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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test