Another Cyclist Dead. Another Ruling of Accidental Death.

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  • Another Cyclist Dead. Another Ruling of Accidental Death.
  • Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    “there but for the grace of god go I”

    That’s the crux of it. That’s the problem right there. People think it’s not wholly under their control. And it is.

    People these days seem very reluctant to accept responsibility. And a lot of people drive as negligently as Mr Strong. By blaming him they would be damning their own approach to driving, and they are disinclined to do that.

    The acceptance of poor standards of care and attention is the whole of the problem. The crucial aspect of this case is how clearly it demonstrates that it is so pandemic as to now totally undermine any legal protection that vulnerable users should (and technically probably do) have.

    My problem with all of this is the comparison with other situations where negligence of one person results or is the main contributory factor in another person’s death. In almost every such case you would expect to have the book thrown at you if you were the perpetrator. However, introduce a car and bike to the scenario and the mindset of the legal system and media completely changes – IMHO this is wrong.

    Get on a bike and from a legal perspective, the value of your life evaporates.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    aracer your shotgun analogy isn’t the same. I’d explain but you’ve said you’re ignoring me 😛

    Premier Icon aracer
    Member

    The collision happened in November and no charges have been brought – I think we can safely say that the motorist has got off scot free.

    http://www.stop-smidsy.org.uk/case-study/reverend-michael-malleson-died-after-being-knocked-road-narrowing-heaton-newcastle-301111

    To those suggesting the CTC should be doing more, what exactly do you suggest they should be doing that they’re not already? Hardly like this is an isolated incident…

    http://www.stop-smidsy.org.uk/case-studies

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    “there but for the grace of god go I”

    That’s the crux of it

    …introduce a car and bike to the scenario and the mindset of the legal system and media completely changes

    Yep, I think you’re right Bez and Papa.

    The Cycling Silk article mentioned earlier shows how common this is in legal circles. In fact his entire blog reports it with depressing regularity.

    poly
    Member

    TJ – Its not an accident, someone made an error

    TJ – you need to buy yourself a dictionary. The word accident doesn’t mean there was no error involved. Here is the thefreedictionary.com definition:

    n.
    1.
    a. An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm: car accidents on icy roads.
    b. An unforeseen incident: A series of happy accidents led to his promotion.
    c. An instance of involuntary urination or defecation in one’s clothing.
    2. Lack of intention; chance: ran into an old friend by accident.
    3. Logic A circumstance or attribute that is not essential to the nature of something.

    TandemJeremy – Member
    With an inquest veredict of Accidental death it will be almost impossible to get either a civil claim or a criminal prosecution. the coroner could have recorded unlawfull killing which would have allowed both.

    I don’t believe this is the case at all. Normally Coroners wait until after any criminal prosecution so as not to prejudice the findings but it is not essential for them to do so; and civil proceedings with a lower burden of proof are less likely to be influenced in any case.

    Although I agree with other comments that a lack of paint wasn’t the route cause – I would say my experience is inconsiderately parked cars cause me more problems on the road than drivers overtaking in the wrong place – and it would certainly be wrong to ignore that part of the problem.

    antigee
    exactly – but the question is why is this unusual? rhetorical – because we as a society on the whole values the use of the car above human life…

    Because Coroners generally seem to prefer “Unlawful killing” for cases like Murder or Manslaughter where there was some intent to cause harm. Accidental death is different from ‘death by misadventure’ which would imply that the cyclist had taken some higher than normal risk.

    cycnic-al – do we know the family had representation and wished this line to be questioned?

    I’m no expert on the workings of the english Coroner’s court, but from my understanding the Coroner’s staff advise you of the process and inform you how you go about being represented etc. before the case is called. The family’s comment afterwards (in original news article) suggests they were not dissatisfied with the outcome.

    My point is – every time a judge says a cyclist’s death was not the fault of a motorist the STW (and I believe other cylcing fora) burst into outrage based on the limited information that the press have potentially misreported, claiming that the judge/jury/coroner is clueless and biased – when in fact they have sat through all the evidence in detail, listened to ‘arguments’ from both sides and made a dispassionate decision. Obviously the Judiciary could save a lot of money if all cases were simply tried on STW.

