Cyclists 'left unprotected by police and courts'

Drivers who claim they couldn't see bikes are too often believed, say campaigners

Greater protection for cyclists on Britain's roads is being demanded after a former British heavyweight boxing champion was killed on his bicycle last week. Gary Mason, 48, died after a collision with a van while cycling in Wallington, south London. He is the second cyclist to die in the UK this year.

One leading barrister has criticised police, judges and prosecutors for failing to give greater legal safeguards to cyclists. Martin Porter QC said prosecutors need to be "more imaginative" when it comes to charging drivers involved in fatal and near-fatal accidents.

Mr Porter said: "The excuses of not seeing cyclists seem to be too readily accepted by the police and the CPS so there isn't a prosecution when there should be. Judges should be handing down stiffer sentences and prosecutors should be more ambitious in the choice of charges and the decision to prosecute," he said yesterday.

"It's up to a judge and a jury to accept whether an excuse is good enough. It is not good enough to go into a space not knowing what is there. It's all part of the car culture that doesn't expect the motorist to foresee that the road might be occupied by a cyclist. That needs to change."

The most recent Department for Transport (DfT) statistics show that the number of those hurt, as a proportion of total miles cycled, went up by 1 per cent between 2008 and 2009. The total number of casualties rose 5 per cent in the same period. While deaths dropped from 115 to 105 in 2008-09, cyclists seriously injured rose from 2,450 to 2,606.

The UK's national cyclists' organisation, the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC), said that more protection was necessary if the increase in people using two wheels since 1994, when casualty records began, is to be continued.

Debra Rolfe, the campaign co-ordinator for CTC, said: "We don't think the law does enough to protect cyclists. There are a lot of areas where the law frequently does let down cyclists – whether at the level of the police failing to collect enough evidence to the CPS not prosecuting or the courts often convicting to a lesser offence.

"This needs to change because it's becoming clear that cycling is the answer to many of society's ills – whether that be climate change, obesity or improving busy roads. Cyclists need to be treated like they belong on the roads."

Mr Porter, himself a cyclist, was recently assaulted while on his bike by a motorist and threatened by another. He said he believed that some judges are frustrated by a lack of sentencing power when they are dealing with motorists.

"One judge was frustrated by the limit of two years as a maximum sentence for dangerous driving in the case where a motorist had deliberately driven into a cyclist," said Mr Porter. "Prosecutors could have been more imaginative in the charges they have brought because they could have prosecuted for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, in which case the judge would have had the ability to sentence for up to five years rather than up to two years for dangerous driving."

Eilidh Cairns was crushed by a lorry in Notting Hill, west London, while cycling to work in February last year. The driver subsequently pleaded guilty to having defective eyesight. He was fined just £200 and given three points on his licence.

Emma Chesterman, a friend of Ms Cairns, said: "He admitted his eyesight was not good enough and gets £200 and three points on his licence. It does not seem fair. We are bewildered by the whole system that treats cyclists' deaths in this way. It seems to be the attitude that you are putting yourself in the way of danger and therefore it is your own fault if it happens to you, which is not the same as if it were a pedestrian killed."

The Department for Transport denied that cyclists are insufficiently protected. "We take road safety extremely seriously and are working to improve safety for cyclists in a number of ways. The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on the roads each year has fallen by 31 per cent since the mid-1990s. We are investing in the provision of cycle training and planning to encourage local authorities to introduce more 20 mph zones in residential areas and around schools."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures (an SThree br...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Youth Support Workers Glouceste...

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London