A South Wales man who claimed he had been blinded by the sun has been jailed for a year for causing the death of a cyclist through careless driving in August last year, with the judge who sentenced him saying he had failed "to adjust to a natural, not uncommon, hazard."
Michael Bisi, aged 60 and a fitter from Ebbw Vale, was driving to work on the morning of 12 August 2013 when he knocked Paul Jones, also aged 60 and travelling to work, from his mountain bike.
Mr Jones, a grandfather of two from Markham, was run over by a Honda Civic that was following Bisi's vehicle and died of "blunt force injuries," reports the South Wales Argus.
The fatal incident happened on an uphill stretch of the A472 Hafodyrynys Road near Crumlin at 7.20 in the morning.
Cardiff Crown Court heard this week that both drivers stopped at the scene, but after 15 minutes Bisi, who according to a witness said at the scene, "I think I clipped him," resumed his journey to work.
He left a piece of paper on which he had written his name and telephone number - the former mis-spelt, the latter with a digit missing.
South Wales Police managed to trace Bisi but when they spoke to him that evening, he claimed he did not believe his vehicle had struck the cyclist, although he subsequently said he might have done due to marks on his car.
The prosecution said that defects to its lights and tyres meant that Bisi's car would not have passed an MOT.
Bisi pleaded guilty but in mitigation, Jeffrey Jones said that his client had been blinded by the sun for approximately 10 seconds and did not see Mr Jones.
It was an argument that Recorder Eleri Rees referred to when handing down his sentence to Bisi, and it was also disclosed that the motorist had five previous convictions for driving while disqualified and uninsured.
He had also been fined for illegally using a handheld mobile phone while driving, as well as for driving with defective tyres.
Judge Rees said: “Your decision to leave the scene is hard to understand. Regrettably, the impression given to the deceased’s family is that you were fleeing the scene and showed callous disregard for his welfare.
“You made no attempt to contact the police yourself.
“The family have been devastated by the death. No sentence will serve to reconcile them to this loss or adequately reflect their grief and anger.
“This was a serious failure to adjust to a natural, not uncommon, hazard of low sun. Given the width of the road, it is hard to understand why you failed to give Mr Jones a wide berth.
“You did stop, but then left without giving adequate details of your identity.
“Previous convictions for driving offences all point to a general disregard for road safety.”
Besides the 12-month prison sentence, Bisi was also banned from driving for two years and has to pay a victim surcharge of £120.
Causing death by careless driving carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment, compared to 14 years for the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving.
The imposition of a custodial sentence on Bisi for that lesser offence of causing death by careless driving in a case in which a cyclist is the victim is relatively uncommon in the light of other cases we have reported on.
British Cycling and CTC, among other organisations, have been lobbying for the legal system to be more vigorous in investigating and prosecuting such cases, as well as in sentencing the guilty.
Road safety charity Brake has urged the government to abolish careless driving offences and instead bring them within a redefined heading of dangerous driving, a call echoed last week at a House of Commons debate by Leeds North West MP, Greg Mulholland.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.