    Poly – on the contrary – if someone has made an error then it is not an accident as it is not in this case. It may be unintentional but it was not an accident. An accident means it was unforeseeable and there was no fault or mistake made hence why the police refer to RTCs not RTAs

    DrJ
    Member

    I’ve seen some proper cock end like cycling on the continent as a consequence of this [presumption of guilt of motorist]

    Me too, here in Copenhagen and also in Holland where I lived before, but I haven’t seen anyone die from cock end like cycling, so I think it’s a small price to pay.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Incidentally I see Donk has alerted the Cycling Silk to this case (good job Donk), and Silk has replied:

    “If the report is accurate then I am appalled at the way in which the police and the Coroner have been apologists for bad driving. Like so many cyclists I have been subjected to countless near misses through this type of restriction and sadly it is inevitable that, if drivers continue to squeeze past islands like this, tragedies will happen. Blaming everything but the driver is really shocking.”
    http://thecyclingsilk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/another-sentence-for-causing-death-by.html#comment-form

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    I would say my experience is inconsiderately parked cars cause me more problems on the road than drivers overtaking in the wrong place

    Let’s try a scientific test of that theory by eliminating the variables.

    Test 1: A road with inconsiderately parked cars and no traffic other than you on your bike.

    Test 2: A clear road with no parked cars, but with drivers overtaking in the wrong place.

    If Test 1 turns out to cause you more problems then Test 2 then, well, SHould Have Gone To Specsavers.

    Sorry, but whilst inanimate objects make the environment more awkward than it otherwise might be, they’re not causes of problems. If a driver cannot negotiate a bicycle on a road with parked cars without hitting the bicycle then that driver is not fit to be on the road.

    what DrJ said.

    AND…a change to a European style system of protecting cyclists would not give them carte blanche to ride without care, just make drivers increasingly cautious.

    antigee
    Member

    when in fact they have sat through all the evidence in detail, listened to ‘arguments’ from both sides and made a dispassionate decision

    and made a decision that fits societies current norms – in this case have accepted that it is ok for poor driving to kill someone – my understanding is that the coroner could recorded a “narrative verdict” possibly suggesting that the pinch points be removed or that driver training is improved (i’ll pass on the helmet)

    alex222
    Member

    An instance of involuntary urination or defecation in one’s clothing.

    at least this made me smile

    Premier Icon aracer
    Member

    Because Coroners generally seem to prefer “Unlawful killing” for cases like Murder or Manslaughter where there was some intent to cause harm.

    So I’m OK with firing off my shotgun as I mentioned above then, as I have no intent to cause harm?

    every time a judge says a cyclist’s death was not the fault of a motorist the STW (and I believe other cylcing fora) burst into outrage based on the limited information that the press have potentially misreported, claiming that the judge/jury/coroner is clueless and biased – when in fact they have sat through all the evidence in detail, listened to ‘arguments’ from both sides and made a dispassionate decision

    Well in this particular case, I’d love to know what additional evidence there is which we haven’t heard about which could possibly make the motorist totally blameless (as the judge concluded). I’m really, really struggling to think of anything, so I’d appreciate your input here.

    Unless of course you think the direct quotes used and facts reported by the press are inaccurate?

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    aracer, heard of wilful recklessness?

    Klunk
    Member

    this is why we need the “Driver Presumed Guilty” law.

    Premier Icon aracer
    Member

    heard of wilful recklessness?

    You’re referring to the car driver attempting to overtake through a width restriction?

    Premier Icon aracer
    Member

    So the change in page length hasn’t got rid of the need for glitchy bump?

    antigee
    Member

    AND…a change to a European style system of protecting cyclists would not give them carte blanche to ride without care, just make drivers increasingly cautious

    those that oppose this seem to do so mostly on the grounds that it would give cyclists a charter to scratch cars and damage wing mirrors
    with impunity – property above life

    alex222
    Member

    wilful recklessness?

    isn’t driving into a small gap with a cyclist already in that said small gap exactly the same?

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Does anyone know how many Highway Code rules you have to breach before your actions, leading to the death of another road user, are considered to be “careless or inconsiderate driving”?

    Or is it determined some other way?

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    I think there’s a key difference in that the sole function of a gun is to kill and maim; whereas the function of a car is to provide transport, and it just happens to be able to kill and maim.

    Extremely few people people have cause to use a gun to fulfil their work or leisure needs; whereas very many have cause to use cars, hammers, knives, chainsaws and all manner of other potentially lethal things.

    Guns are a poor analogy.

    Premier Icon aracer
    Member

    I think there’s a key difference in that the sole function of a gun is to kill and maim; whereas the function of a car is to provide transport, and it just happens to be able to kill and maim.

    Ah, but the function of my shotgun is to kill rabbits and pigeons, not people, so you can’t go round claiming it’s just doing what it was designed to. Plenty of pigeons to kill in my town centre.

    Though if you like, how about if I’m using my chainsaw to chop down a tree and don’t notice somebody walking by as I swing it around?

    alex222
    Member

    Guns are a poor analogy.

    though it is still

    wilful recklessness?

    Is it not?

    alex222
    Member

    Though if you like, how about if I’m using my chainsaw to chop down a tree and don’t notice somebody walking by as I swing it around?

    Not the same because you did not see the person so you would not have to adjust your behavior to protect the person.

