Monday, 25 September 2017

Getting "on yer bike" can be dangerous too


I write as an occasional cyclist who has been bounced off my bike by a careless pedestrian as I was coasting modestly downhill.  In this case nothing really serious resulted.  I hit the tarmac and suffered some nasty grazes (I was wearing shorts) but didn't break anything, and luckily there was no traffic immediately behind to run me over.  The pedestrian admitted she had stepped into the road without looking, apologised profusely, and presumably soon recovered from any bruises she'd received (she was well-upholstered.)

It is perhaps presumptuous to comment  on the case of Charlie Alliston without having actually witnessed the accident or heard the evidence at his trial, but I think a few  non-judgemental comments are in order.

In 2016 Alliston, riding in London, hit a pedestrian, Mrs Kim Briggs.who died as a result of the accident. I believe Mrs Briggs was talking on her  mobile phone at the time of the accident and had stepped into the road.   I've no idea whether Alliston was thrown off his bike or  injured in any way or not.

There is no doubt about the seriousness of the outcome but it does seem to me that the legal case on which Alliston was prosecuted is somewhat contrived.  Apparently the bicycle he was riding had no front brake and that is illegal.  I wonder how many people knew that?  I well remember the days when the only way to stop some bikes was to pedal backwards.  Then apparently there is no offence of "dangerous cycling" so someone unearthed the crime of "wanton and dangerous driving" which, as it is contained in an act of 1861 ,five years before even the Penny Farthing was invented, was presumably meant to apply to horses and carriages.

Alliston has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, (of which he will presumably served 9 months if he behaves himself)  This seems to me totally disproportionate.  Apart from the cost to the public (about £40 000 per head per year)  if he were barred from riding a bike Alliston would be no danger to the public, and if he were ordered to do some form of community service, that could do both him and the community some good.

Predictably the tabloids are crying out for new laws to punish reckless cyclists, and it is quite possible the government will oblige, (as the Major government did with their Dangerous Dogs Act, in 1991)  in order to distract us from the Brexit shambles, (or, in Major's case, from "the Bastards" of that ilk).

Cyclist organisations point out that the government has as yet done nothing on a promise made in 2014 to consider "a wider examination of road laws and their application" which would apply to all road users, including pedestrians.  They also point out that of the 400 or so pedestrians killed on Britain's roads each year fewer than half a per cent  are struck by cyclists.

Just to be even handed, on my few visits to London I have noted the appalling behaviour of many cyclists, and acknowledge that this is beginning to creep in here, out in the sticks.  I believe cyclists should obey the rules of the road, not jump traffic lights, show their own lights when it's dark, and have bells to warn of their approach (especially on bridle-ways, canal tow-paths and footpaths where I go walking.)

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