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Coroner: Lorry driver "would not have expected" to encounter cyclist he killed

David O'Connell lost life in collision on A40 in Gloucestershire last January...

A coroner has said that a lorry driver “would not have expected” to encounter a cyclist he ran over and killed on the A40 in Gloucestershire in January this year.

David O’Connell, aged 42 and from Gloucester, died as a result of multiple injuries sustained when he was hit by an articulated lorry driven by Parcel Force driver Martin Ashford, reports the Gloucestershire Echo.

The newspaper says that the driver told Gloucester Coroner’s Court he was joining the dual carriageway A40 from a slip road off the M5 when he spotted a reflector on Mr O’Connell’s bike.

He said he could not avoid hitting the cyclist because of vehicles in the outside lane as he joined the road at a speed of 45 miles an hour.

Collision investigator Sergeant David Parry, who attended the scene, told the court that the weather was poor on the night in question.

He said: "Multiple pieces of the bike were spread across both lanes and although visibility was good, driving rain was blowing from left to right.

"Mr Ashford would have been looking forward and in his mirrors to gauge when it was safe to join the flow of traffic.

"But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway.

"Mr O'Connor had earlier been seen to have red lights at the back of his bike and he was wearing a high visibility jacket.

"He was there to be seen but the collision occurred when Mr Ashford looked but failed to see him.

“This could have been due to a combination of the rain and the glare from oncoming vehicles in the Cheltenham-bound carriageway."

Under the Highway Code, the only roads from which cyclists are banned are motorways. Motorists are also required to adapt their driving according to the conditions.

The inquest heard that Mr O’Connell, who worked as a parking attendant in Cheltenham, had been diagnosed with mild epilepsy and had been warned on medical grounds not to ride his bike on busy roads.

However, his condition does not appear to have been a contributing factor in the incident.

Coroner Katy Skerrett, recording the cause of death as a road traffic accident, said: “Mr Ashford would not have expected a cyclist to be on that road at that time of night and did not see him until it was too late to take avoiding action."

Duncan Dollimore, road safety and legal campaigns officer at national cyclists’ charity CTC, told road.cc: “If the lorry driver was unable to see Mr O’Connell until it was too late to avoid him, that rather suggests he was driving too fast for the conditions.

“Rather than deflecting blame to the cyclist the question to ask is why the driver did not slow down if driving rain hindered his vision.

“Unfortunately the focus seems to have been the actions of the cyclist rather than why the driver was unable to see a cyclist with a rear light and a high visibility jacket.

“The message to cyclists seems to be that a driver’s duty of care to vulnerable road users does not apply on busy A-roads where they are, apparently, not expected to be!”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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