    Try

    Though if you like, how about if I’m using my chainsaw to chop down a tree and don’t I notice somebody walking by as I swing it around and continue to do so regardless?

    “Until people in this country bother to understand how the legal system works threads like this are bound to be full of this sort of drivel.”

    It’s true that some people are seeing the coroner’s verdict in an ill-informed light, but I think focusing on that completely misses what’s going on here.

    The sequence of events is fairly clear, and it would appear that no blame has at any stage been laid at the driver’s feet (literally, in this case).

    Let me pick some quotes from the article to illustrate what reaction of The Powers That Be (media, police, local authority etc) actually gave:

    “Motorist Joseph Strong was driving behind him and saw him pull out, prompting him to pull over to give the vicar enough room.”

    Here we have the media painting the driver in a positive light despite the events showing beyond any argument that the vicar didn’t have enough room.

    “But a central reservation caused the road to narrow, and Mr Strong’s Skoda car clipped the kerb of the reservation as he tried to pass. His car turned slightly towards Mr Malleson, an experienced cyclist, and lightly clipped his handlebars. The “scuff” prompted Mr Malleson, who was not wearing a cycle helmet, to lose his balance and fall to the ground.”

    Here some inanimate object has intervened, seemingly unpredictably, whereupon a series of minor and by implication excusable events have occurred – just a clip, a turn and a light clip. The cyclist, for his part was “prompted to lose his balance”. Not “knocked off his bike” but “prompted”, as if by some benign power of mild persuastion.

    “PC Stuart Cockburn told the hearing he was concerned by cars being allowed to park where the road narrows.”

    I don’t know about you but I couldn’t give a flying fig about that. There’s nothing unsafe about inanimate cars and inanimate traffic islands here, given that the driver has observed the cyclist from well before each of them reached the line of cars.

    The PC chooses not to apportion blame with the driver but with the parking.

    “He told the inquest: ‘I don’t think that area of road is appropriate for parking. I have made enquiries with Newcastle City Council’s Highways Department and told them of my concerns.'”

    That’s as may be, and it may be perfectly fair, but to consider it relevant in this case is a clear demonstration of how reluctant the police are to put these things down to poor driving and human error.

    The PC continues in a fashion that blatantly and shamelessly excuses the motorist entirely:

    “Mr Strong has observed Rev Malleson ahead of him. He observed Rev Malleson had to move out in the carriageway to overtake the parked cars and he decided to give him plenty of room. Unfortunately, Mr Strong’s wheel hit the kerb of the reservation and it caused the car to go slightly to the left as Rev Malleson was coming slightly to the right. That’s caused the two of them to come together and the car has scuffed Rev Mallesons’s handlebars.”

    Every single phrase in there is toe-curlingly favourable to a motorist who clearly failed to judge the scenario in an even remotely safe manner. Despite all this apparent observation, they still collided. The PC says that the driver “decided to give him plenty of room” yet they still collided, despite his car going only “slightly to the left”. If that is plenty of room then my cock is eight feet long. Objects do not collide if there is “plenty of room” between them – I think we can agree this is basic physics. What the PC says is indefensible horse manure, yet in legal terms it carries immense weight.

    “Returning a verdict of accidental death, coroner David Mitford said neither Mr Strong, who was not speeding in the 30mph zone, nor Mr Malleson were at fault. He said: ‘I have been concerned about the situation with the parked cars and I have noted that the Cockburn took it upon himself to go to the local authority.'”

    The coroner has not simply returned a verdict of accidental death. He has (apparently) explicitly said that neither road user was at fault. Quite how two road users can collide fatally without either of them doing anything wrong is of course unfathomable to most of us, but Mitford agrees with the PC that the root of all trouble in this instance is a row of parked cars. He implies that the correct response to all this is to ask for some yellow paint. Not to address dangerous and negligent driving, but to apply some paint.

    “‘The local authority have said they will make changes to the road. They’re going to be made as soon as possible but in accordance with financial constraints. ‘I think life is more important that finance but at least those steps are being taken’.”

    And then, despite the entire of the blame for someone’s wholly unnecessary death being apportioned to the absence of two strips of paint, there’s a palpable sense of casualness about the whole remedial process.

    Now, if you want to get hung up on the points of what technical verdicts a coroner can return, then fine. But, let’s be honest, it’s irrelevant (unless a verdict of accidental death precludes certain prosecutions, in which case hell yeah it’s important, and hell yeah we should be pissed off).

    Here someone has died because a motorist has driven unsafely, and not one person has been found to be at fault. No-one at all. There is no trial, no conviction, no appropriate sentence. There is no comment made about why this insidious type of careless driving is so dangerous. The problem is, apparently, parked cars.

