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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 joined road.cc 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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41 comments

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jollygoodvelo | 8 years ago
1 like

I'd also like to know at what times motorists should "expect" me to be on the road, and on which roads?  Ridiculous.

 

For what it's worth, legality aside there are certain roads it's clearly unwise to ride on.  I took the A414 between Welwyn GC and Harlow a while back but won't do that again, and apart from the day of Ride London, the A12 between Leytonstone and Stratford is a no-go (although in rush hour when it's nose to tail traffic crawling at 10mph, I'm always tempted).

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fixit | 8 years ago
1 like

ok Mr. bus driver, if I see your daughter or son or wife or brother or sister or mother or father in a place that they shouldn't be there whilst driving , I will hit them, yes I will ram my vehicle over them. Is that that what you want? this is dark ages people, this is not 2015!! these are human lifes, not just obstacles that "shouldnt be there" GET A GRIP!!

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Gkam84 | 8 years ago
0 likes

I came back here just to check the comments after pointing out that the coroner didn't need law training and also only establishes certain things, seems most don't read the comments here, just witter on about it being the coroners fault....I guess the headline doesn't help. As laid out in the article, it wasn't the coroner who even said the quote, but the collision investigator, who's getting no mention in peoples comments....showing they haven't even read the article

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psling replied to Gkam84 | 8 years ago
0 likes
Gkam84 wrote:

I came back here just to check the comments after pointing out that the coroner didn't need law training and also only establishes certain things, seems most don't read the comments here, just witter on about it being the coroners fault....I guess the headline doesn't help. As laid out in the article, it wasn't the coroner who even said the quote, but the collision investigator, who's getting no mention in peoples comments....showing they haven't even read the article

 

The headline of the article may not in your opinion help but the article is about the Coroner's ruling. Although the original statement was made by the investigating police officer it was repeated by the Coroner in her summing up. This is the conclusion made to the family and friends of the deceased and so is relevant. Very relevant. It can also have great influence at any subsequent legal procedings, again very relevant. So, whilst you are supporting the Coroner  and decrying people on this site for not reading the article in the same way that you have, have some consideration for the family who have been told, officially, by a Coroner that their father, brother, uncle, son contributed to his own death because he shouldn't  be expected to be there. Which is wrong both legally and morally.

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Mark By | 8 years ago
1 like

Would the coroner have made such an ill-informed comment if the lorry had hit a moped or a motorbike?

Also, has the coroner acted in accordance with their role by making such a prejudicial remark?

 

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ron611087 | 8 years ago
1 like

There's something about the phrase "public road" that has escaped the coroners narrow scope of understanding.

Should someone of such limited intelectual capability be in a position to make these social judgements?

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brooksby | 8 years ago
1 like

If that road is really so awful then presumably the cyclist had a reason to be on it... What are the alternative routes like? If they're so poor (quality/directness/distance) that someone chose to ride on a nearly-a-motorway instead, well then shouldn't something be done about that?

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Beaufort | 8 years ago
0 likes

The bottom line, as always, must be down to common sense not what is legal to do on our roads. A busy A road dual carriageway in the dark ? No, not for me, ever. Don't be a statistic, use your common sense.

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oldstrath replied to Beaufort | 8 years ago
0 likes
Beaufort wrote:

The bottom line, as always, must be down to common sense not what is legal to do on our roads. A busy A road dual carriageway in the dark ? No, not for me, ever. Don't be a statistic, use your common sense.

Two different  things. Riding down a busy dual carriageway may well not be sensible. That does not excuse killing  him.

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ron611087 replied to Beaufort | 8 years ago
0 likes
Beaufort wrote:

Don't be a statistic, use your common sense.

Common sense is that collection of prejudices you have collected by the age of 18 - Albert Einstein.

The law defines who may use the stretch of road, not common sense. Coroners, judges and magistrates are obliged to interpret the law in the common meaning of it's wording. The coroner never did that so he acted ourside his remit.

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brooksby replied to ron611087 | 8 years ago
1 like
ron611087 wrote:
Beaufort wrote:

Don't be a statistic, use your common sense.

Common sense is that collection of prejudices you have collected by the age of 18 - Albert Einstein.

The law defines who may use the stretch of road, not common sense. Coroners, judges and magistrates are obliged to interpret the law in the common meaning of it's wording. The coroner never did that so he acted ourside his remit.

As I understand it, "common sense" is what my wife thinks and what I think is "just not common sense".  

