It’s been a week of high drama for those who take an interest in road safety and cycling. Charlie Alliston’s trial and his sentencing for ‘wanton and furious driving’ was followed swiftly by the government announcing that they would look into new legislation around death by dangerous cycling.

What is driving the policy here? Was the government taken in by all the media hype? Liam Wheeler writing for the Medium website reported that the Alliston case received more than 13,000 news articles, whilst the case tried during the same week of a driver who killed whilst undertaking and not looking at the road ahead received only two articles. The driver was given a non-custodial sentence.

I understand the media reaction to a degree – the Charlie Alliston case is unusual, and unusual cases may be newsworthy. Death by dangerous driving is common (although campaigners argue that driving bans are too short and custodial sentences too rare) whereas death by dangerous cycling is extremely rare.

That many media outlets surrounded their stories with an unhealthy dose of anti-cycling rhetoric is lamentable but not surprising.

Should the media storm lead to policy change? Will new laws on death by dangerous cycling significantly reduce deaths on our roads? Well, the short answer, without belittling the tragedy of any death on our roads, is not really. The evidence shows that in the last few years, two to three pedestrians have been killed in collisions with a cyclist per year, compared to over 400 pedestrians being killed in collisions with motor vehicles.

So even if the new policy was a total success, mortality rates for pedestrians would only reduce by at most 0.75 per cent.

My concern is when a rare event combined with a media storm results in policy change. The government needs to look at the facts around deaths on our roads and legislate accordingly, not respond to individual tragic events and the hyperbole that surround them.

Of the over 1700 people killed on our roads each year, an average of three are pedestrians killed following a collision with a cyclist (32 deaths between 2005 and 2015 from Cycling UK, quoting DfT figures).

The government’s ‘urgent’ review into cycle safety should be seen in the context of an ongoing review of all driving offences and penalties ‘to ensure that people who endanger lives and public safety are properly punished’. This review, long requested, was announced in 2014 and languished unlaunched until 2016. They stopped taking evidence in February 2017 but have not yet released a report.

Cycling UK called for the current urgent review into cycle safety (which will focus on new legislation around dangerous cycling first and move on at a later unspecified date to broader issues around cycling safety) to be conducted as part of the wider ongoing on driving offences and penalties. It also needs to be viewed within the context of pedestrian deaths from cyclists compared to those from motorists. numbering around 400 per year.

Then perhaps the results will mean that the roads become safer for everyone.