Cycling Embassy Submission to APPCG Justice Enquiry

The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain notes the APPCG enquiry into Cycling and the Justice System:  

Prior to our response to the specific areas being looked at, we would argue that the subject of this inquiry should be seen as subsidiary to the general goal of enabling more people to cycle in the UK for a wider variety of journeys in a wider variety of places.

Evidence from multiple sources makes it abundantly clear that people do not want to cycle in motor traffic but will cycle when they feel it is safe to do so. It shows that they are best given this feeling of safety (as well as actual safety) through the provision of safe places to cycle: protected routes, routes separated from motor and foot traffic, lower traffic volumes, lower traffic speeds, etc.

If this inquiry starts with the goal of “getting more people cycling”, then we need to use this lens for all of the areas below. Separating people from motor traffic is the necessary first step we are currently missing in the UK.

We believe that by bearing the overall goal firmly in mind (of enabling more people to cycle), it will help us to better understand what potential changes will definitively enhance the cycling experience, versus those changes which we might do anyway - and with good reason - but which may not substantively affect cycling in the UK.

For example, we could generally ask that the police properly enforce the law as it stands - on speeds, close passes, etc. - but one might argue that this should be done in any case. The Cycling Embassy argues that, regardless of what positive action comes out of this enquiry in the context of road justice, only the provision of widespread, high quality, safe places to cycle is going to answer the primary goal of the APPCG, to get more people cycling, more often.

When looking at the specific areas under consideration:

  • Road users and victims

We believe the justice system needs to make clearer to road users the responsibilities they have, both through application of the law, and through penalties which reflect the injury caused: for example, killing or maiming with a motor vehicle should be treated no differently to killing or maiming with any other weapon.  

Further, we need to end the victim-blaming stereotypes and legal precedent which argues that because someone chooses not to wear high-visibility clothing or a helmet, then they are somehow responsible for injuries caused to them by others. No-one argues that car occupants should wear helmets, yet they expect to be supported by the law and their insurance company when they incur a head injury which they could have avoided by wearing a protective helmet in the car.

For those of us that have been involved in collisions and near misses, we feel that communication between the police and victims is often poor and unhelpful. A clear set of guidance should be provided by the emergency services to anyone involved in a collision providing reassurance on common issues and making their rights clear. All too often it appears that it is at the earliest stages after a collision that crucial evidence is lost, or opportunities missed which often can lead to lasting issues for those involved.

  • Enforcement and investigation

We believe that investigation of incidents on or transport network should all be treated the same way. Just as there is an Air Accident Investigation Branch, and a Rail Accident Investigation Branch, so there should be a Road Accident Investigation Branch or a similar organisation, whose role is to understand why incidents have occurred, and how to prevent them happening again.

Although coroners provide part of this service, it has become increasingly clear that their lay expertise is not up to the task of providing the dispassionate, evidence based analysis which is neede. .

When we investigate incidents on our roads, there should be two strands:

  1. Appropriate application of the law, where it is believed there is fault

  2. An investigation to establish the cause of the incident, and leading to clear, evidence-based recommendations to prevent the incident recurring.

Primarily, however, we would like to see more active enforcement of the typical behaviour which inconveniences and endangers both cycling and walking. This includes (but isn’t limited to):

  • Enforcement of speed limits, especially around schools

  • Preventing parking on pavements / anti-social parking

  • Cracking down on close passing and other anti-social behaviour (like the West Midlands initiative)

  • Keeping cycle ways and yellow lines clear (by enforcing loading restrictions, for example)


  • Criminal Law

The law does not adequately protect vulnerable road users at the moment, either in providing sentencing which seem to provide meaningful disincentives, or in providing a clear set of tools that are available to police.

However, we are not in favour of effort being spent on wholesale changes to the law: we would rather these incidents did not occur, than try to punish perpetrators afterwards.

  • Driver awareness and civil justice

We think that awareness of the privileges and rights of those not in cars should be a fundamental part of driver training. In particular, everyone should understand that driving is a privilege and not a right.