Inquest told how cyclist died when he was thrown from his bike after hitting rock

Coroner says debris could have been caused by lorry damage to verge of narrow road

by Simon_MacMichael   December 20, 2012  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

A coroner's inquest has recorded a verdict of accidental death in the case of a cyclist who was killed after he was thrown from his bike after a rock on the country lane on which he was riding.

Scott Crawford, aged 50 and from East Kilbride, Scotland, died from internal injuries sustained to his lung, liver and spleen having also sustained a fractured skull and ribs during the incident that took place on Dawes Lane, Sarratt, Hertfordshire on Friday 3 August this year, reports the Watford Observer.

The 50-year-old, who worked in Rickmansworth, stayed in nearby Little Chalfont during week and would return home to his family at weekends. On the day he died, however, he had decided not to go back to Scotland that weekend so he could stay close to London, where the OIympics were taking place at the time.

At this week's inquest in Hatfield, forensic collision investigator John Spears said: "The bike was in very good condition and Mr Crawford was wearing a helmet.

"The bike had struck an item at speed, causing the tyre to be crushed and two punctures. This caused rapid deflation and the rider to be thrown off.

"The road was very small and windy, and overhanging foliage caused a lot of darkness and there were large pieces of flint and rock on the road surface."

PC Robert Hauxwell of Hertfordshire Constabulary's serious collision unit told the inquest: "No one saw Mr Crawford come off his bike. He was found by a man who lives near the lane, who saw a red flashing bicycle light and then realised there was a man lying on his back.

"Another neighbour said the water board had been working nearby the night before. The workmen had gone but there were stones all over the walkway.

"The people I spoke to all felt the stones were a factor and they felt guilty for not moving them away. They were most likely from a contractor’s lorry."

Recording the verdict of accidental death, coroner Edward Thomas said: "Some lorries have to use these narrow roads and their tyres rub up against the bank leaving debris behind.

"He hit his head very hard and died almost instantaneously. He was very well respected at work, was very happy and had lovely kids. It’s awful and very, very sad."

A statement from Mr Crawford's family read: "All Scott’s family and friends have been left devastated by his untimely death. He was a beloved son to Andrina and Ronnie.

"He will also be missed by his sister, Valerie, and was a loving uncle to Cara and Cai."

11 user comments

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Tragic. Just shows that you can take all the precautions in the world and, in this case, we cant even point the finger at the usual subjects and yet we can still just go out on our bikes and not come home.
Poor fella.

posted by Some Fella [741 posts]
20th December 2012 - 17:54

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"Another neighbour said the water board had been working nearby the night before. The workmen had gone but there were stones all over the walkway.

"The people I spoke to all felt the stones were a factor and they felt guilty for not moving them away. They were most likely from a contractor’s lorry."

If there was a roads equivalent of the rail/air/marine accident investigation boards 1) they would be incredibly busy 2) their thoroughness would have examined the completeness of the work that had been done on the road in the area, and the size of stones and cause for their presence on the road.

There seems to be an implied link to the stones falling from contractors vehicles or dislodged from the banking by same, and in law the contractor carries a liability for this - this is why most well run building sites have a wheel wash facility and a sweeper truck patrolling the road outside, as they stand to get a heavy fine, even if no one skids or comes off because of the material on the road - Read on for the HA 1980 and RTA 1988 for the relevant clauses. It may be appropriate for Scott's family to consider this especially if it makes the contractors who leave debris on the road more acutely aware of their responsibilities in cleaning up.

British Gas tightened up significantly on their contractors after a car driver died crashing into an unsigned and unprotected pile of material left on main road in Ayrshire, and a stack of charges ensued, not helped by the fact that a local MP had narrowly missed crashing into the same pile minutes earlier. A bit of cleaning up here, or signs to warn of debris might have saved a life.

The Law

Farmers and vehicle operators who deposit mud on the road are potentially liable for a range of offences.

Criminal law

A range of powers is available to the police and highways department, primarily under the Highways Act 1980, the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Highways Act 1980 Section 137 “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”.

Highways Act 1980 Section 148 “If without lawful authority or excuse a person deposits anything whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway he is guilty of an offence”.

Keep dirty operations off the public road, but also be aware of the potential for a debris trail extending beyond your site

Keep a record of decisions on whether or not to deploy signs and / or to clean the road.

What the contractor must do

Do everything possible to prevent mud/debris being deposited on the road. This includes cleaning mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before they are taken onto the road. The fact that cleaning mud off trucks and attachments is commercially inconvenient may not be a defence in law.

Slippery road sign - Only use signs that are authorised. The recommended sign shows the 'Slippery Road’ triangle with ‘Mud on Road’ sub plate. If appropriate, the 'Men at Work’ sign should be used. Signs for works on the road are set out in TSRGD Chapter 8

Make sure signs are positioned to give maximum visibility and warning to other road users.

Clean the road as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day.

Where a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues (signage, cleaning etc) and ensure that adequate public liability insurance is in place.

Highways Act 1980 Section 161 “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence”.

Civil action

Civil action can occur where the presence of mud results in personal injury, damage to property, loss or inconvenience. The presence of mud can constitute a public nuisance and loss or injury can result in a claim for negligence.

Health and safety (Section 3 offences)

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty to look after the health and safety, not only of themselves, their family and employees, but of anyone who may be affected by their working operations. Employees also have responsibilities to themselves and others.

