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Rider was likely to have been listening to music on headphones

A cyclist who was killed by a train was likely to have been listening to headphones and did not hear two walkers trying to warn him of the danger, an inquest has heard.

Phil Dawn, 34, was struck by a train in May last year on the Kings Mill level crossing, near Mansfield.

Giving evidence at Nottingham Coroner's Court this week, Thomas Butler said he and Grant Pinhold tried to attract Mr Dawn's attention after they saw him go on to the tracks. 

He said he heard the train's horn sound twice.

According to This Is Nottingham, Mr Butler said: "I ran out onto the track shouting at him 'there's a train, there's a train'. I've gone to grab him when Grant grabbed me and pulled me back. That's when the train went past us.

"We stood there for ten seconds. I froze and asked Grant if that had just happened. That's when Grant noticed the bike further down the track."

He was found 100 metres away and died of multiple injuries.

The pair had earlier seen Mr Dawn riding past, and Mr Butler said he thought he had been wearing headphones, but wasn't sure as he was wearing a hood.

He said: "When he rode past us he put his hood down, said 'cheers' and gave me a thumbs-up, and then put his hood back up and carried on. I could hear music as he rode past.

"All of a sudden he stopped at the gate.

"I asked Grant what was up ahead and he said a rail crossing. As he pulled the gate open I realised I could hear the train coming. We started running and Phil was already cycling out onto the crossing.

"He didn't look; he just had his head straight, looking towards the path."

Mr Dawn's earphones were found connected to his mobile phone but were dangling loose of his ears following the collision, meaning the coroner could not be certain he had been listening to them at the point of impact.

Jane Gillespie, the assistant deputy coroner for Nottinghamshire, recorded a verdict of accidental death. She said: "I conclude for reasons we will never know with absolute certainty, Mr Dawn rode on to the track with no regard for his safety.

"I find in balance that Mr Dawn didn’t hear the shouts or the horn. Despite the sounding of the horn, he didn’t react, flinch, or divert from the path, let along look at the direction of the train.

"Sadly I’m driven to the view that the single most important aspect in this case was the behaviour of Mr Dawn himself."

Network Rail  said a number of changes had been made to the crossing since Mr Dawn’s death, including a redesigned approach to the crossing, vegetation management, and a temporary reduction in speed.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "A very early feasibility study was completed at this site, as with many others in the East Midlands, to establish if it is physically possible to construct a bridge at this site."

Following Mr Dawn's death, Network Rail released a TV advert warning of the dangers of level crossings.

The 30-second spot shows a family out on a bike ride in the countryside playing a game of ‘I spy…’ with the daughter realising – too late, apparently – that the “something beginning with T” is the railway track she is standing on as a train approaches.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

28 comments

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A V Lowe [582 posts] 3 years ago
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This incident is reported in the impartial RAIB report, which came out several months ago and is one of 3 reports in the past 10 years relating to cyclist killed by trains and trams. IN EVERY CASE there is compelling evidence that the cyclists had failed to use a vital piece of safety equipment - their ears - and rode out into the path of trains and trams making a great noise with full emergency brake applications, and sounding horns or bells, showing no acknowledgement despite the racket being created by the approaching rail vehicles.

Pedestrians and cyclists who shut down their hearing with sound systems or phone calls are very much the architects of their own fate when that lack of awareness puts them in danger in traffic, or at risk from attack for theft or otherwise.

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ScotchPoth (not verified) [368 posts] 3 years ago
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Never use headphones when cycling,its fatal,the same goes for joggers and pedestrians particulary on cycle paths who cannot hear your warnings or bell and grumble when you go past at close proximity because of their selfish stupidity

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STATO [509 posts] 3 years ago
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ScotchPoth wrote:

Never use headphones when cycling,its fatal,the same goes for joggers and pedestrians particulary on cycle paths who cannot hear your warnings or bell and grumble when you go past at close proximity because of their selfish stupidity

I think you mean...

You should never fail to pay attention to your surroundings. You can wear headphones safely, it just requires you to be aware and use your eyes instead.

How do you think deaf people cope!

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bendertherobot [1145 posts] 3 years ago
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Ears are almost wholly irrelevant. They help, of course. But actually looking here would have saved his life.

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Psi Squared [6 posts] 3 years ago
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Ears and eyes together maximize awareness. Why reduce the effectiveness of one and rely solely on the other?

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seven [154 posts] 3 years ago
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Psi Squared wrote:

Ears and eyes together maximize awareness. Why reduce the effectiveness of one and rely solely on the other?

+1

The argument that "it's okay to wear earphones because you have eyes" is silly imho. Why impair a sense that could save your life? There are plenty situations where your sight might not warn you of impending danger but your hearing would. Yes - deaf people "manage fine" - but that's beside the point.

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chris4567 [27 posts] 3 years ago
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The pair had earlier seen Mr Dawn riding past, and Mr Butler said he thought he had been wearing headphones, but wasn't sure as he was wearing a hood.

And a hood so no peripheral vision.

