A cyclist who is standing trial for manslaughter after he collided with a pedestrian on London’s Old Street last year has said he did not know it was a legal requirement for his fixed-gear bike to be equipped with a front brake.
He also told an Old Bailey courtroom that he did not believe that having a front brake would have enabled him to avoid colliding with 44-year-old HR consultant Kim Briggs in February last year.
Mrs Briggs, who had been crossing the road during her lunch break, sustained fatal head injuries in the crash.
Charlie Alliston, now aged 20, is accused of manslaughter and of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving. He denies both charges.
The court heard how he had been riding at approximately 18 miles an hour when the fatal collision happened, with Alliston shouting twice at Mrs Briggs to get out of the way.
Under cross-examination from prosecuting counsel Duncan Penny QC, he said: “I was cycling at a safe and reasonable speed personal to myself. I was capable at the time of controlling it.”
Asked why he had shouted at Mrs Briggs, he said: “To make the pedestrian aware of my presence, so they were aware if they were to then cross the road.”
Alliston, who was 18 at the time, said he had not known that it was a legal requirement under English law for a fixed gear bike to have a front brake, but insisted that even if his bike had been equipped with one, the outcome would have been the same.
“I wouldn’t have had enough time to pull it,” he said. “It was a few split seconds prior to the impact, which caused the impact, so a brake at the time wouldn’t have made a difference.”
He had bought his Planet X bike second hand for £470 the previous month, and the court heard that he told the vendor that he had worked as a cycle courier and planned to use the bike for track cycling.
Alliston denied claims that he took unnecessary risks while riding, saying: “I did not get a kick or enjoyment out of not being safe.”
The prosecution highlighted a tweet from February 2015 in which Alliston likened riding without a front brake to being in a “Lucas Brunelle movie,” a reference to the US film-maker known for his work surrounding ‘alleycat’ races.
But the defendant refuted claims he sought to emulate Brunelle or that he was a risk-taker.
“I wouldn’t say I drove recklessly or at any time dangerously,” he replied. “At all times I would know what I’m doing and be completely responsible for my actions.
“I did not get a kick or enjoyment out of not being safe,” he added.
Today, the prosecution and defence will make their closing statements, followed by the judge’s summing-up. The jury will retire on Monday to start considering their verdict.
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Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.