Death by Dangerous Cycling

18 months ago a pedestrian died whilst crossing a road. She was collided with by a cyclist.

The court case escalated and has only now seen the cyclist convicted of “wanton and furious driving”, and sentenced for two years.

This story rings home for me because some 15+ years ago I too, being a cyclist, collided with a pedestrian who tried to cross the road in front of me. Luckily in my situation no one died, although the pedestrian complained of leg pain and was taken away in an ambulance, and I received some grazes after going over my handlebars. Speeds were similar though – a collision of around 14mph.

In this recent case the cyclist felt like it wasn’t his fault, claiming the pedestrian was on her mobile phone, although this has been disputed.

Everyone is quick to judge and help the so-called victim but not the other person in the situation … It all happened so fast and even at a slow speed there was nothing I could do. I just wish people would stop making judgments.

I can relate somewhat to that. In my case, the pedestrian had stepped out into the road without looking first, and had chosen to do this next to a pedestrian crossing rather than making proper use of it. I collided with her, was sent over my handlebars and landed on the road. I then picked myself up and got out of the road while others gathered around the stricken pedestrian, choosing to direct traffic round her rather than move her. We had to wait for an ambulance (an police) to arrive and I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging/blaming me, like it was my fault. I didn’t feel any remorse and I still don’t; I just waited quietly at the side of the road for the whole situation to end so that I could continue on my way. Had the pedestrian been using her phone at the time then I would have been more annoyed. Had the pedestrian died then I’d likely feel different (I certainly felt bad when a cat got under the wheel of my car); it’s a shame for anyone to get injured in an accident, regardless of blame, and I suppose each can feel like a victim. The police took statements and that was that; I continued on to work where I arrived late – a grazed elbow whilst wearing a white shirt was a good enough reason.

In this recent case though the cyclist was found to be at fault; his bike wasn’t road-legal. He had been using a “track bike” on the road, and this particular sports vehicle uses a fixed rear wheel which can be used for braking, but has no other brakes, meaning he couldn’t stop sufficiently when there was apparently time to do so. In my case I had no time to react, brakes or not; I don’t recall the police even taking a close look at my bike, although it was relatively new and in good working order but I think this case highlights the need for cyclists to ensure (and consider if) their brakes are in good working order. For a bicycle to be road-legal it must have a front brake in addition to a rear brake; it turns out that it is common for BMXs to not have a front brake, and since they’re not legal on the road some riders are taking to the footpaths instead, thus putting pedestrians there at risk.

Pedestrians need to look, and, like motorists, they need to “think bike”, and cyclists (myself included) need to employ extra caution and some patience around pedestrians. We all have a duty of care, and vehicle users (motorised or not) need to keep things in check; brakes, tyres, and lights for night-time riding.

The “wanton and furious driving” crime dates back to 1861 and seems to be the only one found to fit the crime. Some have called for a change in the law but with so few pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists, this seems excessive. For a cyclist to receive a two-year sentence, especially when his life has been on hold for the past 18 months while the case works its way through the legal system, this seems excessive on its own, but given that his bike wasn’t road legal, and his lack of remorse I hope it changes his mindset and encourages others to rein in their attitude; as much as we enjoy getting from A to B as quickly as possible, and improve on our average speeds (well I do) there are certain areas which just aren’t the place. With claims of a subculture of what has been termed a “battlefield mindset” in urban areas and city centres I think we all need to do our best to be courteous to others.

Links to news articles on the recent case:

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