A 76-year-old man who died of a head injury after falling from his bike was either hit by a car door or swerving to avoid it an inquest has heard. The woman involved, who has already been fined and banned from driving for the offence, does not believe she could have done anything differently.
The Liverpool Echo reports how retired lecturer, Robert Hamilton from Birkdale, was cycling along Linaker Street in Southport on January 23 last year when he came off his bike and hit his head. He was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries.
The inquest heard that Linaker Street resident, Joanne Jackson, had caused the incident. Last year she was charged with opening a car door so as to injure or endanger a person for which she was banned from driving for six months and given a £305 fine.
Speaking at the time, Hamilton’s widow, May, expressed her displeasure that the Crown Prosecution Service had not pursued a charge of manslaughter. “It’s been absolutely devastating. I am so disgusted with the way these sorts of deaths are trivialised with very minor charges.”
The inquest heard that after pulling up outside her home at around 11.55am, Jackson opened her door in Hamilton’s path, pulling it closed again as she saw him. She said that she didn’t think he had hit the door and added: “I consider myself to be a careful and competent driver. I feel very sorry that the cyclist died but don’t think there’s anything I could have done different to avoid this accident.”
Paul Clark, the Hamilton family’s barrister, asked her whether she had seen a white car drive past her just before Hamilton arrived. He also asked whether she checked her mirrors and how widely she opened the door. “If you looked then why didn’t you see the cyclist?” he asked. Jackson said that it was because the incident happened “so quickly”.
Witness statements conflicted with regards to whether the door actually hit Hamilton or not. Jackson’s husband Gary, who was nearby, said it looked like the cyclist had swerved to avoid the car door and lost his balance. John Gore, an authorised vehicle examiner who had seen the car door agreed with this, but also said that Hamilton’s 1970s bike was not well maintained.
The bike’s tyre tread was said to have been so worn that you could see the inner fabric, while Constable Simon Richards from the Merseyside Police Collision Investigation Unit added that he did not believe the bike’s brakes were working well enough for safe use on the road.
The inquest has been adjourned until September 29 to hear further evidence.