Some thoughts on Charlie Alliston and death on the roads

I have been asked by several people what my views are on the tragic case of Charlie Alliston, the 20-year old cyclist who was this week sentenced to 18 months’ detention in a Young Offender Institution for causing the death of a pedestrian, Kim Briggs.

And to be honest, I’m not sure what I think. Or at least, I think a number of things, not all necessarily consistent and not all easily reducible to a pithy, logically argued conclusion. I recognise that this is far from ideal for a blog which pretends to self-righteous polemic and strident self-assurance as its hallmarks. But difficult criminal cases often fall between the cracks in our neatly-defined worldview, pinching our assumptions and stretching out our contemplations on our understanding of criminal justice.

And plainly this is a difficult case. A brief flick through the media coverage of this case, or, if you can bear, a hashtag search for “Alliston” on Twitter, offers but a snapshot of the ferociously contested issues arising out of his trial and sentence.

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There has been much said about the perceived “gap in the law” that meant that Alliston, as a cyclist, could not be prosecuted under the legislation covering causing death by careless or dangerous driving – such statutes requiring the use of a “mechanically-propelled vehicle”, which a bicycle is plainly not – and instead faced a rarely-used charge of doing bodily harm by “wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect”. This offence is set out in s.35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, a Victorian statute presented by the media as hilariously rare and antiquated, notwithstanding that every offence of violence causing injury (short of death) is still prosecuted under it. Section 35, which admittedly is seldom used, requires only that a person be in charge of a “carriage or vehicle”, broad enough to include cyclists. In practical terms, this meant that Alliston faced a much lower maximum sentence – two years’ imprisonment – than that available for a motorist convicted of causing death by dangerous driving (14 years) or careless driving (5 years).

A further apparent anomaly is that the offence of dangerous cycling (without causing death or injury) covers only the manner of the cycling, whereas the offence of dangerous driving covers both the manner of the driving and the roadworthiness of the vehicle. In other words, if you drive a vehicle that is dangerously defective, that is caught by dangerous driving. In Alliston, much focus of the prosecution case was on the fact that his bicycle had a fixed rear hub but no front-wheel brake; it was a bike designed for the racing track rather than the road. The absence of a front-wheel brake was unlawful, but would not, under the current law, have of itself amounted to “dangerous cycling”.

It is worth remembering that Alliston did however face an alternative, more serious charge of which he was acquitted by the jury – manslaughter, which carries up to life imprisonment. Without digressing into legal complexity, it can be said that manslaughter is a difficult offence to prove in relation to road traffic collisions; hence the standard practice of charging causing death by dangerous or careless driving in most cases involving a fatality arising out of bad driving, with manslaughter reserved by the Crown Prosecution Service largely for cases where a vehicle is used as a weapon. We are in some difficulty in analysing the jury verdict given the lack of clear and accurate legal reporting on this trial, and in particular how the jury were directed to approach manslaughter (which can be charged in different ways), but some help might be gleaned from the assessment of Martin Porter QC, a campaigning cyclist who did not attend the trial but has offered his own summary of the applicable law here. Mr Porter’s conclusion is that the jury’s verdicts – not guilty of manslaughter but guilty of the lesser offence of furious or wanton etc – suggest that “[Alliston’s] conduct was not so self-evidently dangerous as to amount to manslaughter but that he had been a person having charge of a vehicle whose wilful misconduct had caused death”. The average non-lawyer may find this margin so fine as to be barely discernible, but it is by such fine borders that much criminal law is delineated. [As a point of disclosure, it should be noted that Mr Porter (about whom I have written before) has campaigned for more vigorous prosecutions of motorists, for the removal of juries from motoring cases to facilitate a higher conviction rate, and has offered a sympathetic treatment of Charlie Alliston often absent from his proclamations over motorists involved in fatalities, and so his commentary, while helpful, may perhaps not be entirely disinterested.]

Putting this all together, is a new law required? Possibly. It is right to say that Alliston’s is a rare case, hence the media excitement, and the truism that hard cases make bad law is no less true for its triteness. We should be careful not to reflexively legislate in response to high profile cases. But sometimes gaps are exposed – as I argued recently in relation to upskirting – and the law requires adjusting to move with the times. I do not know the ubiquity or otherwise of the Youtube phenomenon of “alley-catting” – driving fixed-wheel bicycles through city streets, contravening red lights and weaving in and out of traffic and pedestrians – which was found by the judge to have inspired Alliston. But no bespoke offence exists to prosecute the death or serious injury caused by bad cycling, and the introduction of corresponding offences that exist for vehicles – causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving – may be appropriate to ensure that such offences are fairly labelled and prosecuted.

