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Highway Code changes: ‘Death by dangerous cycling’ could become offence in law shake-up

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Current rules around cycling mean those that cause serious or fatal accidents on bikes can get a maximum of two years in prison – but Grant Shapps wants to tighten the rules for reckless cyclists by introducing harsher penalties. Wide-ranging changes to the Highway Code will be implemented from January 29, in a bid to make roads safer for pedestrians and give priority to smaller road users.

Speaking about the changes to the Highway Code coming this month, Mr Shapps told LBC on Tuesday: “The purpose of the changes is if you drive a lorry, you should give way to a van, which will give way to a car, which will give way to a cyclist, which will give way to a pedestrian.

“These are just common-sense changes to protect everybody.”

Changes to the code include new priority laws for cyclists and pedestrians at junctions.

But Mr Shapps also revealed he wants to bring in harsher laws for those who cause mayhem on bikes – which are not currently enshrined in law or part of the upcoming Highway Code changes.

READ MORE: New driving laws will make roads ‘safer for the most vulnerable’

He continued: “And there is another change I’m bringing in which you may not be aware of, which is to make sure that we’re able to prosecute cyclists who, for example, cause death by their own dangerous cycling.

“So this is quite a balanced package, and I think it’s worth noting that the injuries and deaths that take place because of cyclists are also unacceptable.”

Deaths caused by cyclists on British roads are rare – only four of the 346 pedestrians killed on Britain’s roads in 2020 were caused by a person riding a bike.

Under current legislation, if a cyclist kills a pedestrian through riding dangerously, the Crown Prosecution Service can charge them with manslaughter and/or causing bodily harm through wanton and furious driving, a crime under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

In 2018, there was a three-month review of existing legislation into dangerous cycling – but progress on changing the law has been minimal.

Responding to Mr Shapps’ announcement, Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Changes to the Highway Code are beneficial to all road users, and it is unhelpful of the Transport Secretary to try and explain or justify them on a quid pro quo basis by linking them to the potential introduction of new cycling offences. The two issues are entirely separate.

“As the Transport Secretary’s own minister Andrew Stephenson confirmed in December, the DfT is already working on the terms and remit of a call for evidence into road traffic offences.

“While that is long overdue, with a full review first promised over seven years ago after prolonged campaigning from Cycling UK, there’s little more than we can say on this issue, other than that we’ve never opposed cycling offences being be part of that review.

“Introducing new cycling offences in isolation however would simply be a sticking plaster on a broken system, because our current careless and dangerous driving offences aren’t fit for purpose – replicating them for cycling makes no sense at all.”

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