-word piece was written for “The Columnist” in The London Paper. It has not as yet been published.)

© Christopher Seddon 2008