Helmet saves lecturer from serious head injury after being hit by white van

A lecturer at the University of Oxford has called on the driver of a white van who knocked him off his bike and drove away, leaving him lying in the road, to turn himself into police.

Dr James McMullen’s bicycle helmet was smashed in the incident, leading the academic to believe that had he not been wearing it, he would have suffered serious head injuries.

The 70-year-old victim, who is semi-retired and lectures in Japanese history at the university, was cycling along Woodstock Road in the north of the city on his way to the university’s Oriental Institute on Monday when he was clipped by the van shortly after passing the junction with Beechcroft Road.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Dr McMullen said: “I am shocked that the driver did not stop; I can’t get my mind round it. There was quite a jolt when the van hit me so the driver must have felt the impact.”

He continued: “How did the driver know he had not killed me? I am baffled by his behaviour and would urge him to contact the police as soon as possible.

“My cycle helmet was broken in the accident – a large chunk came out of it – and it saved me from a serious head injury,” Dr McMullen continued, saying “I was very lucky not to break any bones and I was left very shocked by what happened – I can hardly walk.”

Dr McMullen conceded that the driver could have been temporarily blinded by the sun but added, “he needs to contact the police because it is possible some lessons could be learned from this accident.”

His wife expressed gratitude that Dr McMullen had been wearing protective headgear, saying: “The cycle helmet might have saved my husband’s life.”

The stretch of road where Dr McMullen was hit can be particularly hazardous for cyclists traveling towards the city centre. It comes at a point where southbound traffic merges from two lanes, one of which is reserved for buses and bicycles, into one, and traffic islands in the middle of the road can cause drivers to cut across cyclists on their inside as they overtake them.

Dr McMullen, who underwent treatment at the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital after the accident, said he appreciated the help given to him passers-by as well as members of the emergency services who attended the scene.

“I want to thank the paramedics and the police who got there very quickly after the accident,” he said. “Another van driver did pull over and stop to help me and a number of passers-by came to my rescue and phoned for help. The ambulance crew were very thorough. This sort of thing must happen every day, but you never think it is going to happen to you.”

An appeal has been issued to help track down the driver of the vehicle, which is thought to be a white Mercedes sprinter van, or similar model, with red lettering on the side panel and anyone who has information is asked to contact Thames Valley Police on 08458 505505.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.