Cyclists who kill pedestrians could be prosecuted in the same way as motorists under a proposed government crackdown.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the law is needed to “impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care”.
It comes four years after the government ran a consultation on proposals for new offences of causing death or serious injury while cycling.
Shapps wrote in the Mail+ that a “selfish minority” of cyclists believe they are “immune” to red lights.
“We need the cycling equivalent of death by dangerous driving to close a gap in the law and impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care,” he said.
“For example, traffic lights are there to regulate all traffic. But a selfish minority of cyclists appear to believe that they are somehow immune to red lights.
“We need to crack down on this disregard for road safety. Relatives of victims have waited too long for this straightforward measure.”
Under the 1991 Road Traffic Act, a maximum fine of £1,000 can be issued for careless cycling and £2,500 for dangerous cycling. If bodily harm is caused, cyclists can be prosecuted for wanton and furious driving under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, for which the maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment.
It is an offence to ride a bicycle on a road or in public if unfit as a result of drink or drugs, under the 1988 Road Traffic Act, which comes with a maximum punishment of £1,000.
But, according to a 2020 report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety (Pacts), which uses Department for Transport (DfT) figures, “pedal cyclists and small motorcycles were involved in very few collisions where pedestrians were killed”. In 2019, five pedestrian deaths involved a bicycle. Meanwhile, 48 cyclists and 305 pedestrians were killed by cars.
Under Shapps’s proposal, the new cycling law would be added to the transport bill due to be put before parliament in the autumn.
Matt Briggs, whose wife, Kim, was killed by a cyclist in 2016 and has been campaigning for a change in the law to prosecute dangerous cyclists for years, on Saturday said making it a new offence would “greatly simplify the legal system”. He said it would also bring “a degree of comfort to relatives who are grieving and also to victims who are seriously injured”.
“The maximum sentence under wanton and furious riding is two years,” he told the BBC Today programme. But, he added: “The outcome is always the same [as a similar incident with a motor vehicle]. The grief, the tragedy and the hurt is always the same, regardless of what the vehicle is.”
He said there are was “no logical objection” to a change in the law, adding: “I hope that Grant Shapps will be true to his word.” If not, he vowed to continue campaigning. “I’m politely persistently annoying and I will keep going and I will keep lobbying for this because it’s important.”
The DfT said: “Any death on our roads is a tragedy, and though we have some of the safest roads in the world, the government is committed to making them even safer.
“We are exploring changes to allow dangerous cyclists to be prosecuted more easily and delivering more continuous and direct cycling routes in towns and cities which are physically separated from pedestrians and motor traffic.”