Jersey coroner says foot stuck in clipless pedal led to cyclist's death

Neil Blood was using clipless pedals for first time during trip to Jersey - his father says he'd told son they were dangerous

by Simon_MacMichael   January 29, 2014  

Gavel

A coroner’s inquest has said that a British cyclist’s inability to unclip from his pedals led to him being killed after he lost his balance and was hit by a van while on holiday on Jersey in the Channel Islands. The coroner says he will be writing to Shimano, the manufacturers of the pedals, to raise his concerns.

Neil Blood, aged 42 and from Stoke-on-Trent, had not used clipless pedals prior to his holiday in July last year, where he was riding a new bike fitted with them.

Mr Blood was cycling with his cousin, Ruth, in St Helier and after turning to look at her, he hit a lamp post, causing him to lose his balance and fall under a passing van, reports the BBC.

His father, Geoff Blood, told the inquest that shortly before his son departed on his holiday he had urged him not to use clipless pedals, which he believes are dangerous.

“What happens with those cleats is you can’t pull your foot in and out,” he said, quoted in the Stoke Sentinel.

“You have to do a motion and when Neil or anybody is involved in an accident you don’t think logically.

“Your brain becomes a bit scrambled and to get your foot out of cleats you have got to think clearly.”

Mr Blood, a father of three who ran his own engineering business, received medical treatment at the scene but died in hospital shortly afterwards.

According to Home Office pathologist Dr Amanda Jeffrey, he sustained “extremely severe” injuries to his chest after being run over by the van.

The inquest heard that there was nothing the vehicle’s driver could have done to avoid hitting the cyclist.

Deputy Viscount Advocate Mark Harris said that Mr Blood’s death was a “tragic accident,” adding that he intended to write to Shimano to “bring this verdict to their attention.”

We have contacted both Shimano and UK distributor Madison for their reaction and will let you know their response.

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Looking at the pictures on the BBC site and refering to Streetview

http://goo.gl/maps/Z91A0
I believe he was travling toward the POV

I'd say he was on the path northbound and clipped the lampost near the wall knocking him over in to the road. I'd also say looking at the pictures the van was going in the same direction. If the van was doing anything like 30mph and he came straight off the kerb the van driver wouldn't really have a chance to miss him. I don't believe the type of pedal would've made much difference. Tragic accident, a case of wrong place at the wrong time.

posted by watlina [6 posts]
29th January 2014 - 17:50

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Gkam, it looks like the van has been pulled into the lay-by/parking area. On the other side of the gateway behind where the polis is standing there is what looks like a bike on the floor.

AyBee I was always of the understanding of when driving in built up areas to exercise caution and anticipate as there was no guarantee of what a pedestrian was likely to do. At least that's what I was taught when learning. I'm sure that applies to the pavement cyclists.

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posted by giff77 [959 posts]
29th January 2014 - 17:52

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I'm pretty sure that clipless pedals release your feet when you go over. At least all three pairs of mine do, both road and moutain. When I was "vanned" last year, I certainly ended up in a different place on the road to my bike, and I was clipped in at the time.
If they guy toppled off his bike, then whatever pedals he was using wouldn't have had any effect, he'd have still gone over sideways.

guildfordcyclist.wordpress.com

posted by argotittilius [10 posts]
29th January 2014 - 18:33

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dp24 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

Rule 163 of the Highway Code states:

"give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 213 and 214 to 215)."

And if the van driver had complied with the Highway code then he would have avoided the collision.

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. The fact he hit a lamppost, and the picture in the article above, would suggest that he riding on the pavement, and swerved/fell into the path of the vehicle. There is nothing a driver can do about such a scenario, Highway Code or not.

As someone said above, sometimes these things just happen, and there isn't a single person who can be blamed. It seems extremely unfair to try and make out that the driver could've avoided this.

Well I didn't really. My target was the Coroner. As far as driving is concerned and I am an Advanced Driver and drove in a professional capacity for over a decade I have to say, "there but for the grace of god - goes many of us" . But to say that there was nothing a driver could do or could have done to prevent a collision is to test the bounds of credulity a bit. I am very sceptical of 100% judgements.

In my opinion the main person at fault was unfortunately the cyclist. He took a vehicle on the road that he wasn't quite in control of. I would also put a bit of blame on the bike hire company. I believe it was hired. That let a novice out on the road with clipless pedals without checking they were expreienced in using them. That doesn't excuse him though. But that doesn't mean to say that if a cyclist is at prime fault everyone else gets a free pass on any of the blame.

