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Coroner calls for children to be taught bike maintenance skills

Inquest hears of 11-year-old girl killed while riding unroadworthy bike

A coroner in Oxfordshire has called on parents and teachers to make sure that children are taught how to maintain their bicycles properly. The appeal was issued at the conclusion of an inquest into the death of 11-year-old schoolgirl Ty-Ree Partridge, whose bike was described by a police expert as being in the worst condition of any he had seen in years.

Ty-Ree was killed in July last year on her way home from an after-school science club when she fell off her bike into the path of a lorry in Copenhagen Drive, Abingdon after being seen to wobble, according to witnesses. She was wearing a helmet, but died of head injuries the following day.

The inquest heard how her bicycle had a loose wheel and only one rear brake pad. BBC Oxford News showed pictures of the scene of the accident, close to Larkmead School, which suggest that she would have cycled down a slope and joined a pavement facing oncoming traffic as it emerged from beneath a bridge.

Ty-Ree was riding home with a friend when the accident took place, and the inquest heard how he had heard her shout out just before impact. According to the Oxford Mail, lorry driver Roy Beer described how “she was setting off and lost her footing. I thought to myself ‘gosh, she will fall off and hurt herself in a minute’, as I went past I heard a thud and my mind was ‘oh God, no’ — another second she would have missed me. Her foot definitely slipped.”

Thames Valley Police vehicle examiner Philip Balderstone told the inquest that Ty-Ree’s bicycle was in a dangerous condition, saying: “I actually rode the bicycle and as you rode it the rear wheel could be felt to be moving constantly,” and that it “appeared to be loose.”

Mr Balderstone added: “You could get hold of the rear wheel and move it left to right, up and down — there was 15mm of movement to the rear wheel. The rider would be aware of this.”

The inquest heard how Ty-Ree’s mother’s partner, James Turner, had noticed that the bike was in a dangerous condition and intended to fix it the following weekend, and had told her not to ride it to school in the meantime.

Returning a narrative verdict – one in which the circumstances of the death are recorded, without cause being attributed to a named individual – Deputy Coroner Dr Richard Whittington said: “Ty-Ree was a pedal cyclist riding her bicycle, which was in a very poor state of maintenance, when she wobbled and fell into the path of a passing heavy goods vehicle.”

Dr Whittington added that it was “of paramount importance” that people with children in their charge who use bicycles ensure “that those bicycles are examined and checked at regular intervals.”

He continued, “teachers and headmasters and those responsible should undertake some instruction for children to be responsible for their vehicles — and this applies to parents.”

It is not known whether Ty-Ree’s school offers Bikeability training, which includes instructors teaching children how to perform routine safety checks on their bikes before riding them, although other schools in Oxfordshire do.

Ty-Ree was the second girl from Larkmead school in the space of nine months to have been killed while cycling, the other being 17-year-old Sarah Waterhouse, who died after being hit by a coach outside Abingdon Police Station in October 2008.

Head teacher Chris Harris told the Oxford Mail after the inquest: “We at school do emphasise to our students the importance of their bicycles being in good working order and of them wearing protective equipment.”

“Ty-Ree’s tragic death is something that is still felt by the school, as it is her family,” he added, concluding: “Our thoughts are with her family at this particular time.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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