Cyclist who died after being hit by three cars should have worn a helmet, says coroner

79-year-old rider dies of head injuries following crash in which third vehicle hit him at 40mph

by Simon_MacMichael   April 27, 2011  


A coroner presiding over the case of a cyclist who died of serious head injuries sustained after he was struck by three cars, one of them travelling at 40 miles per hour, has suggested that wearing a cycle helmet might have increased the accident victim’s chances of survival and has urged other cyclists to sport one.

Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford, sitting at Windsor Guildhall, recorded a verdict of accidental death in the case of William Honour, aged 79 from Bracknell, Berkshire, who died in Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital the day after the accident on the A322 on a Saturday morning in October last year.

The exact circumstances of the incident, reported by the Get Bracknell website, appear unclear, with the driver of the first vehicle involved, a Ford Focus, unaware that Mr Honour had been riding in the vicinity until after the vehicle and the cyclist apparently collided.

The car’s driver, Michael Bull, said: “I looked in my mirror after I heard a bang on the nearside door. Someone appeared to be falling over. I didn’t see a bike, I thought he was a pedestrian. I did feel I was driving as carefully as I could.”

Mr Honour was then struck by an Alfa Romeo being driven by Rachel Marriott, who told the inquest: “When I saw him he was upright cycling and there was no cause for concern.

“I noticed mist on my window and I went to put my right hand up and as my hand made contact with the windscreen my bonnet was level with the cyclist and I saw the cyclist wobble which made me react. I swerved right and didn’t even check my blind spot so I’m glad there was nothing on my right side.

“I knew he was falling so I had to get out of the way,” she added.

The inquest was told that the Alfa Romeo’s nearside wing mirror had been dislodged from its normal position.

The driver of the third vehicle involved, Citroen C1, explained that she had been driving at approximately 40 miles per hour and had left two car spaces between her vehicle and the Alfa Romeo ahead of her.

According to the Highway Code, the typical stopping distance at that speed is nine car lengths.

The Citroen’s driver, Catherine Nicker, said: “I first saw the cyclist coming out to the side of the car in front.

“He came out and already started to fall, he was astride his bike on the floor. I was in shock, it all happened so quickly.

“Maybe if I had left more space between me and the car in front, but I thought I had left enough room. Apart from that there’s nothing I could do.”

The inquest also heard a statement read out from Deborah Hall, who earlier that day had seen Mr Honour on the road where the fatal accident took place and who said: “He appeared very wobbly similar to a child first learning how to ride a bike.”

The coroner said that a damp road surface may have been a contributory factor to the accident and added: “Perhaps all of us can learn something from this tragic event. I do feel wearing a helmet would have increased Mr Honour’s chances of survival.

“We are all very quick to put helmets on our children but we are all vulnerable.

“Whether it would have changed the outcome I cannot say,” he concluded.

30 user comments

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Two of the three car drivers appear to have been driving without due care and attention and one seems to admit this in regard to the distance bwetween vehicle. the other driver admits being distracted. A cycle helmet is not designed to cope with 40mph impacts. And yet the coroner says a cycle helmet could have helped protect the rider? Well maybe it could but then in all likelihood it probably wouldn't have given the circumstances as they appear here. I can't help thinking that the coroner is missing the point.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:27

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“Whether it would have changed the outcome I cannot say,” he concluded

So as a supposedly intelligent person is such a post why voice an opinion in what should be findings of fact the first place.

The fact that the first driver did not even notice they had come close enough to have a minor impact with the cyclist, who then appeared to be destabilised such that the next driver following too closely behind was unable to completely avoid a collision and the driver behind her likewise unable to stop before what would appear to be the crucially serious impact.

A call to enforce safer spacing of vehicles in moving traffic and the failure of drivers to properly observe the road along which they are travelling would be measures to prevent such tragedies in future - not a suggestion that the cyclist should have been wearing a helmet - so where are those conclusions in the coroners report?

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [560 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:40

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I note that a motorist who saw him earlier is drawn in to say 'he looked wobbly". car drivers always say this about cyclist - . this comment has all the authenticity of Nanky-Poo in the Mikado telling the emperor about the execution of the Prince?

The whole article in the newspaper is written to exonerate the car drivers - the crying is good, yes a witness is crying but about what,we need to be told.

If he looked that wobbly, surely the cars that hit him would have given him more space at the time of the accident? The highway code is clear on cars passing bikes..check out rule 163. Why did the Coroner not draw attention to the driving behaviour which was clearly not in the spirit of this?


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posted by robbieC [62 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:47

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Unbelievable: "I was driving as carefully as I could" yet "I didn't see a bike"
Unbelievable: thinking that 2 car lengths as 40mph is adequate

So the damp road surface could have a been a contributing factor? Should I take a towel as well as a helmet so I can dry the road before I proceed?

I hope Thames Valley Police look again at this case with a view to prosecution.

Yet another tragic ending.