As for the question of whether Alliston’s sentence – 18 months’ detention (detention being the equivalent to imprisonment for defendants aged between 18 and 20) – was too long or too short (a question I dislike for reasons I’ll come to) I suppose it depends on your viewpoint. The sentencing remarks, in which HHJ Wendy Joseph QC considers the few Court of Appeal authorities dealing with similar offending, appear comprehensive and well-reasoned. As a matter of law, based on the available information there appears little “wrong” with the sentence.

The remarks are also worth reading in full as a rebuttal to misinformation that abounds online about exactly what the evidence showed that Alliston did. There is something unedifying about the way in which Alliston has been adopted as a cause celebre by certain cycling campaigners, who have presented his case as an example of prosecutorial persecution betraying a disparity in treatment between this and cases where cyclists fall victim to drivers of motor vehicles.

For the avoidance of doubt, as Alliston was told by the judge: “It was not merely the absence of a front brake but your whole manner of riding that caused this accident”. He was not a conscientious cyclist afflicted by a momentary lapse of concentration or judgment. This was, in the judge’s words, a course of cycling amounting to “callous disregard for the safety of others”.

Alliston, a cycling enthusiast who had watched a number of “alley cat” videos on Youtube, had since 2014 deliberately chosen to ride a bicycle without a front-wheel brake, which increased the stopping distance by four times. Alliston knew the dangers, as he admitted in evidence that he would fit a front-wheel brake when weather conditions made him conscious of his own safety. He chose to ride without “for the thrill”. In January 2016, he upgraded to a bike that didn’t even have the facility to fit a front-wheel brake. He had no bell to warn other road users. He was, in the judge’s words, “an accident waiting to happen”.

When he came across Mrs Briggs on 12 February 2016, she having stepped out into the road as he travelled at 18 mph, he had no means of stopping. He shouted at her twice to “get out of the fucking way” and slowed to 14mph, but kept going, of the view that she should move. Other traffic meant that she could not. He struck her, she hit the ground and she suffered catastrophic, fatal brain injury.  A husband lost his wife. Two children lost their mother. Had Alliston’s bike been legal, he would have been able to stop.

His response was to post messages on line falsely claiming that Mrs Briggs was using her mobile phone at the time. He continued to criticise her decision to cross the road in front of him.

Transposing similar circumstances onto an offence of causing death by dangerous driving – an imperfect exercise, granted – it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Alliston was fortunate that no equivalent offence and sentencing regime exist for cycling.

The (then) Sentencing Guidelines Council (now Sentencing Council) published Guidelines in 2008 for offences of causing death by driving. The very lowest category, into which this conduct arguably falls, provides a starting point sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment.

And this no doubt lends support to the argument for reform. It is arbitrary that if you are dangerously driving or riding a vehicle which has the capacity to and does cause death, your sentence depends on the precise vehicle being driven. To reach for a clumsy analogy, if you beat someone over the head with a weapon causing injury, your maximum sentence isn’t affected depending on whether you use a metal bar or a cricket bat.

But, finally, what this case evokes, and what it is perhaps easy to forget, is how blunt a tool the criminal law is in dealing with so many cases of deaths on the road. Alliston is, in this narrow respect at least, an easy case. His culpability was high. He was a deliberately bad road user. He may not have meant to kill, but his overall conduct is blameworthy and deserving of criminal sanction.

But many road users involved in accidents are not. Even those involved in serious, life-changing, life-ending collisions. Feeding back into the complaint of cyclists, this is the most common reason for a lack of criminal charges. Causing death alone is not enough to found a prosecution. There has to be culpability – for motorists, they have to be either careless – driving below the standard of a competent and careful driver – or dangerous – driving far below the standard of a competent and careful driver.

