The widower of a woman killed by a cyclist in a landmark case is pushing for new laws to tackle “irresponsible and reckless” riders so other families are spared having to endure the “absolutely dreadful” situation his family had.
Matthew Briggs’ wife, and the mother of their two-children, Kim, died in hospital in February last year, a week after the 44-year-old was struck by cyclist Charlie Alliston in east London while she crossed a street during her lunch break.
Alliston, who was then 19 and riding a fixed-wheel track bike with no front brake - that was designed for Velodrome riding and not a legal road bike - was convicted on Wednesday of wanton and furious driving under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. He was found not guilty of a more serious charge of manslaughter in what was thought to be the first time the charge has been used against a cyclist in England.
Judge Wendy Joseph QC told Allison she was considering a prison sentence, and added: “I have not seen one iota of remorse from Mr Alliston at all, at any stage.”
Matthew has since called for a “radical change” in cycling culture and for cycling to be included in the Road Traffic Act so riders can be charged in the same way motorists are. He wants police and the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS) to be able to lay charges such as, death by dangerous cycling or death by careless cycling: “It isn’t so much a new law, as just bringing the current law up to date,” Matthew told the BBC’s Today Programme on Thursday in what was at times, an emotional interview.
He stressed that he was not on a “witch hunt against cyclists”, but rather wanted to prevent further deaths involving pedestrians: “So if this was to happen again, which I think it inevitably will, the police and the CPS will have a coherent framework to reach for, so for the next family to go through this, it is much more straight forward.”
Matthew urged courier companies to make it mandatory for their staff to ride bikes with both front and rear brakes and urged cyclists to prioritise public safety, as well as their own, over the fashionable choice of riding bikes without front brakes.
“There is an almost fetishisim around this (fixed-gear bikes with no front breaks)... but as we have seen with my wife’s death they are potentially lethal, they’re not just illegal, that’s one thing... but they are potentially lethal as well,” he said.
Matthew said: “I would just urge them to read my story. I’d urge them to understand what happened to my wife. Mother-of-two. The most wonderful woman, the most fun-loving woman. Went to work and didn’t come home because because of this. So why would you take that risk with someone else’s life and why would you endanger your own?”
Matthew told the BBC he was torn about making a public push for law reforms as his wife was an “intensely private person”, but felt it was necessary to safeguard other families.
“Kim was enormous fun to be with. A wicked sense of humour, just great fun to be with, but very private. So I step into this with a degree of caution, but actually some times in life you have to stand up and do the right thing. So yes, I am doing this for Kim. I’m doing this to honour Kim. But I am also doing this in the hope, and I say this to my children, ‘the reason I’m doing this is in the hope we can stop another family having to go through what we went through’.
“February last year was just absolutely dreadful.”
The Old Bailey had heard that Alliston was on his way to buy food for his girlfriend when he crashed into Briggs as she crossed Old Street.
He had shouted as her twice to get out of the way but failed to stop or avoid the head-on collision. After they impacted, Alliston was said to have stood up and shouted at Briggs as she lay in the road with catastrophic head injuries.
He also later blamed her for the crash in a spring of posts on social media in the days that followed.
On an internet forum for fixed-wheel bike enthusiasts, Alliston described how he twice warned Briggs to “get the f*** outta my way”.
He wrote: “We collided pretty hard, our heads hit together, hers went into the floor and ricocheted into mine.
“It is a pretty serious incident so I won’t bother saying oh she deserved it, it’s her fault.
“Yes it is her fault but no she did not deserve it.
“Hopefully, it is a lesson learned on her behalf, it shouldn’t have happened like it did but what more can I say.”
He complained: “It’s not my fault people either think they are invincible or have zero respect for cyclists.”
Jurors heard Alliston’s trendy “fixie” bike was not legal to use on the road without being modified to add a front brake.
He bought the £700 Planet X bike second-hand for £470 in January last year, telling the vendor he wanted to use it for track cycling.
Crash investigators who studied CCTV of the incident concluded Alliston would have been able to stop and avoid the collision if the bike had been fitted with a front brake.
But giving evidence in his trial, Alliston, claimed not to know the bike was illegal on the road and told jurors he was not riding recklessly.
He said: “At all times I would know what I’m doing and completely responsible for my actions.
“I did not get a kick or enjoyment out of not being safe.”
Matthew Briggs sat in court throughout the trial, during which the CCTV footage of the crash was played several times.
In a statement read in court, he paid tribute to his “wonderful” wife, saying: “She was quick to smile, slow to judge and even slower to anger.”
Lawyer Keith Barrett, of Fieldfisher law firm, said he was pursuing a civil claim on behalf of the Briggs family, adding: “I hope that the spotlight on this trial will encourage courier companies and others to insist that their agents are full insured, as they would a car or van driver, in the event they seriously injure or kill someone on the roads.”
Detective Inspector Julie Trodden, of Scotland Yard, said: “This investigation has highlighted the necessity for all cyclists to have the required brakes on their bikes, whether they be a fixed wheel or free wheeling hub cycle.”
Alliston was bailed until his sentencing on September 18.
Duncan Dollimore, of Cycling UK, said: “Riding a fixed wheel bicycle on busy roads without a front brake is illegal, stupid, and endangers other road users especially pedestrians.
“Charlie Alliston’s actions had tragic consequences for Kim Briggs’ family, and it was entirely right that this led to his prosecution.
“The fact that he has been convicted of an offence dating back to legislation from 1861, drafted in archaic language, will doubtless lead some to argue that the laws on irresponsible cycling should be aligned with the laws on irresponsible driving.
“The reality is that the way in which the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users has long been in need of review.”