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Boxing champ's death sparks calls for greater cyclist protection

Monday 10th January 2011

Greater protection for cyclists and tougher prosecutions for drivers are being demanded after a former British heavyweight boxing champion was killed on his bicycle last week (The Independent).

Gary Mason 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.

"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."

Debra Rolfe, the campaign co-ordinator for Cyclists’ Touring Club (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."

The DfT denied that cyclists are insufficiently protected, saying: "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% 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."

Click here to read The Independent report in full.

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I agree that it is impossible to comment on the case of the boxer without more knowledge of the circumstances. However, I was recently knocked off my bike in a side impact by a car driver emerging into a main road from a side road while it was dark - BUT I was wearing a reflective hi-vis jacket, with working lights front and rear and the crash was at a junction with 5 working street lamps, so pretty well illuminated. The driver had plenty of time to see me while approaching the junction slowly but "just did not see". So I improved my lighting - I now wear a belt fitted with flashing lights at the side to try to avoid another side impact, yet last night I was nearly knocked off again in identical circumstances. What more, realistically, can I do? The problem seems to be a total lack of driver awareness that bikes can be expected to be sharing the road with a consequent failure to perceive what they do not expect to be there, because they concentrate solely on looking out for other motor vehicles. Driver education is presumably going to have to be the answer in part, with the other part of the answer being promotion of cycling to raise the number of cyclists on the road. Research shows that the higher percentage of cyclists, the lower the number of accidents because driver awareness and expectation of encountering cyclists increases.
Alison Sandy, Swansea UK

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Drivers really do need to be more aware of what is going on around them and constantly be aware of all road users and pedestrians. I was knocked off my bicycle two months ago by a 'White van Man' who in his Police Statement "just did not see me"!!. I cannot comment on the circumstances on Mr Mason but please Drivers...slow down and take more care!
Exeter

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Please may I urge caution on this one. The accident happened early in the morning in my Borough and, as yet, I have been unable to establish the movements of the cyclist prior to the collision, his state of dress or the level of lighting on the machine. Until greater detail is known we must not jump to insupportable conclusions. I may not be able to divulge details quickly as they will be sub judice but I will if permitted.
Roy Buchanan, Sutton

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It's not just cyclists, it's motorcyclists too - and more often. "Sorry mate I didn't see you" must stop being a viable excuse for motorists who put vulnerable road users at risk through careless driving. Though it's key that riders do what they can to ensure drivers have a chance to see them too.
Dave, Leeds

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