I work with a the Police quite a lot and several of my mates are still Road Traffic Officers in Surrey. The times we have heard "There was nothing I could do" after a collision would boggle your mind.

People walking out, cyclists falling off, stuff falling off other vehicles, drivers pulling out in front of you. These all happen. They happen hundreds even thousands of times everyday across the country. The difference between many good drivers and the others is that good drivers don't hit everything that lands in or comes in to their path.

This is not voodoo. It's not luck. Most supposedly "unavoidable collisions" are actually avoidable.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [363 posts]
29th January 2014 - 18:40

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I recall one time early on in my spud usage and I didn't tighten the cleat up enough so it rotated a bit on the shoe and guess what? I toppled.

I'm sure a global brand like shimano would have assessed all risk to themselves in terms of their liabilities and thus written some pretty comprehensive and bulletproof disclaimers in the manual supplied with the pedals.

Is nobody allowed to just have an accident anymore?

posted by allez neg [399 posts]
29th January 2014 - 19:02

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I don't see how you can blame the van driver. He is driving down the road when the cyclist in front of him makes a radical change of course and speed as a result of the cyclist hitting a lamp-post. How quick are your reactions, people often freeze in these situations and are therefore slow to react.

I don't see how Shimano can be held responsible. Thousands of cyclists use SPD cleats/pedals everyday without incident. I use them on my commuter as part of my commute involves stairs. Also, whenever I have used a type of clip-less pedal I haven't used before I take myself off to a playing field and practice until everything feels natural. I have had funny looks from dog walkers - and had to explain myself to a constable on one occasion.

This is a simple case of death by misadventure. It has no rhyme or reason and my sympathies go out to all those concerned. This includes the van driver who is also a victim, he didn't get up that day and think "Today, I think I'll kill someone!" He has to live with the consequences as well; that horrible feeling you get when you close your eyes and replay the accident knowing that nothing you do will change it.

It is natural to want to blame someone else, to defend a loved one, but sometimes we just have to accept that we are human and make mistakes.

posted by levermonkey [174 posts]
29th January 2014 - 19:03

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Mostyn that's the road but a little bit further up the road:

http://goo.gl/maps/dyV7x

The article suggests there have been several bike-vehicle crashes there. I suspect drivers speed along that road because there aren't any side streets and not many people.

It does look like the rider was on the footpath and hit a pole near the wall. The bars would have turned left throwing him off to the right into the road. I guess a combination of factors led to the collision. Probably the pedals had little to do with it.

posted by drmatthewhardy [220 posts]
29th January 2014 - 19:29

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If Shimano clipless pedals are deemed 'unsafe' then god forbid anyone who learned to ride with toeclips and straps - barely a club ride would pass without someone falling over due to a failure to loosen their straps. Don't remember anyone blaming their pedals, only themselves.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [343 posts]
29th January 2014 - 19:49

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Tragic whichever way you look at it.

Not wishing to be contentious but I would be interested to know if the "new" pedals were bought mail order or from a LBS.

Was a proper fitting service given to ensure the cleats were set correctly and a briefing given on how best to use them?

posted by festival [94 posts]
29th January 2014 - 19:57

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People are still trying to blame the driver.....seriously

The cyclist came down between the front and rear wheels, NOTHING the driver could have done, would legislate for that scenario.

It is a tragic accident, and accidents happen.....

OH NO, I forgot, when there is a cyclist involved, it has to be someone's fault....

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posted by Gkam84 [8142 posts]
29th January 2014 - 20:00

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This is a very sad story, but I think the coroner is probably making a bit of leap in stating that clipless pedals had a role in causing the accident.

Personally I have fallen off due to not being able to release quickly enough from my pedals but I've had this experience on clipless, toe clips and even flat pedals with studs. I have also crashed due to slipping off of flat pedals. Although I haven't experienced it myself I know that unclipping accidently can also pose problems.

Conversely, when riding CX I can usually get uncliped in time to get a foot out if I'm sliding out on a corner and had no pedal-related problems in a recent collision with a car where I was clipped in at maximum tension.

I would very much like to see some more information about this case. It seems that the guy was on the pavement at the time but its not clear if he had just pulled over, maybe to wait for his companion or if he was actually travelling on the pavement. Perhaps he was even aiming for the lampost as a leaning spot if he was having difficulties with his pedals.

posted by Matt eaton [222 posts]
29th January 2014 - 20:35

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I've fallen twice while clipped into my Speedplays and both times I stayed clipped in, albeit both were at stops/very low speed so probably not enough force to pop my ankle out and unclip me. I'm probably one of the clumsiest people on the planet and have had near misses where I had to unclip going 20 kmh in under 3m and skidded out to keep from rear ending my husband whose chain had locked up in front of me. The only reason I've been able to do that is because the motion of unclipping has become muscle memory to me but when I was starting out, I had to take the time to think about it and spent a lot of time practicing on quiet residential streets and strangely basketball courts till it became natural.