Exercising my rights by taking them cycling

posted by pedalingparamedic [94 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:48

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Same old story. 'I didn't see him/her/it until it was too late.' How do people get away with this rubbish. Without due care and attention at the very least. And how can a coroner comment about helmet use without knowing anything about the data on the subject, which is inconclusive at best. Cycle helmets are not designed for impacts with cars traveling at 40 mph.


posted by AlexStriplight [75 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:59

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I obviously don't know all the details but if she had given adequate space while overtaking ( & cleaning her windscreen for that matter). A 'wee wobble' as she put it wouldn't have resulted in the cyclist being struck by the car. It couldve been a pothole or anything.

The same goes for the car behind, surely there'll be a prosecution in this.

posted by mowatb [20 posts]
27th April 2011 - 12:59

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Interesting to note that whilst the Coroner is happy to speculate on the outcome had the cyclist worn a helmet "I do feel wearing a helmet would have increased Mr Honour’s chances of survival" he passes no comment on a driver who is driving so close to the car in front there is NO WAY she is able to stop when the first car clips the cyclist and swerves.

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
27th April 2011 - 13:12

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Yet again, cars prove the least risky weapon for killing another human?

I've not seen a helmet which claims to protect against car impacts at all, let alone 40+mph ones.

posted by a.jumper [833 posts]
27th April 2011 - 13:36

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If wearing a helmet protects you from being hit by a car at 40mph, I'm definitely going to wear one in future. Where can I buy this magic helmet?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
27th April 2011 - 13:37

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Hold on a second....3 drivers effectivly admit to driving without due care and attention and the cyclist gets the blame!!!

what the hell is the CPS playing at??

feck em...feck em all!!!!!

posted by mrchrispy [414 posts]
27th April 2011 - 14:19

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If the cyclist looked wobbly, why on earth didn't the first driver indicate and give more room. I reckon they were preoccupied and not paying attention to the road.

I assume by the above that nothing happened to them.



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posted by Marky Legs [125 posts]
27th April 2011 - 14:37

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Quote from the third driver - “I noticed mist on my window and I went to put my right hand up and as my hand made contact with the windscreen my bonnet was level with the cyclist and I saw the cyclist wobble which made me react. I swerved right and didn’t even check my blind spot so I’m glad there was nothing on my right side."

She was driving at 40mph too close to the vehicle in front and the INSIDE of her windscreen was misted up thus reducing her vision even more. I hope, but doubt, that the police will prosecute her.

As for the coroner; what qualifications do you need apart from being a prat?

Done Nightrider 2013, 2014 and 2015 for Parkinson's UK. Next year Ride London

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posted by jova54 [663 posts]
27th April 2011 - 15:53

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Three motorist practically admitting careless driving and all the coronor can suggest is that the outcome may have been different with the wearing of a helmet!!!

Looking at the picture and reading the article (speed limit 70mph) it would appear to be a dual-carriageway and therefore plenty of room to change lanes and give the cyclist plenty of room _ why was this not highlighted in the inquest Angry

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posted by giff77 [1186 posts]
27th April 2011 - 16:20

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Truely stupid comments from the coroner.
The first two drivers admitted they were driving without due care and attention, the third that she was traveling too close to the vehicle in front. Yet the police don't seem to have done anything about this.
The drivers should have been aware of Mr Honour in front and overtaken with sufficent space that even if he wobbled they would not hit him.

From the newspaper:

An inquest at Windsor Guildhall heard how the 79-year-old appeared from nowhere in front of a blue Ford Focus

Unless Mr Honour had learnt to bend the laws of physics he didn't appear from nowhere, the driver just wasn't concentrating.

posted by thereverent [357 posts]
27th April 2011 - 17:02

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The 'appeared from nowhere' excuse appears particularly silly on this stretch of road. As you'd expect from a road with a 70mph limit, you can see right along it.

posted by bazzargh [147 posts]
27th April 2011 - 18:08

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Don't you just love the idea that an intelligent person can believe that a cyclist can appear from nowhere? This is as ridiculous as the idea that that a helmet can protect you from a driver who is not looking where they are going. I can confirm that this is a fast straight road; have cycled along it hundreds of times. This appears to be a case of one driver not concentrating and clipping a cyclist. The other two I suspect would have found it difficult to miss him. On most days you will not see many drivers driving at less than the speed limit (70mph)on this road. Condolences to his family and may he rest in peace. Lets hope the CPS are more open minded...

posted by SideBurn [913 posts]
27th April 2011 - 18:50

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no helmet on this earth will protect your bonce from 1.5 tonnes travelling at 40mph ..... and still nothing gets
done to the "righteouus" car drivers ... gah

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [925 posts]
27th April 2011 - 19:33

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The coroner is probably a well educated man, if the poor victim had been run over by a forty ton vehicle he would probably have come to the same conclusion, surely coroners should be aware of just what a helmet is designed for and it's efficacy in a forty mph collision.


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posted by antonio [1108 posts]
27th April 2011 - 19:45

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I bet if you searched through the archives of coroner court procedings in the Pre-Civil Rights Deep South, or South Africa under apartheid, you'd find plenty of similiar-sounding comments. A black man found beaten by the side of the road? "Perhaps if he hadn't been wearing a suit and tie, it would have increased his chances of not getting the shit kicked out of him." Or, "he was dancing about like a crazy person, so I had to smash his head in for fear he would have attacked my wife." Or, "if I knew thrashing a negro was against the law I wouldn't have done it."

