Thursday 4 August 2011

The death of a cyclist: some anomalies and ambiguities

A “NATURAL roamer” who travelled the country on his bicycle was hit by a car and killed on the A34.

Motorists were shocked to see Alistair Bettis pedalling along the southbound carriageway near Pear Tree in the dark, an inquest heard yesterday.

Witnesses said they struggled to make out the 59-year-old as he cycled on the edge of the slow lane in the dark, although one driver said he may have been carrying a red LED bike light.

This is the first ambiguity. Either the cyclist was displaying a light at the rear or he was not. A competent police investigation of the crash scene should have arrived at a conclusion on that point.

Nicola Gibson, who was travelling south on the dual carriageway having left work in Summertown, told Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner she had no time to react after the cyclist veered into the inside lane.

This is the second ambiguity, since the deceased appears to have been in the slow lane all the time. The killer driver’s assertion that the cyclist ‘veered’ is contradicted by her next assertion that she didn’t see the cyclist until ‘a second before the impact’:

The motorist, who was travelling well below the speed limit, struck Mr Bettis as he was 1.7 metres inside the carriageway, crash investigator Andrew Evans said.

Ms Gibson, who was exonerated by Mr Gardiner, said: “About a second before the impact I could see him. (It was) not until my dipped headlights saw the back of his tyre, and I just put the emergency brakes on.
“He seemed like he was right in front of the passenger side.”

The incident took place at about 7.15pm on November 30.

But ‘in front of the passenger side’ is exactly where a cyclist should be riding. And what does ‘travelling well below the speed limit’ actually mean? It could mean 60 mph, if the limit was 70 mph. But speed limits are often a red herring, since the duty of a driver is to drive in a manner appropriate to the road conditions. You can be below the maximum speed limit for the road you are on and still be driving in a reckless and dangerous manner.

Unfortunately bald newspaper reports like these raise far more questions than they answer.

In the comments ‘Quentin Walker, Oxford’ writes

I'm surprised not more cyclists are killed on our roads. Many of them do not have the self-preservation instinct and ride in dark clothing, which can be difficult to see even in daylight.

It is time it became mandatory for all cyclists to wear hi-viz clothing

Such comments are symptomatic of a society in which driving without due care and attention is institutionalised at all levels, to the detriment of pedestrians and cyclists.