A new law is being discussed by the UK’s Transport Department where cyclists who kill pedestrians will be awarded tougher sentences, UK-based news agencies reported.
The law proposed by UK transport secretary Grant Shapps will close a loophole which allowed prison sentences for such actions only for two years.
It was a Victorian-era law which at that time applied to horse-carriage drivers and was applied in recent cases as well where cyclists killed pedestrians due to reckless riding.
Shapps said: “(The law will) impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care.”
In the UK, if a person causes death by dangerous driving it carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. People who cause death due to careless driving can be sentenced to a maximum of five years.
The UK government in 2017 started reviewing the laws after a woman, Kim Briggs, was killed after Charlie Alliston hit her while riding a fixed-gear bike without front brakes.
The government wanted to see if an equivalent offence to causing death by dangerous driving could be applied to cyclists as well following the accident.
Alliston was sentenced to 18 months to an institution for young offenders. Kim’s husband, Matthew Briggs, at that time urged the UK legal system and the Transport Department to review the laws.
In 2015, two pedestrians were killed and 96 seriously injured after they were hit by a bicycle.
Shapps, while explaining the law, criticised a ‘selfish minority of cyclists’ saying that they feel they are immune to red lights at traffic stops.
Shapps also in a column in the newspaper Daily Mail wrote: “We need to crack down on this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this straightforward measure.”
Due to climate change and carbon footprint reduction targets, cycling is being encouraged in the UK as well as in megacities across the world.
The ministers in the UK are seeking a ‘balance’. They want to encourage cycling but also want to ensure that pedestrians have the mechanism to raise their concerns and protect themselves from cyclists who ride their bikes with disregard towards road and pedestrian safety.
If the proposal is accepted, the new law will be added to the Transport Bill and presented before the UK parliament in the autumn.
The Transport Department said it was exploring avenues to prosecute ‘dangerous cyclists’ more easily. It said that it is also exploring direct and continuous routes in towns and cities which are physically separate from the routes pedestrians and automobile drivers take.
(with inputs from the BBC)