The CTC has been getting involved with more battles – after opposing the Northern Ireland helmet compulsion bill, they’ve spoken against a back-bencher’s bill to increase the sentences for dangerous cycling, branding it a “distraction”.
Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, proposed the bill in Parliament yesterday. It follows the case of Rhiannon Bennett, 17, who was hit by mountain biker Jason Howard in Buckinghamshire in 2007. Rhiannon died of head injuries sustained six days later.
Mr Howard was convicted of “dangerous cycling” and fined £2,200. Under the charge there was no penalty of imprisonment.
Rhiannon’s parents, Mick and Diana Bennett, have been campaigning to have the law changed so that dangerous cycling equates with causing death by dangerous driving, the maximum punishment for that being a 14-year prison sentence.
In her Commons Bill proposal, Andrea Leadsom said “At the moment, the punishment for cyclists falls far short of the crime, and I believe we need to update the law so that all road users are equally protected and take equal responsibility for their actions.”
The CTC feels that Mrs Leadsom’s bill is unnecessary by pointing out that fatal collisions involving cyclists are rare compared with deaths involving motor vehicles. During 2009, no pedestrians were killed by cyclists but 426 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles.
Highlighting her proposal, Andrea Leadsom said “in the vast majority of cases, it is the cyclists themselves who are the victims on our roads when they are killed or injured by motorists who simply fail to spot them. The penalties for dangerous or careless driving for motorists are as they should be-very strict.”
However, the CTC want to highlight the inequities in the way the legal system deals with road user groups. “During the last decade, judges issued prison sentences to both of the cyclists who killed pedestrians. By contrast, the courts tend to hand down small fines or community sentences to drivers who kill.”
Roger Geffen, CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director said: “Our Stop SMIDSY website shows numerous cases of drivers receiving derisory sentences for killing or maiming cyclists, or being let off altogether. Only last week, lorry driver Tony Smith received a 100 hour community sentence and a one-year driving ban for killing Vera Chaplin, a 89 year old cyclist in Essex last summer. Last month, driver David Kilgallon received the same sentence for killing 85 year old Barbara Taylor, while she was cycling in Blackpool.
“We would certainly agree that road traffic law needs strengthening. But the overwhelming priority is to ensure that the authorities use the law to deal with the sources of danger on our roads, and that is overwhelmingly about tackling bad drivers.”