As a solicitor specialising in personal injury law at a firm in Central London, it is sad to see the increase in number of accidents on our roads involving cyclists. That includes accidents where the cyclist is the injured party but, increasingly where the cyclist has injured a pedestrian.
I personally enjoy cycling and have competed in cycling events but you would not find me cycling in central London as I feel that it is too dangerous. Former cycling world champion, Chris Boardman, has said recently in an interview that he avoids cycling on Britain’s roads as he feels that they have become too dangerous.
Many will have heard about the tragic case involving Kim Briggs, who died after being hit by a bicycle with no front breaks being ridden by Charlie Alliston. Mr Alliston did not know that it was a legal requirement to have a front brake when riding on a road.
The bike Mr Alliston was riding was a fixed wheel track brake where ironically, when being used on a track is actually safer not to have brakes.
Road cycling in London
This is obviously not the case when cycling on any road but, particularly not in Central London where it is so busy and there is such high pedestrian activity. The volume of traffic is so high and traffic is stop starting every few meters. It is imperative to be able to stop as quickly and as safely as possible.
In my view, riding in London on a fixed wheel bike is an accident waiting to happen. It’s very sad that it takes a fatal accident for people to start questioning road and cycle safety.
Mr Allison has been convicted of “wanton or furious driving” under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, a law which is over 150 years old. With cycling becoming an ever increasingly popular sport and with an increase in the number of accidents involving cyclists, many will argue that the law needs to be updated.
Mr Allison was the first cyclist to be prosecuted for manslaughter. He has been cleared of this charge but it must be questioned as to why cycling laws are not brought in line with the Road Traffic Act meaning that cyclists could be prosecuted for causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling. Should the consequences be any different whether a person is injured because they were hit by a bicycle or by a car?
Cycle safety is not helped by Youtube videos showing cyclists weaving in and out of traffic, cycling in bus lanes and on pavements and carrying out stunts.
More has to be done to improve safety which in turn will reduce the number of injuries and deaths on our roads. Many people will jump on a bike not being fully aware of the rules set out in the Highway Code for cyclists. I regularly see cyclists go through red traffic lights, cycling without wearing a helmet, cycling on the pavement or carry a passenger on a bike that has not been properly adapted.
In my view, many people don’t appreciate that cyclists can cause serious injuries in the same way that car drivers can. Consequently, rules and regulations for cyclists are not as common knowledge and they are not adhered to in the same way that motoring laws are.
Cyclists need to be better educated and the law needs to be drastically updated.