Almost always, causing death by dangerous driving will lead to prison. But devastation caused by careless driving – which often arises during momentary lapses in concentration or judgment behind the wheel – presents the hardest cases. The harm caused can be the greatest in the criminal spectrum. But culpability can be among the very lowest; barely criminal. A sharp intake of there but for grace of God breath.

In such cases, what do we do? For many of us, the default, culturally-ingrained response is to call for prison. But if we pause and ask what we are trying to achieve by so doing, we may get back an echo rather than an answer. Often in these awful cases, the standard ‘purposes’ of criminal sentencing won’t apply. The guilty driver may not need rehabilitation; or at least certainly not that which is available behind the prison gates. Deterrence, even if prison sentences were shown to achieve this, is difficult to impose on momentary lapses in concentration. There is little meaningful restitution that can be realistically made to the victim or their family. Public safety rarely demands the individual’s immediate incarceration.

Which leaves us only with retribution. And how on earth do you quantify it in such cases, where culpability is so low, and harm is so high, and we are often dancing on the margins?

Presently the law tries to accommodate this by compromising. And the essence of a good compromise, to channel Larry David, is that both parties are left unhappy. Short prison sentences or community orders – the usual sentence for causing death by careless driving – must sometimes feel to the bereaved almost worse than no sentence at all. But there is no way of even beginning to reflect the harm caused where life is lost without disproportionately punishing the culpability.

Nevertheless, in cases where minor culpability leads to devastating harm, it can feel as if this is all the system is trying to do; bluntly punish, in the hope that in some, intangible way it will satisfy our collective need for something to mark the pain.

As I said at the outset, I can’t offer any solution. I doubt many can. Perhaps that is the unsatisfactory pseudo-conclusion for which I grasp as I close; that any claim to draw easy fixes in the wake of difficult cases should be regarded with a measure of suspicion. There are rarely easy answers in criminal justice; no more so than in tragedies where we are desperate to find someone to blame.

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43 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Charlie Alliston and death on the roads

  1. 2 points, leading to quite different conclusions:
    a) ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ – is a bicyle not mechanically propelled? A cyclist puts their own energy into propelling it, rather than combusting purchased fuel, but it still requires a mechanism (chainset, cogs) for the personal energy to be transformed into propulsion and forward motion. Don’t confuse the lack of fuel with the lack of a mechanism.
    b) I understood from the case that the cyclist’s defence was not related to the above issue. It rested on the question of his speed (less than 20mph, i.e. well within normal speed limit) and that of whether any alleged recklessness on his part was the primary cause of the accident (negligence being equally attributable to the victim, whose possible failure to look before stepping into the road might also be considered a cause of the accident). Which sounds horrible when you say it, but may well be correct as a point of causation.

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  2. Thanks for a coolly written and informative blog on a tragic case for the the bereaved family.
    As one of these dissatisfied cyclists I was interested in your comment about the inherent absurdity of giving different punishments for different types of vehicle. You compare it with beating someone over the head with a metal bar or a cricket bat having different punishments.
    It has long been a concern of cycle activists, and indeed some pedestrian campaigners too, that the law treats the use of a motor vehicle as a weapon very differently from someone deploying that metal bar and an attack with a car is dismissed as ‘road rage’ even now that increasingly camera evidence is available.
    By extension of your argument it would seem logical to say that if you attack someone with a metal bar or a metal car the punishment should be the same (in cases obviously where it can be proven that a car was used as a weapon, i.e. a deliberate collision).
    I think it unlikely to be a gross exaggeration to say that many, if not most, cyclists will have experienced minor, and sometimes major, deliberate assaults from motorists. Yet it is often very difficult to get any interest prosecution by the police and/or the CPS. I would suggest that your judgment on equality of punishment for beating someone with a metal bar or a cricket bat, should not be limited to the punishment, but also to the willingness of the public protection authorities to teat assault with a metal bar and with a metal car as deserving of the same level of attention from them in prosecuting such violence.

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  3. I understand the momentary lapse of concentration line very well, because I have heard many many many times. However this doesn’t take into account the many thousands of momentary lapses of concentration which preceded the collision. I ride a bike to work through London as well as at weekends for fun. I can’t remember a single journey which has passed off without someone in a motor vehicle endangering my life. I bet most cyclists will tell you the same thing. Let that just sink in.

    So it’s not really surprising that many cyclists have called foul when our lives are taken by drivers with impunity and yet a cyclist is given a stiff sentence.

