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High Court judge says rider should have been looking where he was going

Keep your eyes on the road. That’s the message from the High Court in Northern Ireland, which has reduced the damages awarded to a cyclist involved in a collision with a car because the judge found that looking at his heart rate monitor amounted to contributory negligence.

The court awarded Conor McAllister over £50,000 in damages after finding that driver John Campbell was responsible for the injuries Mr McAllister sustained when he hit Mr Campbell’s car in November 2009.

But the damages would have been £70,000 if Mr McAllister had been looking where he was going.

According to a report in the News Letter, the car and rider were on the dual carriageway outside Ballymena when the incident happened. Mr McAllister was heading out toward Broughshane at the beginning of a ride.

Mr Campbell said he had pulled over to give his sister-in-law a lift. He said he had been stationary for 30 seconds when Mr McAllister rode straight into the back of his car.

But Mr Justice Stephens found more credible Mr McAllister’s claim that Mr Campbell had just pulled in in front of him.

He held that the length of scrape marks on the car was inconsistent with it having been stopped and the handbrake applied.

There were inconsistencies in Mr Campbell’s story, the judge said, but he did not believe the driver had acted with malicious intent.

“Without any ulterior motive he has rationalised after the event how it occurred,” Mr Justice Stephens said.

“The defendant was flustered by seeing his sister-in-law and there was a period of indecision.”

In his confusion the driver had either forgotten about the rider he had passed, or else disregarded his presence.

“This failure was negligent,” the judge said.

But Mr McAllister had contributed to the crash by looking down at his heart rate monitor, the judge found, reducing the damages by 25 percent from £70,000 to £52,500.

Mr Justice Stephens said: “He was looking down at a heart rate monitor. He should have been looking at where he was going.

“If he had been he could have braked or taken evasive action.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.