Dangerous cyclists face jail threat

Most cyclists pooter along at between 8-12 miles per hour. They are generally fitter than average, helping cut pollution and traffic jams. They're not seen as high-risk threats to other people's safety. Yet the government is considering a new jail-able offence - causing death by dangerous cycling.


Lycra louts?

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom has taken up the initiative after a constituent's daughter, Rhiannon Bennett, 17, was knocked to the ground by cyclist John Howard in April 2007. Howard had shouted out seconds before impact that he was not going to stop.

Bennett, who had been drinking lager, was hospitalised for several days, but never recovered. There was conflicting evidence of whether Bennett was actually hit on the road, or whether she was on the pavement.

John Howard was, as a consequence, found guilty of dangerous cycling and fined £2,200. Had Howard been at the wheel of a car and found guilty of dangerous driving, he would have probably faced several years in prison.

Faster, faster

So, one rule for cyclists and another for motorists? Don't forget bikes have got lighter and faster thanks to high-tech carbon fork technology. They are, if ridden fast enough, a high speed projectile with, often, a 13-stone-something lump perched on top.

We're not talking about an old maid pedaling her way through the mist on her way to Sunday communion.

Yet the stats for pedestrian deaths from dangerous cycling is tiny. Some years there are no pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists. Rhiannon Bennett's accident was absolutely tragic but it is not part of a growing trend - that of pedestrian-related injuries from dangerous cyclists.

The latest stats (2009) from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) shows, on the other hand, that 104 cyclists were killed in road accidents by car drivers and 2,606 seriously injured that year. That figure rises to 14,354 for slightly injured.

Evidence?

Motorists are overwhelmingly and disproportionately far, far more dangerous to cyclists. I can understand the motive of the parents of Rhiannon Bennett for a change in the law. Yet the stats do not show that pedestrian-related injuries from cyclists are on the rise.

We asked, in contrast, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to tell us how many motorists went to prison for causing the death of a cyclist. We'll publish this when they get back to us.

Meanwhile we have enough trouble in this country sending bankers to prison, despite Cameron claiming pre-election that they should be rooted out, prosecuted and send to jail. Should we be really spending time and money on targeting the odd, rogue cyclist when we're struggling to afford nurses and teachers?

Not so long ago a lorry driver, Kashmir Nahal, knocked down and killed Hampshire father-of four Glenn Syder, 49, an engineer, as he rode to work. His sentence? Er, a £275 fine and six penalty points on his licence.

Let's get our priorities in order, shall we?
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