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  4. On the question of changing the sentences available, pedestrians are a couple of orders of magnitude more likely to be killed by a car driver than a cyclist. Cyclists are a couple of orders of magnitude more likely to be killed by a car driver than to kill a pedestrian themselves. Car drivers are *three* orders of magnitude more likely to kill someone than a cyclist is.

    By all means, if a general modernisation of the criminal law on road use is undertaken then explicitly adding cyclists to the offences is a reasonable modernisation, but in terms of taking specific legislative time to fix a perceived gap in the law then that time would clearly be better spent improving the ability of the law to deter motorists from killing people, than on deterring cyclists.

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  5. Alliston was successfully prosecuted and faces a stiffer sentence than many who cause death by driving. Does this really suggest that the law has failed to deliver a solution in this case?

    In any case, since the tests of competence applied to dangerous and careless driving essentially are ” the standard the jury thinks they achieve,” how can an equitable law be achieved when most jurors will not cycle to any real extent?

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  7. Thank you for (as usual) a reasoned and reasonable commentary.

    On a point of detail, I was glad to see your para. beginning “A further apparent anomaly ….”. I had been struggling with the comment from Martin Porter QC in the Cyclist[1] that:

    “It is unlikely that even Alliston would have been convicted of either proposed offence as the tragic death of Mrs Briggs related not to his manner of riding but to his breach of Construction and Use Regulations.”

    I could not reconcile that with section 2A(2) of the RTA 1988[2] under which “dangerous driving” includes driving a dangerous vehicle.

    It is also at odds with the judge’s comment that ” “It was not merely the absence of a front brake but your whole manner of riding that caused this accident” but perhaps Mr Porter had not heard or seen that.

    [1] http://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/3372/cycling-and-the-law-martin-porter-qc-interview
    [2] “A person is also to be regarded as driving dangerously for the purposes of sections 1, 1A and 2 above if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous. “

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  8. I don’t agree the type of vehicle involved in causing an injury/death should have no bearing on the perceived seriousness of the crime. It is reasonable to assume that riding a bicycle in a reckless fashion is less likely to cause injury/death than driving a vehicle recklessly.

    You say there is no difference between causing injury by hitting someone with an iron bar or a cricket bat. But what about a teaspoon? Suppose I hit you on the head with a small spoon and it freakishly causes serious injury/death because you had a medical condition like a thin skull or something. Would it be right to consider this equivalent to me hitting you with a heavy metal bar?

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    • It seems to me there are 2 separate issues. First, there is the probability that a collision will cause death or injury. Second, there is the seriousness of collisions which do so.

      The first is a valid argument that dangerous/careless cycling alone should be seen as less serious than equivalent motor vehicles offences. But it is only one argument. Another is that such cycling engenders fear and deters pedestrians – especially elderly pedestrians – to an extent not reflected in statistics of deaths and injuries. There’s also the “broken window” argument – ie ignoring cyclists when they break “little” rules (eg cycling on pavements) leads them to break bigger rules (eg not stopping at pedestrian/controlled crossings).

      The second however seems to me be largely self-correcting for the differences between cycles and other vehicles. That is, if someone ends up dead as a result of dangerous/careless driving or cycling it’s equally serious either way (for the victim, family, dependents, etc).

      As for the teaspoon vs iron bar, I would not want to depart from the “eggshell skull rule” (q.v.)

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      • You say, re poor cycling, “such cycling engenders fear and deters pedestrians – especially elderly pedestrians – to an extent not reflected in statistics of deaths and injuries.” Poor driving of motor vehicles does the same, discouraging many elderly people from crossing main roads, avoiding busy shopping areas, not going out on foot for fear of motors, having to negotiate motors parked on and blocking the pavement (especially problematic for those in wheelchairs and/or mobility scooters). It is just that this much greater fear has been absorbed into the environmental background and treated as normal & almost totally ignored by commentators in general.

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    • The ‘teaspoon’ analogy is a bit ‘difficult’ to picture but yes, there are plenty of ways our law rightly distinguishes between different vehicles based on their capacity to harm. Licencing of drivers is the most obvious. So these calls for equivalent treatment are dodgy, and are more often employed as expressions of prejudice and wanting to reduce cycling.