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Das | 8 years ago
3 likes

SO perhaps the coroner can point us cyclists in the direction of what time of day us cyclist are not allowed to be on the road. I mean why should we use lights, wear hi viz if it matters not one fuck in the first place. 

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don simon fbpe | 8 years ago
5 likes

Could the coroner please forward me a timetable for when cyclists can or cannot expected to be on the road, please?

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mrmo | 8 years ago
0 likes

@psling, @paul_c thanks, i was sure it wasn't my imagination that there were signs and there was a TRO, and i don't think the signs disappeared that long ago, i am sure i saw one about a year ago. It does appear they are now gone though. 

It is however an example of how crap provision is, the issue is and always has been the M5 junction, a junction that was redeveloped at great expense a few years ago and jack shit was done about a very obvious issue then and nothign has been done yet. The "cycle route" is a joke and i wouldn't even bother. which leaves the old gloucester road. 

However the lorry driver can't assume the cyclist won't be there, but then i can point to plenty of VERY dangerous junctions, In Cheltenham you have the A4019/M5 southbound exit slip, you have every junction on the A417 from the air balloon to the A40. (which is plenty!) 

Road designers simply don't consider anything other than cars and trucks when designing roads.

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ironmancole | 8 years ago
2 likes

Time and time again it appears cyclists are second class citizens. In any other realm you could use a form of tribunal to restore equality and right wrongs.

The road, for which we all pay for, clearly has bias towards motorised traffic at the expense of those more vulnerable who are expected to 'put up' with motorist behaviour akin to sexism, racism and any other isms or unjust conduct you can think of.

To get to the point...why arent vulnerable road users able to say enough is enough and demand via a joint action to force government and responsible agencies to sort things out?

If your child was prevented an education after repeated victimisation and authorities refused to ensure safety you could sue the education authority.

If you couldnt access healthcare because your GP practice housed a few Harold Shipmans and the authorities refused to safeguard your care you could create merry hell, it would be a media festival.

So, why do we have to put up with this? Why do we have no voice? How is it ok for government to repeatedly play dumb and allow preventable death over and over purely because of being in the pockets of the motoring industry? I dont understand how this is all ok.

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mike the bike | 8 years ago
2 likes

Not so fast my hearties, don't jump to conclusions.  A coroner's court is distinct from a court of law and does not apportion blame.  Its job is to decide what happened and only that.  It is not part of the coroner's brief to say who was guilty or innocent.

It now falls to the police and the CPS to decide if there should be charges brought.  I'm sure we shall find out soon if the driver was lacking in some way.

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Gkam84 | 8 years ago
1 like

Why is everyone jumping on the coroners back?

If you read the article, the quote comes from Sergeant David Parry, "But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway."

So by that, it was the police saying it and the coroner was using the evidence provided to come to a conclusion??

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oldstrath replied to Gkam84 | 8 years ago
4 likes
Gkam84 wrote:

Why is everyone jumping on the coroners back?

If you read the article, the quote comes from Sergeant David Parry, "But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway."

So by that, it was the police saying it and the coroner was using the evidence provided to come to a conclusion??

She could, and should, have reminded the policeman about what the Highway  Code says.

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Gkam84 replied to oldstrath | 8 years ago
2 likes
oldstrath wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:

Why is everyone jumping on the coroners back?

If you read the article, the quote comes from Sergeant David Parry, "But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway."

So by that, it was the police saying it and the coroner was using the evidence provided to come to a conclusion??

She could, and should, have reminded the policeman about what the Highway  Code says.

 

Not nessaserily, coroners are not always people who know the law, you can become a coroner with a medical degree and 5 years in the medical profession, without even going near anything to do with law.

That is why things run better in Scotland, we don't have coroners, any death like this goes to the Procurator Fiscal and dealt with by Fatal Accident Inquiries conducted by a Sheriff

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oldstrath replied to Gkam84 | 8 years ago
0 likes
Gkam84 wrote:
oldstrath wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:

Why is everyone jumping on the coroners back?

If you read the article, the quote comes from Sergeant David Parry, "But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway."

So by that, it was the police saying it and the coroner was using the evidence provided to come to a conclusion??

She could, and should, have reminded the policeman about what the Highway  Code says.

 

Not nessaserily, coroners are not always people who know the law, you can become a coroner with a medical degree and 5 years in the medical profession, without even going near anything to do with law.

That is why things run better in Scotland, we don't have coroners, any death like this goes to the Procurator Fiscal and dealt with by Fatal Accident Inquiries conducted by a Sheriff

Oh, I was confused  then  - I'd  imagined coroners would be more like Sheriffs.

