wanton and furious cycling

A cyclist was convicted of “wanton or furious driving” last week in London after hitting a pedestrian crossing the street, leading to her death a few days later. The main legal argument for the conviction was that the cyclist was riding a “fixie”,  a bike with no front brake and fixed-gear, as used in track cycling. Which is illegal in Britain and, I just found out, in France too. (He was actually facing manslaughter, for which he got acquitted.) This is a most tragic accident, alas leading to a loss of a human life, and I did not look at the specifics, but I do not get the argument about the brakes and the furious driving: if the rider was going at about 28 km/h, which seems a reasonable speed in low density areas [and is just above my average speed in suburban Paris], and if the pedestrian stepped in his path six meters ahead, he had less than a second to react. Front brake or not, I am certainly unable to react and stop in this interval. And braking hard with the front brake will invariably lead to going over the bars: happens to me every time I have to stop for a car with my road bike. And would if I had to stop for a pedestrian.

Incidentally [or accidentally], here is the item of British Law from 1861 on which prosecution was based:

“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.”

And here are the most reasonable views of the former Olympian Chris Boardman on this affair and the hysteria it created…

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