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  9. One would normally expect any activity on public roads where the “harm is so high but the culpability so low” to be banned outright. Comparing the difference in potential to cause harm between motoring and cycling to that between choosing a metal bar and a cricket bat is just plain wrong. The criminals that attacked in Barcelona and Nice did not go about their job on fixies

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    • Yes – I think there is a non sequitur in this idea of harm being so high but culpability low. If you are operating something so dangerous that a moment’s negligence can foreseeably kill someone, being negligent for a moment is highly culpable

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  10. With sentencing you only speak of incarceration, many (myself included) agree that jail is often not the answer and that significant bans would be more beneficial but courts seem as reluctant to ban as they do to jail. Momentary lapses (which seemingly every prosecuted driver claims to have suffered from) may not deserve jail but they do suggest that the driver should not be trusted with dangerous machinery in future.

    Not sure if alliston has suffered prosecutorial persecution but he’s certainly been vilified in the media (mainstream and social) which drivers causing death don’t seem to receive. His character & subsequent conduct may not have helped in this but it does seem like textbook outgroup bias.

    RTC handling, conviction, sentencing and coverage has long been a big concern for many cyclists with seemingly little change, but with one of the very rare RTC deaths caused by a cyclist politicians are suddenly showing a keen interest. A general review of road law would be most welcome but many cyclists are worried the resultant furore is going to bring in some bad law aimed solely at cyclists and possibly further restrictions to cycling totally unrelated to this case crowbarred in while anticycling feeling from some parts of society are running high. While the KSI stats are still in the thousands and the vast majority of them are caused by motor vehicles it’s rather incongruous that so much attention is being focused on cyclists at this time.

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  11. A nuanced and dispassionate disquisition from our learned friend. Here is the view from the cyclist hoi poloi “If you want to murder someone and get off scot free, get in your car and run over him while he’s cycling”. You say the uninformed cry out that the Alliston case is

    “an example of prosecutorial persecution betraying a disparity in treatment between this and cases where cyclists fall victim to drivers of motor vehicles”

    A pox on Alliston who was culpable and a terribly unsympathetic defendant (who like bad cases, also make bad laws) but the quotation still reflects reality. Just today one can read the case of Ben Storey who ran a red light and caused “catastrophic injuries” to Gemma Coates a girl of 15 years of age who has brain damage, can no longer walk, talk or feed herself. The convicted driver will walk home with a 5 year driving ban and a *suspended* 2 year sentence. The judge characterised his going through a red light and hitting a schoolgirl at a Pelican crossing “an accident”.

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  12. Typically thoughtful piece. However, you say ‘use of a “mechanically-propelled vehicle”, which a bicycle is plainly not’. Is that so? Surely, the pedals, crank and chain constitute a mechanism? And it’s a mechanism which results in cyclists being able to reach, and maintain, a much higher velocity than would have been possible with the old hobby-horse, or current toddlers’ balance bikes.

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  13. Surely greater use of driver bans is appropriate for careless cases? Driving on our roads is a privilege not a right (hence the test), though it appears it is often viewed to be opposite. “Driving below the standard of a competent and careful driver” – that’s the difficulty – how do you measure this when so many people infringe on this in their day to day driving habits?

    To my mind, I think PCs Hodson and Hudson of West Midlands Police have it right. Namely that this standard should be measured as the standard you need to pass your driving test. If it drops below that, then so does competence and carefulness.

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    • I think that should be the test and I can’t understand why a prosecutor hasn’t tried to run this argument. Maybe they have and I don’t know about or maybe they realise that pretty much everyone who drove to court that day (including themselves) probably hasn’t met that test!

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  14. If I might offer a minor correction to your first sentence “I have been asked by several people what my views are on the tragic case of Kim Briggs….”. An otherwise really great piece.

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  15. Two things
    First even if a front brake had been fitted there is no guarantee he would have stopped in time
    Second, why only consider the level of retribution. Aeroplane accidents incittr policy and practical changes. If people are killed (nearly 400 pedestrians by cars each year – not cyclists ) perhaps instead of punitive we should be preventative – lowering speed limits, car sizetx

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  16. “But devastation caused by careless driving – which often arises during momentary lapses in concentration or judgment behind the wheel – presents the hardest cases. The harm caused can be the greatest in the criminal spectrum. But culpability can be among the very lowest; barely criminal.”