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Podc replied to Gkam84 | 8 years ago
0 likes
Gkam84 wrote:

Why is everyone jumping on the coroners back?

If you read the article, the quote comes from Sergeant David Parry, "But in the late evening, he would not have been expecting to see a cyclist travelling on that piece of dual carriageway."

So by that, it was the police saying it and the coroner was using the evidence provided to come to a conclusion??

 

That's how I read it too.

The linked article is appalling with its unrelated headline that influences the opinions of casual observers. And then reading the article it carries on to reinforce the opinion that it was the cyclists fault  2

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kie7077 | 8 years ago
4 likes

And what if it was a fire engine parked there wouldit have been ok to smash that up the road because it was unexpected. Or road works or traffic police etc etc. surprise

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kevvjj | 8 years ago
4 likes

I sincerely hope that CTC aren't going to let this ridiculous judgement rest.

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Ric_Stern_RST | 8 years ago
7 likes

perhaps we can all complain about katy skerret. Coroners.office [at] gloucestershire.gov.uk

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psling | 8 years ago
1 like

mrmo is correct that there was a Traffic Regulation Order on that stretch of dual carriageway some years ago but it was since removed partly because of the weight of objection by local cyclists on the grounds that it is an A road and a direct link between Gloucester/Cheltenham (the alternative route  by bicycle is through the village of Churchdown). There are cycle paths across the A40 / M5 slip roads as described above taking you part way down the slip road to a give way at 90' to the slip road, cross and rejoin. These are in poor state and overgrown, partly due it has to be said because the route is very little used by cyclists. There is no denying that most local cyclists that know the road would not go anywhere near it because it is a motorway in all but name.

But, it is legal to use it and other users if competent to drive should be aware of this and should drive and observe accordingly. How can it possibly be a defence that  a driver should not expect to see someone perfectly entitled to be there. The coroner needs some training before making such comments that must cause enormous distress to the family and friends of the cyclist killed by the lack of awareness of a lorry driver.

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Carton | 8 years ago
4 likes

Gotta love the title of the linked article:

"Cyclist, 42, died in accident on the A40 despite being warned not to ride on busy roads"

Next up: 

"Tourist, 65, died in Central Park after accidentally colliding with a bullet despite being warned against vigorous exercise"

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DingDongBell | 8 years ago
7 likes

So the cycle was apparently correctly illuminated and the cyclist was augmenting the required lighting with high visibility, reflective clothing. One assumes that a Caregory C driver holding Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) will have learned all about safety margins far beyond the standard of a Category B licence holder. Road conditions at night require greatly enhanced safety margins. Combine that with adverse weather conditions and increase safety margins accordingly.

Would the driver have been culpable had he collided with the rear of a black car with dirty rear lights? Almost certainly. A glowing cyclist is hardly difficult to see in any conditions.

The Highway Code clearly states that, as with pedestrians (who don't have to be lit up) cyclists are road users and have every right to use roads from which there is no prohibition.

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ps | 8 years ago
0 likes

Ths system of signage advising that cyclists must cross over the slip road and then re-join the dual carriage way, avoids cyclists having to cross the exit road of fast moving traffic joining the dual carriageway. Which makes them very vulnerable, especially at night.

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Paul_C replied to ps | 8 years ago
1 like
ps wrote:

Ths system of signage advising that cyclists must cross over the slip road and then re-join the dual carriage way, avoids cyclists having to cross the exit road of fast moving traffic joining the dual carriageway. Which makes them very vulnerable, especially at night.

that 'signage' and the accompanying short length of cycle lane which you are supposed to use is not there...

There used to be no cycling signs at each end of the Golden Valley bypass but they have long since disappeared.

the remains of two of those short lengths of cycle lane are there on only two of the slip roads. The one where the road comes off the M5 towards Cheltenham and from Cheltenham towards the M5, but there are no signs.

https://goo.gl/maps/LN4vJpoMimt

oh and NCN41 is the usual Sustrans rubbish. I can't get my bike through the crappy barriers and would have to lift it over if it was light enough... e-bike, full panniers...

http://imgur.com/yCZs4Rc

and parts of it are only suitable for able bodied people on mountain bikes.

http://imgur.com/JDz08Lx

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brooksby | 8 years ago
5 likes

So it's now acceptable to run into or kill  someone/something that you didn't expect to be there? What a f-ing disgrace! You drive according to the conditions (if it's p-sing it down then you slow down).  I thought that you act according to what's happening or existing, not what you think *might* be happening...

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