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
27th April 2011 - 20:02

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I expect the coroner is a motorist, and it's all in the context that people can't be held responsible for what the ton of metal they're in charge of collides with. The coroner implicitly accepts this is the case and unfortunately society does too. It's reinforced pretty much everywhere you look, from the language of reporting ("cyclist in collision with a motor vehicle") to that Churchill ad ("What if I'm just driving along and, bang! I have an accident").

It's really, really sad.

posted by Chuck [498 posts]
28th April 2011 - 10:46

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Chuck wrote:
It's reinforced pretty much everywhere you look, from the language of reporting ("cyclist in collision with a motor vehicle") to that Churchill ad ("What if I'm just driving along and, bang! I have an accident")

"Cyclist in collision with a motor vehicle" is a neutral statement of fact, and is often the only way an incident can be reported, especially in its immediate aftermath when the full circumstances have yet to be established.

The phrase we sadly often see reported is something along the lines of "the cyclist collided with the lorry," which isn't neutral and does seem to apportion blame on the victim.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [9520 posts]
28th April 2011 - 13:59

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In this case the helmet would have saved the ambulance crew sweeping up bits of his brain spread over the road. With three cars hitting him, driven by negligent drivers (it appears) it almost certainly would not have saved his life - it would have just kept his head in one place.

A sad, misguided, comment from the coroner, imho.

Bring me sunshine, and dry roads

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posted by MalcolmBinns [114 posts]
28th April 2011 - 16:54

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I have heard of one its called a motorcycle crash helmet - maybe this was the type of helmet the coroner was on about. lol. Maybe we should also wear leathers while we are at it. When will a cat drive ever be held responsible for there actions oh she wobble - that's alright I can mow her down.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [119 posts]
28th April 2011 - 19:04


None of these drivers should have been close enough to hit him. I will always give extra space when passing to a bike, even driving down the right hand side of the road if necessary.

Having had the misfortune of dealing with the police over one person who drove into me deliberately I do not expect that anything will be done about this.

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

posted by hairyairey [295 posts]
28th April 2011 - 20:47

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SO once again the victim is responsible for "upsetting" the day of three negligent motorists !
Perhaps the Coroner would like him brought back to life so he can jail him for being in the wrong place on a bike thus "traumatising" these "pathetic inattentive drivers" ?
Because the car in front is going in a straight line it does not mean the road is clear and those following can tail gate without consequences .
CPS needs to get a grip on the facts and act , loss of life has consequences , and just because the prisons are full they should not fail in their duty to the public !
Sadly "handlebarcam" has made the only relevant remarks that haven't been repeated " Ad Nauseam ".

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [409 posts]
28th April 2011 - 21:25

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Disgusting. Those drivers, especially the first, manipulating the truth to excuse themselves from responsibility for the man's death.

How many people have to die before the authorities seek to make the roads safe for cyclists?

posted by paulfg42 [395 posts]
29th April 2011 - 12:51

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Yet again it is proven the best way of killing someone and getting away with it scot free is to hit them with a car. Those drivers should be charged and the coroner should be made to publicly apologise to the family for his ill formed comments. Disgraceful!

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posted by cidermart [493 posts]
29th April 2011 - 16:52

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I have sent an email to The Telegraph's letters page, I would urge all in the name of road safety to do the same. Write to various papers letters over this issue and get your voice heard.

It doesnt matter what your views are on cycle helmets - only thing that would have prevented this would have been safe and appropriate driving.

If you live in the area then please write to your MP about your concerns over both road safety, and the views of this coroner.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
2nd May 2011 - 22:51

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Excuse cross-posting (or whatever it's called). I wrote to the coroner (, and he did make the effort to reply:

I'm not clear, whether, as someone who may or may not be a 'properly interested person', I'll get a reply to my follow-up, which asked if he thought about what the press would talk about when he made his summing up ...

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posted by timlennon [229 posts]
3rd May 2011 - 10:23

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timlennon wrote:
Excuse cross-posting (or whatever it's called). I wrote to the coroner (, and he did make the effort to reply:

I'm not clear, whether, as someone who may or may not be a 'properly interested person', I'll get a reply to my follow-up, which asked if he thought about what the press would talk about when he made his summing up ...

I'm guessing (and only a guess) that a "properly interested person" would be a solicitor representing a client, a family member, the Police/CPS and possibly the press.

In my comment on the CTC thread on this (in their helmet section of the forum) I did wonder if this was a misrepresentation of the facts by the press. From his reply it appears the press did omit some detail.

One of the guys on the CTC forum, an ex-copper I think?? Did say that these sorts of inquests are limited. However the cycle helmet comment just cannot stand up to scrutiny until someone actually forensically tests them for higher speed impact.

Interestingly the Police aknowledge this when they wrote in their Police Collision file for 2001-2006 (PPR438) that there is need for proper forensic analysis of not just helmets but the whole collision, the body, etc, before they could fully determine the effectiveness.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
3rd May 2011 - 16:48

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