Condolences to the family it sounds like they're really hurting. I suspect it's psychologically easier to blame a thing like a pedal system or circumstances like traffic conditions than your dead loved one. Doesn't excuse the coroner for their leaps of logic though IMHO.

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

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posted by movingtarget [99 posts]
29th January 2014 - 21:10

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I was hit by a car coming across a dual carriageway as I was competing in a time trial and I was extremely glad not to be wearing toeclips and straps, Shimano Look patented clipless pedals came into their own. The car hit me, the bike went under the car and I sailed over the bonnet and landed in the side of another car that was stationary on the left waiting to enter the dual carriageway. I didn't come out unscathed but shudder to think what may have been had I not had the ski binder type pedals fitted. As previously mentioned, I too have occasionally been unable to release when virtually stopped. A sorry outcome to this incident, and I offer deep sympathy but it was a very unfortunate chain of events but I cannot lay total fault on the pedals.

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
29th January 2014 - 22:50

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Just had another thought on this. The guy was obvioulsy, rightly or wrongly, on the pavement. This is a really key piece of information as it resulted in him hitting a lampost, setting off a tradgic chain of events.

I see LOADS of 'shared use' paths and pavements that have obstacles such as lamposts and road signs on them and have always thought it qustionable that such obstructions should exist. This case provides clear evidence that siting such things on cycle routes is dangerous and if there is one lesson to be learned it is that cycle routes must be kept free of such obstructions.

posted by Matt eaton [222 posts]
29th January 2014 - 22:55

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What exactly does the coroner think Shimano will do with this new information?

Does anyone else remember the leaflet that comes with shimano SPD pedals? The one with all the dire warnings about death and serious injury, if you don't know what you're doing with them? What more can they do?

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posted by PJ McNally [560 posts]
29th January 2014 - 23:05

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I hate to say it but I suspect that the coroner has never used clipless pedals.

If you approach the subject from a position of ignorance its probably quite difficult to understand why you would want to be 'attached' to your pedals - its easy to draw the conclusion that its dangerous.

Anyone who rides fixed gear will know what I mean. Try explaining to someone why you prefer not to be able to freewheel or change gear; it doesn't make sense until you experience it.

posted by Matt eaton [222 posts]
29th January 2014 - 23:13

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Matt eaton wrote:
Just had another thought on this. The guy was obvioulsy, rightly or wrongly, on the pavement. This is a really key piece of information as it resulted in him hitting a lampost, setting off a tradgic chain of events.

I see LOADS of 'shared use' paths and pavements that have obstacles such as lamposts and road signs on them and have always thought it qustionable that such obstructions should exist. This case provides clear evidence that siting such things on cycle routes is dangerous and if there is one lesson to be learned it is that cycle routes must be kept free of such obstructions.

It is not obvious, but the signs are pointing to him riding on the pavement.

As for shared use paths having obstacles like road signs and lampposts. Its the chicken and egg thing.....which came first and I bet most of the paths you refer to were an after thought, they were just normal pavements before.

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posted by Gkam84 [8142 posts]
29th January 2014 - 23:23

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Gkam84 wrote:
Matt eaton wrote:
Just had another thought on this. The guy was obvioulsy, rightly or wrongly, on the pavement. This is a really key piece of information as it resulted in him hitting a lampost, setting off a tradgic chain of events.

I see LOADS of 'shared use' paths and pavements that have obstacles such as lamposts and road signs on them and have always thought it qustionable that such obstructions should exist. This case provides clear evidence that siting such things on cycle routes is dangerous and if there is one lesson to be learned it is that cycle routes must be kept free of such obstructions.

It is not obvious, but the signs are pointing to him riding on the pavement.

As for shared use paths having obstacles like road signs and lampposts. Its the chicken and egg thing.....which came first and I bet most of the paths you refer to were an after thought, they were just normal pavements before.

OK, I grant you it's not an absolute certainty that they guy was on the pavement, he might have bumped up onto the footway and into the lampost although this seems unlikely.

