The law affects towpath cyclists

Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017

THE case where a cyclist has been found guilty of causing bodily harm by 'wanton or furious driving' yesterday, has raised further questions about pedestrian safety and the responsibility of cyclists in public places, writes Keith Gudgin.

Mrs Briggs' family said they plan to campaign for tougher cycling laws to protect pedestrians. He said: "Out of this senseless carnage, I shall try to bring change to the law and change to attitudes. Perhaps in this way I can honour my wife."

Cycling furiously along the towpath

Cyclists need to remember this law whilst they are cycling furiously along the towpath. If they injure a pedestrian by 'wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct' with the result of causing 'any bodily harm to any person whatsoever' could mean they end up in prison for up to two years or having to fork out a hefty fine or both.

As can be seen, they would not need to kill anyone to be prosecuted, any bodily harm to any person whatsoever is sufficient for a prosecution and the law does not state that they have to be on a public road or footpath either so towpaths and private property are also covered.

Provide evidence

We boaters, as towpath users, need to be aware of this law and take measures to provide the police and other authorities with the evidence of cyclists who persist in riding in a wanton or furious manner or racing along the towpaths in order to get them stopped and/or prosecuted. Remember, speed trials are a form of racing and therefore fall within the remit of this law.

Also, I feel CaRT and local councils need to become aware that they could also, by not attempting to prevent furious riding or racing in any form by cyclists, become liable for a failure in their duty of care responsibilities.

CaRT could end up with a fine

If CaRT and local councils continue to upgrade all the towpaths to knowingly allow cyclists to race or ride furiously without including any other restrictions, i.e. speed humps, gates or even just a blanket speed limit to restrict cyclists then I feel that before long they could end up with a very hefty fine and a court order to implement measures of prevention.

Remember, aiding and abetting an offence is treated by the courts in just the same manner as actually committing the offence under British law.

Cyclists only one user of the towpaths

We pedestrians have the law on our side, we must put a stop to irresponsible and ignorant cyclists who insist that they have the right of way over everybody and anybody on any road, path, track or byway. Cyclists need to be made aware that they are only one user of the byways and that they are required to give way to others. On towpaths, the rules actually state that cyclists should give way to pedestrians.

Why do cyclists assume that all pedestrians are going to jump out of their way. Why should pedestrians have to step off the path into the mud and puddles just to let a speeding cyclist go past without even slowing down. What happens if the pedestrian is deaf and cannot hear the cyclist approaching from behind?

Not even need come in contact

This law, as it is, does not even need the cyclist to come in contact with the pedestrian for an offence to be committed as it states ' or cause to be done any bodily harm...'.

It appears from this that a cyclist could be liable if, by their action, they just make a pedestrian fall over and injure themselves. Therefore any action by a cyclist that causes bodily harm in any way could constitute an offence under this law.

Not above the law

Cyclist need to be shown that they are not above the law and that other people, other byway users, also have rights and even have a right of way over cyclists in many cases.

One thing that needs urgent attention is the identification of cyclists to prevent them from just getting up and riding off after an accident without leaving any trace of who they are. Registration of all adult cyclists and a registration plate fixed to their bike is an urgent and long overdue legal need.

The law under which the cyclist was charged...

 'Offences Against the Person Act 1861'. This law is the closest to dangerous driving a cyclist can be charged with, and states

35} Drivers of carriages injuring persons by furious driving.
Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.