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« Old "Cycling" article from 1976 | Main | Piss Stop »

British Justice: As it pertains to cyclists

In a civilized society, especially a democracy, there are laws that govern our behavior. If we perceive someone wrongs us, we can’t go taking the law into our own hands and start dishing out physical punishment. Not without some consequences.

In a perfect world there is a trial and an outcome where the punishment fits the crime. In the real world, there is a police department and prosecutors who decide if charges will be brought, and often none are forthcoming. No one goes to court, and no one gets punished.

If a case does go to trail it is up to judges, (Or magistrates for minor offences in the UK.) to decide what punishment is meted out. This is where the system falls apart, and there will be extremes where in one case there is little or no punishment, and in another the penalties are too harsh.

Take two recent cases in the UK. A little over two weeks ago, British cyclist Christopher Wade went to trial before a Magistrate’s Court in the town of Skipton, in Yorkshire. He was charged with assault on the driver of a white van, who Chris had alleged had driven too close.

Chris had banged on the side of the van with his fist, and the driver stopped. An argument ensued, and Chris handed the driver a bare knuckle sandwich.

In court Chris tried to claim self defense, saying the van driver bit him on the hand. However, reading between the lines, it seems to me the more likely scenario is that Chris’s fist was traveling towards the teeth, rather than the driver biting Chris’s hand as he rested it on the edge of the van door.

Had it been me I would have plead guilty, been very humble, but pointed out the extenuating circumstances such as the van being close enough to bang ones hand on the side.

The Magistrate handed Chris a penalty of 840 (British Pounds.) that is $1,300 US Dollars. Ouch. This was in the form of a fine, compensation to the victim, and court costs. My thought as I read this was, “Motorists on both sides of the pond get fined less than this for actually killing a cyclist.”

The injustice of this was rubbed in this week when another British cyclist was involved with yet another white van, when the driver got out, chased the cyclist, knocked him down, and assaulted him. The whole incident was recorded on the cyclist’s helmet video cam.

In spite of this overwhelming piece of evidence of an unprovoked assault, West Midlands Police in the town of Moseley, near Birmingham, England, have refused to press charges.

Taken together, these two cases show extreme injustice, with a strong bias against cyclists in the UK. Some consistency in police procedure, and the courts would be nice.



Reader Comments (6)

Dave, we don't know the context of both cases. You're reporting only a little part of the story..or stories. Sometimes in a story there may be even a little "but" that can change the entire thing.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMIcheal Blue

I have linked the souce of both articles, I can only comment on what I read the same as you.

April 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Hi Dave, I'm in WI doing a project and just heard an interesting interview on NPR. It was with the author of this article: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2013/04/26/bike-czar-the-worst-law-breakers-on-the-road/ I think he provides some interesting real statistics that challenge drivers perceptions of bicyclists as scofflaws. His most interesting observation is that people break laws if they perceive the risk to be low and the opportunity is there and the situations are different for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertzilinski
May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

we have all had to put up with nasty car drivers on a daily basis breaking every single rule and actively trying to kill us yet claiming cyclists are bad, but now I blame the western capitalist ideology - what else could explain the difference in behaviour between what we experience in the west and what is captured here:
http://www.neatorama.com/2013/05/03/A-Different-Russian-Dash-Cam-Compilation/ - mind you I don't see any cyclists in the shots

May 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Hello Peter
Your comment about "blaiming the western capitalist ideology" is very wrong - IMHO.
I live in the Czech Republic and we have had the sad opportunity to get to know the opposite i.e. the Eastern Communism. Believe me, it is much much worse in making people generally ruder and more selfish.
Been to Russia in 2006 and it is not a pleasant place to live. The traffic is horrendous and the rule of the stronger is pretty much the case (black 4WDs with tinted windows rule the game).
The sweet compilation in in teh vid is merely an exception to the rule seems to me...
Thanks for reading - you had better check yourself ;-)

May 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan
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