I agree that most shared use pavements were not always shared use and have been changed following the realisation that road conditions are too intimidating for many cyclists. This however, is not really the point. If the pavement is re-purposed as a shared space it should be done properly, including the removal of such obstacles and, slightly unrelated, its inclusion in highway mainenance plans such as sweeping and gritting.

I find it frustrating that many shared use paths are more dangerous than the roads that run next to them, usually due to the way that they intersect joining roads but lamposts etc. are an additional hazard.

posted by Matt eaton [222 posts]
29th January 2014 - 23:30

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I think the coroner is in for a surprise from Shimano when they write back to tell them how many they sell and precisely how many of them have led to fatalities.

Without downplaying what is a terrible tragedy this is a warning to people to not ride on the road with equipment they can't control. I would reckon (although I have no evidence) that tri-bars have been involved in many more accidents and despite having used them in the past I would have to say they should not be allowed on public roads.

(Ducks to avoid incoming...)

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
30th January 2014 - 0:24

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Here's the link to the warning instructions - http://techdocs.shimano.com/media/techdocs/content/cycle/SI/Pedals/PDM50...

I might even email them to the Jersey Coroner myself.

Actually I prefer SPD - especially in a shoe that has a recess - have fallen down stairs so many times with other cleats that I've lost count - fortunately though my skins have retained the scar tissue for me as a reminder.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
30th January 2014 - 0:29

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KiwiMike wrote:
no. No. NO. N-O.

"...causing him to lose his balance and fall under a passing van"

He did NOT 'fall under a passing van'. You cannot 'fall under' something. You fall over, then IT runs OVER you.

The van driver was following too close, did not react to another road user in front of him, and RAN HIM OVER.

Had the van driver been travelling at a safe distance behind, or been passing with 1.5m of space, or passing at an appropriate speed, then he would not have ran him over.

That's it. End of.

This reply sickens me almost as much as this horrible accident, so I'm going to play devils advocate here.

1. If a driver is looking somewhere else (perhaps looking at their child in the back seat of their car) and they hit a cyclist, who's fault is it ?.... but a cyclist who takes their eyes off the road, hits a lamppost and falls over, they are then struck by a van and its still the van drivers fault... really ? glad you pointed that out.

2. The article has no mention of what happened after the lamppost was struck, I doubt the poor bugger went straight down, what happened if he swerved off line by say 1.5 metres and then fell right, given the height of a typical person that would add another 1.5 metre to the distance making him 3m from the side of the road, also if that happened just as the van was about to pass there is no way it could of been avoided.

End Of.

posted by mikeprytherch [173 posts]
30th January 2014 - 9:50

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hairyairey wrote:
I think the coroner is in for a surprise from Shimano when they write back to tell them how many they sell and precisely how many of them have led to fatalities.

Without downplaying what is a terrible tragedy this is a warning to people to not ride on the road with equipment they can't control. I would reckon (although I have no evidence) that tri-bars have been involved in many more accidents and despite having used them in the past I would have to say they should not be allowed on public roads.

(Ducks to avoid incoming...)

There are plenty of other things used on public roads that have caused many, many more deaths than any bike-related equipment.

posted by teaboy [121 posts]
30th January 2014 - 10:48

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mikeprytherch wrote:
KiwiMike wrote:
no. No. NO. N-O.

"...causing him to lose his balance and fall under a passing van"

He did NOT 'fall under a passing van'. You cannot 'fall under' something. You fall over, then IT runs OVER you.

This reply sickens me almost as much as this horrible accident, so I'm going to play devils advocate here..

Whilst I might apologise for your illness, I make zero apology for my reply. Maybe in a tiny, *tiny* percentage of KSI collisions there was genuinely nothing the driver could have done - such as a cyclist veering head-on into the path of a vehicle with no warning. But what many people on here have shown is just how pervasive the 'there but for the grace of god go I' attitude is in the UK. No wonder so many juries acquit drivers who could have and should have taken a lot more care.

As the operator of the heavier vehicle you have an obligation to defer to other more vulnerable road users, to allow for their errors. That seems anathema to 99% of UK drivers.

That's what is sickening, because it kills people every day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvLaTupw-hk

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [363 posts]
30th January 2014 - 12:45

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oozaveared wrote:

I work with a the Police quite a lot and several of my mates are still Road Traffic Officers in Surrey. The times we have heard "There was nothing I could do" after a collision would boggle your mind.

People walking out, cyclists falling off, stuff falling off other vehicles, drivers pulling out in front of you. These all happen. They happen hundreds even thousands of times everyday across the country. The difference between many good drivers and the others is that good drivers don't hit everything that lands in or comes in to their path.