    The obvious solution is to raise the standard of what passes for “careful” driving. Driving over the speed limit, tailgating, turning without looking, particularly after overtaking a cyclist, or driving without an MOT, should fall below the standard. Currently they are accepted or considered very minor. Culpability should not be considered to be low in these cases.

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  17. If there’s going to be a change in the law I really hope it’s driven by cycling bodies. If it’s coming, own it, control it and actually push for something that is useful. Hopefully Cycling UK will get behind this and make sure that whatever happens from here on is useful for cyclists as well. (and have it as part of a wider look at road safety for all)

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  18. As an aside, what’s your view on the evidence of the “expert” witness who made the ludicrous assertion that a cycle travelling at 18 mph could stop within 3 metres ?

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    • It might help him to know the evidence that it was “ludicrous”.

      I have seen many cite Martin Porter’s blog where he stated “David Wilson’s seminal work Bicycling Science demonstrate that a deceleration of 0.5g is the maximum that a seated rider can risk before he goes over the handlebars.” My physics is far too rusty to question David Wilson’s work but it seems to me (and to some others) Martin Porter’s interpretation of it made no allowance for the bike geometry and for the cyclist changing the centre of gravity. Nothing new in this. See eg one discussion on a cycling forum in 2010[1].

      And there is other evidence that much more than 0.5g can be achieved. For example empirical work by the NBS in Washington in the 1970s[2] suggests the then statutory test required 0.5g! And that much higher deceleration was possible. Measuring what happens on real bikes they achieved 0.7g to over 0.8g (see page 29). There’s also eg Olsson[3] who also suggests an upright rider and a “typical” bike has much better braking capacity than a rider in a racing crouch on a short wheelbase track bike. And gave 0.68g as an example for a “typical” bike.
      I at least am inclined to put some faith in the Bureau of Standards ability to measure speed and distance until shown evidence to the contrary – that is, evidence of a flaw in their methodology or similar experiments which prove they must have been wrong.

      And the judges remarks suggest (as had previous reports) that Alliston had slowed to 14 mph before he decided to swerve rather than slow further. Stopping from 14 mph over 3m requires on my sums 0.67g. I don’t say that is achievable by all riders in all circumstances, But I equally don’t see why it is “ludicrous”.

      [1] http://www.bikeforums.net/bicycle-mechanics/619206-improving-road-bike-braking-power.html
      [2] http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/Legacy/IR/nbsir75-786.pdf
      [3] https://www.sveafordon.com/media/36782/Olsson_Brake-PerfStab-for-Bicycles_130515_public.pdf

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  19. “had since 2014 deliberately chosen to ride a bicycle without a front-wheel brake” — surely this amounts to a few hundred counts of willful endangerment (Ianal), he chose to ride a dangerous bike for the thrill, knowing that it was dangerous, this wasn’t a one-off offence and is only charged as such because of the largely random outcome. Should we all drive/ride/live however we want to – if there’s no harm theres no foul – and we punish the unlucky ones who are in accidents?. Accidents rather than incidents, i mean.
    Surely the rider is just as guilty/immoral/culpable for the hundreds of times he set off on a dangerous bike, the guilty mind is the same, and the act is committed with the first pedal stroke.

    apologies for rambling, hopefully my point is understandable, even if naive.

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    • I would expect that the fact he rode with an illegal setup many times was taken into account. I am sure that had his front brake broken that morning and that he had chosen to ride to work with only a rear brake and fix the front after he’d been to a bike shop in the afternoon, for example, the sentence would have been lower.

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  21. “When he came across Mrs Briggs on 12 February 2016, she having stepped out into the road as he travelled at 18 mph, he had no means of stopping.”

    There’s clearly a lack of understanding here. A fixed gear bike brakes by resisting the pedals so the back wheel stops turning. It’s not as efficient a means of braking as having two brakes but it is certainly a means of stopping.

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  22. Any accurate information about whether Mrs Briggs stepped out on the road without looking or was this at a pedestrian crossing?
    What would happen if a cyclists or another road user died as a result of trying to swerve around a pedestrian stepping out?

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  23. Not sure your cricket bat v metal bar analogy works. They’re both likely to kill or maim. No so a bike and a car.

