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Editor’s comment: I don’t believe young cyclist deserves jail

PUBLISHED: 09:10 23 September 2017

Charlie Alliston, 20, outside the Old Bailey. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Charlie Alliston, 20, outside the Old Bailey. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Kim Briggs’ family are grieving for a young wife and mother. Her death was a heartbreaking shock I cannot pretend to imagine.

They bore the greatest loss and I’ve tried to keep that in mind while writing this. But the fact remains: I simply don’t believe Charlie Alliston should be in jail.

Yes, he did something wrong: he rode a bike without a front brake. That is a criminal offence under the Pedal Cycle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983. Its maximum penalty is a fine.

What he didn’t do was run a red light, or jump a zebra crossing, or pull a wheelie in the street, or ride without brakes (you brake on a fixie using the pedals). His bike was going at 10 to 18mph on a trunk road where he had right of way - slower than most cars and well within any speed limit. As I’m sure each of us has done may times. Mrs Briggs misjudged whether it was safe to cross. Charlie Alliston made a misjudgement too: he swerved to avoid her but they collided.

I’ve seen so many this week saying 18 months behind bars is not enough for him. In some countries, what Mrs Briggs did - jaywalking - is a criminal offence, too. Would we have wanted to see her in the dock had she lived? Of course not. Yet some - in the national press and among its readership - were positively foaming at the mouth at the prospect of a cocky young cyclist being taken down a peg. The facts of the case seemed almost an afterthought for them. Nothing I saw in this trial convinced me Charlie Alliston was anything more than a scapegoat.

One phrase I keep seeing is “holding cyclists to account”. It is nonsense. One holds power to account. Neither Charlie Alliston nor Kim Briggs, as vulnerable road users, had power in London’s transport network. That, not a tragic accident is the injustice that deserves our attention.

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