This is not voodoo. It's not luck. Most supposedly "unavoidable collisions" are actually avoidable.

I have to somewhat agree with the above. Whilst it's clear that the cyclist made a hideous inexperienced error, I dont think it's as simple as there was nothing the driver could have done because the cyclist started on the pavement.

If I'm driving I always slow down or give room to "vulnerable" people on the pavement. If there's room I drive further out away from pavement, if there's no room then I slow down. I always do this if I see a kid on a bike on the pavement, as there's a slim chance* they might fall off or slip in the road.

Slow down? But they're on the pavement you say?

It is clearly not acceptable to closely pass a cyclist at speed if they are on the road for obvious reasons. Why is then acceptable to hammer past closely if they are on a narrow shared-path? Just because they are raised above the road surface, why does that mean it's suddenly okay to pass closely and quickly with no-room-for-error?

*In fact it's not even a "slim chance". A large proportion of cyclists killed are KIDS that badly transitioned from the pavement to the road.

posted by sfichele [78 posts]
30th January 2014 - 15:37

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Matt eaton wrote:

Personally I have fallen off due to not being able to release quickly enough from my pedals but I've had this experience on clipless, toe clips and even flat pedals with studs. I have also crashed due to slipping off of flat pedals. Although I haven't experienced it myself I know that unclipping accidently can also pose problems.

Indeed... I have been riding clipless for a little under 2 decades now, and was riding with toe-clips and straps for the decade before that. As far as I can recall, I have not fallen as a result of being unable to release fast enough. And on the few occasions I have fallen (MTB and road), the pedals have released during the fall.

I have, however, had one messy accident*, and two very close misses that could have been nasty, as a result of one of my pedals releasing when I was accelerating hard.

But I would not blame the pedals (or Shimano) for any of those three incidents. The problems were (in differing proportions each time): over-worn cleats, release mechanism not really tight enough for how I was cycling at the time, odd movement as I was accelerating whereby I moved my heel out a bit far. Ultimately, the responsibility for all these lies with me - I should have ensured my cleats were in good condition, that the release mechanism was tight enough, and I was not being sloppy with my cycling technique.

Conceivably that might not be the case in all instances (e.g., if poor manufacturing causes something to break when being used within design specification), but I would very much expect the proportion of these vs. proportion of user error/'negligence' to be very small.

Relating to this story, I do feed very sad for all those involved. But I struggle to see how a very well proven product can be stated as being inherently dangerous.

[* Thankfully the only involved parties were the road, my bike and me - no cars/pedestrians/other cyclists/animals were harmed in the process]

posted by Tjuice [93 posts]
30th January 2014 - 15:53

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argotittilius wrote:
I'm pretty sure that clipless pedals release your feet when you go over.

That has also been my experience.

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posted by harman_mogul [88 posts]
30th January 2014 - 16:46

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teaboy wrote:
There are plenty of other things used on public roads that have caused many, many more deaths than any bike-related equipment.

Mobile phones for example.

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posted by harman_mogul [88 posts]
30th January 2014 - 16:50

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I do find it a bit awkward that the discussion is occurring in the context of a case where so many of the specifics seem to be unknown, and where someone tragically died.

The trouble is though, that I don't know that the coroner's speculation about the pedals is any more strongly grounded than what's been discussed here. He might have more information than we do, but he doesn't seem to have said what it is. So its hard not to continue the discussion that he's already started.

It really doesn't sound to me like the driver was at fault, but it does sound like something that could have been avoided if there had been better infrastructure in place, i.e. something that wouldn't require cycling on a path with obstructions in it right next to fast moving traffic. Is there anything about the facts of the case that contradicts that?

I don't, as its described, see why the coroner focuses on the pedals while ignoring that side of it.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [501 posts]
30th January 2014 - 17:49

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Maybe all of this focus on the pedals is a more political issue.

Jersey prides itself on being a safe and enjoyable place to cycle. There are many routes where motor vehicles are not allowed and if I remember rightly the maximum speed limit on the island is 40mph. If you want to rack up hundreds of miles on a cycling trip the place is probably a bit small but for less serious cycle tourists its a very attractive destination.

Maybe a coroner concluding that poor infrastructure or a prevelance of heavy vehicles was a factor in this case wouldn't have gone down so well in a place that markets itself as a holiday destination.

posted by Matt eaton [222 posts]
30th January 2014 - 19:47

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And I thought 15 stitches was a bad SPD fail!

posted by Initialised [62 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 0:36

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