    It seems to me that what Mr Alliston was doing – 18MPH with no front break – is less dangerous than 18MPH in a car with breaks.

    Surely the reason we have a special dangerous driving law for cars, is that cars are really dangerous. I’m not sure bikes are dangerous enough to warrant a similar special law. It would be great if you could address this point in a future post. It seems key to any discussion of whther their is, as you assert, there is a gap in the law.

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  24. “Almost always, causing death by dangerous driving will lead to prison.” Didn’t I read somewhere recently that 57% of those convicted of death by dangerous driving are jailed, and of course, many dangerous drivers who kill are not charged or convicted, or are charged with the lesser ‘careless’ offence.

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  25. Sorry about my ignorance, was 18mph above the limit? What speed do other vehicles ride around there?
    Is it true that Alliston had a green light ahead and Mrs Briggs was looking at her phone as she walked out?
    Had the cyclist been able to stop or swerve around Mrs Briggs, would that have possibly put himself or other road users in danger by falling and being hit by a passing vehicle?

    I am not making excuses for any negligence or reckless behaviour on Alliston’s part, but I am worried that there seem to be no mention of any wrongdoing on Mrs Brigg’s part. I know she sadly paid a very high price, but this unintentional, yet irresponsible action put herself and other in danger too.

    I am a slow and careful rider, but I have nearly been knocked down by a car when I swerved to avoid a pedestrian walking out in front of me. On another occasion someone walked right into my path on the road and I got hurt just as much if not more than the pedestrian. Luckily there was no car behind me, but had there been, I would have been knocked down.

    If a cyclist was hit in a similar collision, they would question whether s/he wore a helmet and hi-vis and the fact that s/he pulled out without looking.

    Why this one-sided reporting?

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    • I am a cyclist (mostly) and also driver and pedestrian. I have been run over twice as a cyclist, one hit and run. As a driver I have had a car wrecked by someone running a red light. Fortunately I have not been involved in a collision as (or involving) a pedestrian. There are clear stereotypical attitude problems that apply to each group:
      Cyclists are generally reckless and disobedient in a variety of creative ways. Lighting, traffic lights,, and direction of traffic are irrelevant. At least the majority of the risk is to their own safety.
      Pedestrians no longer look when stepping into traffic. I get at least one a day when cycling. Smartphones have made this worse but are not involved in even the majority of cases. If they cannot hear you coming you might as well not exist.
      Car drivers believe they have right of way over cyclists at all times.

      The cyclist here is in the wrong, but it is highly likely the pedestrian was too.

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  26. As a pedestrian, I am menaced on a daily basis by cyclists. They ride on the footpaths; ride through red lights at pelican crossings and fail to signal their turns more than they signal them. The root cause of their behaviour is the lack of a number plate – I do not see motorcyclists doing these things. But because they are anonymous, cyclists feel free to break the law.

    A police clamp down is long overdue.

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    • Believe you were looking for the Daily Mail comments section. Your subjective personal views are best served on that site. Interesting that you consider a number plate will prevent all bad use of vehicle – vehicles with number plates still kill nearly 2,000 people per year…doesn’t seem to help them does it.

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    • Cyclists are also pedestrians.

      As a pedestrian I don’t seem to be terrorised by cyclists the way you’re describibg .on a daily basis. That’s not saying it never happens.

      Not sure whether you cycle or not, but stay reassured that I am bullied by car drivers on a daily basis when I’m on my bike and drivers do get away with it, because I can’t possibly take all the number plates, especially when I’m shaken and on the few occasions I do, very little happens, other than some vague apology from the company or a response saying nothing can be done without more evidence.

      A considerable number if pedestrians risk NY life by jumping in front of me without looking when I have the right of way.

      Not to mention the posion put into my lungs.

      Like

    • “The root cause of their behaviour is the lack of a number plate”
      Not sure if sarcasm or idiocy. Have you seen the stats for car crime? 80% of drivers admit to speeding over a MILLION tickets a year and that’s just speed. Driving without insurance/licence, drink driving, mobile phone use, bus lanes, red lights, hit and run, driving on the pavement, the list is long and the transgressors many.

      Call for a crackdown on antisocial cycling if you wish, by all means, I hope the police give it the consideration it is due, but to pretend a licence plate would fix it is wilfully ignorant.

      Like

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