For cyclists, the law is not always clear or straightforward regarding their legal responsibilities in an accident.
A recent case involving the tragic death of a 44 year old mother of two has brought fresh debate on the need to update and reform the laws relating to cyclists. A 20 year old cyclist was prosecuted after he rode a bike that had no front brake and was therefore unable to avoid hitting a pedestrian when she stepped out on front of him.
The subsequent criminal prosecution of the cyclist was based upon a Victorian law from 1861 - a law which does not even describe a bicycle in the Act.
The cyclist was convicted of "wanton and furious driving or racing" under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The better known offence of "causing death by dangerous driving" (and the much more severe penalties attached) did not apply to him because he was a cyclist. The maximum penalty was only 2 years.
To give you a flavour of how out of touch the law is in this area, Section.35 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 states:
"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 misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years"
Finally, when riding a bike, certain things are not illegal per se, but could be used as evidence against you to support a prosecution for a criminal offence or a civil claim against you - typical examples would be using a mobile phone or speeding.