A cyclist has been found guilty of causing bodily harm by ‘wanton or furious driving’; Mr Alliston was also charged with manslaughter, but found not guilty. This is the first time a cyclist has been charged with an offence of this severity.
Charlie Alliston was riding a fixed-wheel bicycle with no front brake, often used by track racing cyclists, when he collided with a pedestrian at a crossing in East London. Mrs Briggs tragically died from her head injuries in hospital.
What is ‘wanton and furious driving?
The charge ‘wanton and furious driving’ was created to deter people from driving horse carriages in a reckless manner and falls under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, whereby bodily harm is committed to a person as a result of the manner of driving by a person. The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
In addition under the Road Traffic Act 1988 there are a number of offences involving bicycles including:
- dangerous cycling
- careless, and inconsiderate, cycling
- cycling under the influence of drink or drugs.
What are the requirements for brakes on a bicycle like this?
Section 7(b)(i) of the Road Traffic Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983 states a bicycle, or tricycle, with a saddle height of 635mm or more must be equipped with a front wheel braking system.
Alliston told the court he began to slow down and shouted at Mrs Briggs to “get out of the way”, who stepped out at the junction whilst on her mobile phone; he shouted again and swerved to avoid her but she stepped back into his path. It is believed Alliston was travelling at a speed of up to 14mph, according to the prosecution.
Crash investigators reviewed the CCTV and deemed that if the bike had been fitted with a front wheel braking system the cyclist would have been able to stop in time.
The Jury found Alliston not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of wanton or furious driving. He is due to be sentenced on 18 September 2017.
This case is one of a few where a cyclist has been prosecuted for this type of offence. Previous examples include Philip Benwell in court accused of causing grievous bodily harm in Bournemouth. Another case involves Darren Hall, from Weymouth who was imprisoned for seven months after cycling down a hill on a blind bend too fast and failed to take evasive action to avoid an 84 year old pedestrian, who later died.
However infrequent these prosecutions may be, they are a stark reminder of the need for all road users; whether a horse and carriage, bicycle, car, or large goods vehicle to exercise care and caution on the roads.