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swldxer [84 posts] 3 years ago
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STATO wrote:
ScotchPoth wrote:

Never use headphones when cycling,its fatal,the same goes for joggers and pedestrians particulary on cycle paths who cannot hear your warnings or bell and grumble when you go past at close proximity because of their selfish stupidity

I think you mean...

You should never fail to pay attention to your surroundings. You can wear headphones safely, it just requires you to be aware and use your eyes instead.

How do you think deaf people cope!

Exactly - I have music on all of the time and find that I am extra observant, unlike peds who assume that because they cannot hear an engine will just stroll out into your path.

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STATO [509 posts] 3 years ago
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seven wrote:
Psi Squared wrote:

Ears and eyes together maximize awareness. Why reduce the effectiveness of one and rely solely on the other?

+1

The argument that "it's okay to wear earphones because you have eyes" is silly imho. Why impair a sense that could save your life? There are plenty situations where your sight might not warn you of impending danger but your hearing would. Yes - deaf people "manage fine" - but that's beside the point.

I appreciate the if you have it, use it argument, but why constrain it to just headphones?

Being tired, drink, medicine (drugs) are all impediments. You've never went out the house when under the influence to one of these? even slightly/partially.

On a windy day i cant hear sod all, in busy traffic i cant discern that there is another car coming up behind me, especially not something like a hybrid-prius. So can i not wear earphones then?

I appreciate many who use headphones will not increase their level of attentiveness, but some of use are capable of looking out for ourselves.

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seven [154 posts] 3 years ago
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swldxer wrote:

I have music on all of the time and find that I am extra observant, unlike peds who assume that because they cannot hear an engine will just stroll out into your path.

You are right in one sense - having music on makes some people extra vigilant and makes them check their surroundings visually more often. But you are making a massive generalisation about peds there which isn't even remotely true, and implies strongly that the fact peds are not on a bike makes them more likely to act in ignorance of their own safety, which is pure nonsense. Your statement basically boils down to "it can't happen to me because I'm extra careful, unlike these stupid peds".

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seven [154 posts] 3 years ago
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STATO wrote:

Being tired, drink, medicine (drugs) are all impediments. You've never went out the house when under the influence to one of these?

Of course I have, and the two times I've done it (drink) I've kicked myself for my stupidity. Cycling with deliberately impaired senses as a matter of habit however is a different thing entirely so you're not really making a fair comparison. Also you seem to be implying that wearing earphones is equivalent to these things you list, therefore if earphones are ok then all these other things are ok too. I'm sure that's not what you meant, but it's the only logical conclusion of your argument.

Quote:

On a windy day i cant hear sod all, in busy traffic i cant discern that there is another car coming up behind me, especially not something like a hybrid-prius.

I appreciate each individual's hearing is different, and I get that bad wind makes auditory detection difficult, however I find your claim hard to believe. I live in Scotland and go out in all weathers so I know a little bit about cycling in wind and the pain/distraction it can cause, but I've rarely had a problem being able to tell when there's a car behind me.

Quote:

So can i not wear earphones then?

Wear earphones whenever you like - there's no law against it AFAIK - but don't expect not to be disagreed with when you claim in public that it's of no detriment to your safety.

Quote:

some of use are capable of looking out for ourselves

What's your point? That the rest of us aren't?

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STATO [509 posts] 3 years ago
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That last point wasnt directly at you Seven, just a general comment. People in this post are saying we shouldnt use headphones, i was saying they are fine if you appreciate the risk and mitigate. Its exactly the same argument for allowing bikes on the road in the first place, people say they shouldn't be there, we (cyclists) say its fine if you take care.

As for wind noise and hearing things, you said 'nearly always', it only takes one time  3 Hence i always check over my shoulder before changing line or moving across the road. Ive ended up doing that walking to i notice, like im in a finish line sprint walking down the highstreet, is Cav going to jump me LOL!

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Huw Watkins [99 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm always amazed by riders wearing headphones in London traffic. Even more so by those who sail through lights and ride erratically whilst doing so.

It's hard enough to stay in one piece with all one's senses - why handicap one's self further?

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swldxer [84 posts] 3 years ago
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seven wrote:
swldxer wrote:

I have music on all of the time and find that I am extra observant, unlike peds who assume that because they cannot hear an engine will just stroll out into your path.

You are right in one sense - having music on makes some people extra vigilant and makes them check their surroundings visually more often. But you are making a massive generalisation about peds there which isn't even remotely true, and implies strongly that the fact peds are not on a bike makes them more likely to act in ignorance of their own safety, which is pure nonsense. Your statement basically boils down to "it can't happen to me because I'm extra careful, unlike these stupid peds".

Of course not all peds walk out on a red man in front of my bike like this woman did, but it is more common than you may imagine. Especially involving peds and smartphones.

http://www.swldxer.co.uk/crossing.wmv

--
Simon Mason

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IanPerry [7 posts] 3 years ago
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Should deaf people not be allowed to cycle - or even walk unaccompanied?

Why are people trying to blame the person who is unable to defend their actions for this collision?