Recovery of clean up costs by highways authority

The Council as highway authority, has a duty to assert and protect the rights of road users. Section 149 of the Highways Act 1980 gives the highways authority the power to clean the road and recover its expenses from the person causing the obstruction.

So next time you see mud or rocks on the road move them yourself if you can do it safely, or get the council, or contractor to clean them up. Too right folk felt embarrassed that they had not acted to clear up the debris, some of them might have even been liable to a fine, or greater penalty.

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 [481 posts]
20th December 2012 - 18:41

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All good points AV - I had a bad smash on my motorbike due to some diesel spilled on the road by contractors doing some patching work. Needless to say, they denied all knowledge and my insurance paid for the repairs to my bike. Luckily I wasn't badly hurt and escaped with just a bruised knee. I learned a lesson then and if See debris in the roadway, I'll try and get it off if I can.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2166 posts]
20th December 2012 - 21:59

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Mud and stones on narrower roads is a common sight, a result I feel of larger vehicules using these roads and putting nearside wheels onto soft verges so to avoid slowing down, not to mention the debris left by hedgecutting contractors using unguarded machines.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
20th December 2012 - 22:31

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Tragic loss.

There are lots of small flints on the minor country lanes to the north and west of Watford. Definitely Marathon + country.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
21st December 2012 - 0:29

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This is such a sad situation. Having come off my bike on two occasions (both relatively minor falls), I know what it feels like to hit the deck. It is a scary situation. These days, I wear a helmet even if I am just traveling a small distance. I am not saying a helmet will save your life in every tumble, but it at least gives you a fighting chance if you do hit your head on the road or gutter. My heart goes out to the rider's family in this very sad situation.

posted by stevenxbaker [3 posts]
21st December 2012 - 9:55

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Don't know what happened here, but I've seen cyclists rush down twisty, country lane descents (as this lane seems to be) and let the thrill of it overtake them.

Crashing at speed hurts, particularly if you're only wearing lycra. A helmet will NOT save you from injury. Injuries to your limbs and torso can easily be life-changing, even fatal. Even fairly minor bone breakages can ache for the rest of your life.

On descents, get your braking done in plenty of time before a corner, enter it slowly and leave plenty of margin of error so that you don't get caught by surprise mid-corner (mud, gravel, rocks, parked cars, tractors, animals, oncoming cars in middle of the road, etc) when you no longer have the ability to change your speed much. You can always add back speed on corner exit.

Easy into the corners: you'll be nearly as quick, maybe as quick or even quicker, as those who charge into corners and then can't power out of them cause they had to brake mid-corner and their line is all wrong!

You won't get a prize for being a few seconds faster down a country lane hill. You could however get a trip in an ambulance, and a broken hip that'll bother you forever more, or worse.

posted by Paul J [594 posts]
21st December 2012 - 10:45

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Do you _have_ to make this sort of comment? Really? Every time some poor chap dies, even when the story clearly says that death was due to non-head injuries: "[...]died from internal injuries sustained to his lung, liver and spleen[...]" someone has to start lecturing about helmets.

If there's a moral in this it's the one that AV Lowe extracted above: do your bit to remove road debris to help us all. I'm going to try and learn from that and be more pro-active in future.

posted by Ush [389 posts]
21st December 2012 - 16:22

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Its a bit ambiguous Ush; "He hit his head very hard and died almost instantaneously." further down the article. Anyway, I agree about the helmet "I-told-you-so'ers". Articles need to be read and absorbed not skimmed over then daft comments made. The one below it is a bit patronising and somewhat condescending too.

My thoughts are with the family. They now have some closure. Terrible tragedy.

posted by Critchio [106 posts]
21st December 2012 - 23:10

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The problem is though gents, that the state of the roads around the Chilterns has been at best diabolical and at their very worst lethal for anything on two wheels....I should know, I live around here!

I have been campaigning for years for better road surfaces and try to reach out to all road users and pedestrians to report all road defects in the hope that a fraction of them will be repaired by the local Highways Authorities.

Recently I have had some success in encouraging Buckinghamshire County Council to at least recognise and consider the need to revise their categorisation of road defects, to take in to account the increased risk that two wheeled (especially cyclists) road users face in their jurisdiction.

OK, this hasn't covered all the areas around here....the roads have taken nearly 30yrs to get to the state they are in now and will not all be repaired for at least the next 30yrs or so.

As one of the above replies suggested that speeding down country lanes can increase the risks of an accident is true but unfortunately around here using any of the country lanes increases the risks of accidents because the roads are in such a poor state of repair! Crying

http://www.buckinghamshireexaminer.co.uk/south-bucks-news/local-buckingh...

http://www.buckinghamshireexaminer.co.uk/south-bucks-news/local-buckingh...

posted by Furry Mommy [32 posts]
23rd December 2012 - 0:25

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So very, very sad. That's what life can dish out to you and it is just too horrible to even try to put into words. You do everything right, in all the best ways you can and you take all the precautions possible, but for everyone who ever rides a bike, there is always an unseen element of chance that can shatter a life. Sometimes, you're just lucky and walk away. Sometimes, sadly, you're not, through absolutely no fault of your own.

It's so desperately sad for Scott's family, workmates, colleagues and friends and reminds us, starkly, that none of us are invincible. My heart goes out to everyone who is directly involved with this truly awful incident. So very, very sad.

posted by comm88 [75 posts]
14th October 2013 - 18:07

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