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Cyclist's crash damages reduced because of 'contributory negligence': looking down at heart rate monitor

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.”

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 Farrelly, 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.

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