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 3 years ago
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STATO wrote:

That last point wasnt directly at you Seven, just a general comment. People in this post are saying we shouldnt use headphones, i was saying they are fine if you appreciate the risk and mitigate.

This is the internet - it doesn't do nuance.

You are of course entirely correct.

It wasn't headphone-wearing which killed this man, it was a total failure to take any notice of his surroundings.

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girodilento [32 posts] 3 years ago
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As others have said it probably wasn't headphones that were the issue - but a failure to take proper notice of his surroundings. Frankly we may never know. As Ian Perry said - do anti-headphones people think that people who are deaf or hearing impaired shouldn't be allowed to cycle? What's the difference?

You may find this an interesting read on headphones:
https://rideons.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/an-ear-on-the-traffic/

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festival [107 posts] 3 years ago
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Regardless of the supposed powers to accelerate other senses you are playing a dangerous game, but I don't expect all to agree.

The law of averages suggests you will survive, like all cyclists do regardless of the dangers around us, but you are not helping the odds against you.

There's no law against riding with a hood on either but your bonkers if you do!

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solkanofastera [24 posts] 3 years ago
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Look both ways before you cross, every five year old knows this. Ears are just a backup system in this case, be aware. I hate to say this but almost all accidents can be avoided if you are aware of your environment.

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WolfieSmith [1326 posts] 3 years ago
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Conversely we all know that plenty of pedestrians cross the road using just their ears. So many have stepped out in front of my bikes.

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paulfg42 [392 posts] 3 years ago
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Arguing against the wearing of headphones is the same as arguing that deaf people shouldn't cycle. What a stupid argument.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 3 years ago
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STATO wrote:

Being tired, drink, medicine (drugs) are all impediments. You've never went out the house when under the influence to one of these? even slightly/partially.

On a windy day i cant hear sod all, in busy traffic i cant discern that there is another car coming up behind me, especially not something like a hybrid-prius. So can i not wear earphones then?

Quite. I agree. My hearing is damaged, my eyesight is weak and I'm medicated. If I stop cycling, I'll have to take more meds. So I'll fight anyone who tries to limit cycling to the ablev bodied by things like banning earpieces. The phone could have just been running a navigatione App, mostly silent, except for an uncertain comment by one witness. The coroner's comments on it are a bit daft. Just criticise him for not looking

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Beaufort [270 posts] 3 years ago
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It's ad when a avoidable tragic death ends up with folk arguing on forums over semantics; the bottom line if you cycle with earphones is that it impairs your ability to relate to what's happening around you. That's a personal decision. I've tried it and it scared me, so I don't do it any longer.

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philtregear [114 posts] 3 years ago
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agree absolutely 100%. Its the same with helmets. i do understand the argument that helmet laws may reduce the number of cyclists. however, i would be dead/ seriously injured if not for my helmet following a recent accident.
People need to understand who comes off worse in these scenarios and take appropriate action. The battle for better driving etc is a separate matter.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 3 years ago
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philtregear wrote:

i would be dead/ seriously injured if not for my helmet following a recent accident.

How do you know? Did someone exactly like you suffer exactly the same crash (and I mean exactly, spin, impact and so on) at exactly the same time and end up dead/ seriously injured? Now, helmets might do some good sometimes, but let's not overstate the benefits.

philtregear wrote:

People need to understand who comes off worse in these scenarios and take appropriate action.

I don't think a plastic hat will be much help if you are hit by a train, nor will it help you to see or hear trains.

In fact, why mention helmets in a comment here at all? What is their relevance?

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A V Lowe [582 posts] 2 years ago
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Eyes cover 120 degrees of information about your immediate surroundings, ears are the back-up that covers the other 240 degrees, and the combined use of these with an alert brain has provided the survival of homo sapiens for a good few million years.

The detail is recognising the effective ways to use this safety equipment, which we all get as original accessories, with varying levels of performance.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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Trains. Big things. Big things that dont stop too easily. Tend to come in one of two directions, normally indicated by the tracks they run on. Humans only encounter them at two types of places - railway stations and railway crossings.

Unless you actually want to be hit by a train, they ought not be too difficult to avoid.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1237 posts] 2 years ago
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ScotchPoth wrote:

Never use headphones when cycling,its fatal,the same goes for joggers and pedestrians particulary on cycle paths who cannot hear your warnings or bell and grumble when you go past at close proximity because of their selfish stupidity

I'd say the lesson was more 'look and listen as much as possible when crossing a railway line' (which would imply don't wear headphones when doing that). Not sure how you extend it to the degree you do. This poor guy made a single mistake and paid dearly for it. Sad, and definitely the lesson is to be careful at such crossings. But I don't think you can extend it as you do.

Not quite sure I agree with your putting the burden on the pedestrians with regard to bikes, either, though it depends what you mean exactly by 'cycle paths'. I do think its fair to put the onus on the ped if they are annoyingly walking in a clearly marked cycle path when there's an equally obvious footpath right next to it - but not if its a shared use monstrosity.