    Every single aspect of this case, the way it has been dealt with, and the way in which it has been reported, is sickening in the way it demonstrates that vulnerable road users will stay vulnerable for some time, and that most people are absolutely fine with that.

    And it’s about time most people weren’t fine with that.

    I just wanted to repost this before it gets drowned in a sea of the usual drivel. Spot on.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Bez gets it.

    Analogies like these are pointless really as it’s so easy to distinguish them from the RTC in question.

    EDIT back to the thread title – is there a consistent stream of “accidental death” verdicts for cyclists killed in RTCs?

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Ah, but the function of my shotgun is to kill rabbits and pigeons, not people

    But your job doesn’t require you to kill rabbits or pigeons and if you were interested in that as a leisure activity then there are very specific points of legislation relating to it, which are not related to cars.

    Not the same because you did not see the person so you would not have to adjust your behavior to protect the person.

    That’s SMIDSY then. Your responsibility is to see people as well as to act when you see them.

    Can we just not bother with analogies? They don’t work here. The problem is not one which can be served by such an inherently simplistic approach.

    The European Assumed liability referred to above would not have any relevance in this as its simply about civil liability -other than it sets a tone. it does not apply to criminal cases.

    So in this instance the family could claim damages under assumed liability and the driver would have to show it was not his fault – which the coroners verdict would help him to do. It would make no difference to the chances of criminal charges

    As TJ says, “Strict liability” is not the same as “presumption of guilt”. Criminal cases wouldn’t be affected by it at all.

    http://www.roadpeace.org/change/safer_streets/stricter_liability/

    Apparently most people in the Netherlands don’t even know what this is; it’s more applicable to countries which have better safety than the UK, but still don’t have the necessary separate infrastructure to get cyclist casualties down to the mere handful each year that happen in NL.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    “necessary separate infrastructure”…or driver awareness/education?

    I dno’t like bike paths…

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    “necessary separate infrastructure”…or driver awareness/education?

    I dno’t like bike paths…

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    back to the thread title – is there a consistent stream of “accidental death” verdicts for cyclists killed in RTCs?

    There certainly seems to be, anecdotally at least, from stories reported here and in other cycling forums and press. And the sentences of those that are convicted often seem overly lenient too.

    As others have pointed out, the possible coroner verdicts are limited so a ruling of “accidental death” is perhaps not quite as apologetic as I first assumed – on its own – but the case seems to have provoked little more than a collective shrugging from the police, coroner and journalist involved.

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    So, ballbags to arguing about this and that.

    What gives? If we assume the legal framework is fundamentally capable of supporting vulnerable road users (even if sentencing guidelines and police powers might need tweaking) then what could be done to address the culture of inattentive and blinkered road use?

    Headway? Brake? CTC? – Are any of their campaigns really aligned with this? Many discussions are focused on infrastructure or on sentencing in severe or fatal incidents, but I’m more interested in how you stop the rot before someone gets killed.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Would be good to see some stats on coroner’s verdicts, and also prosecutions/sentences for RTCs invloving deaths of peds and/or drivers too.

    I don’t like bike paths…

    A feeling shared by a lot of people. However, it’s hard to get away from the conclusion that countries with decent quality separate cycle infrastructure (not white lines painted on the road) such as Denmark, the NL and Germany are safer places to cycle.

    In the meantime, it’s really good to see people like Martyn Porter, Roadpeace, Sustrans and Carlton Reid trying to change society’s attitudes.

    But I can’t help feeling that unless some top-down intervention takes place, we’ll be stuck on the margins forever.

    We all know that speeding is illegal, and most people would accept that it makes driving more dangerous, but conviction rates for it were woeful until the right to trial by jury was abolished.

    Premier Icon cynic-al
    Subscriber

    Oh I can see that MrA, I guess like many I’d rather see cyclists retain a right to use roads and that drivers are punished/educated properly, rather than get segregated…bike paths seem the thin end of a wedge in that regard.

    joao3v16
    Member

    necessary separate infrastructure

    Yes, let’s not bother improving road safety, we’ll just move bikes off our roads.

    This way drivers can continue not paying proper attention to other road users, and can drive about dangerously, relaxed in the knowledge that they can go about their business without the inconvenience of needing to have consideration for anyone other than themselves.

    squadra
    Member

    Perhaps more attention should be given to those cases where the cyclist is “only” injured- but could easily have been killed e.g. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Careless-driver-fined-for-injuring-cyclist-in-collision-17042012.htm- the fine is laughably small and the words of the driver “I touched the cyclist with my wing mirror and she fell” sound chilling- as if he is surprised at this outcome.

    Anyone following the select commitee hearings on cycle safety today? For a summary see twitter @CTC_Cyclists

    Some encouraging some, some stuff to make you dispair.

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