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"Set of unfortunate circumstances" contribute to cyclist's death

Inquest hears how faulty light may have made it difficult for drivers to see rider

A coroner has found that the death of a cyclist who was run over and killed by a taxi near Bristol resulted from “a set of unfortunate circumstances.”

The accident took place at 6.30am on December 15, 2008 on the A370 Long Aston Bypass as 39-year-old father of two Paul Conley from Nailsea rode to work in the darkness, with a witness stating that he had considered stopping his car a few minutes before the fatal collision to let the cyclist know that the three rear lights on his bike and rucksack were very dim, making him difficult to see.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Conley was hit from behind by a taxi driven by Piergiorgio Dell’Occo, who said that in the darkness, he hadn’t seen the cyclist, according to a report in The Weston Mercury.

"I was just getting up to the national speed limit and continuing on my way steadily,” Mr Dell’Occo said. "All of a sudden I spotted a wheel and some cogs and remember thinking 'what the hell',” he continued.
"Before I could do anything I just ran over the person."

Mr Dell’Occo, who continues to work as a taxi driver but has stopped driving in the dark, stopped his car 100 metres up the road and ran back to the site of the crash, and described the scene to the inquest.

“I didn't see anything apart from bits of bike,” he explained.
"I was hoping I had just run over a bike and then I realised, when I was looking around, I saw Mr Conley the other side of the barrier."
The cyclist was still alive at the time, but subsequently died of the injuries he received in the crash.

The inquest, held at Flax Bourton Coroners' Court,  also heard a statement from motorist Simon Page who described how ten minutes prior to the accident, he had needed to react quickly to avoid hitting Mr Conley and thought about stopping to warn the cyclist that his lights were dim, but instead carried on driving to work.

Collision investigator PC Andrew Hill explained to the inquest that due to corrosion inside the housing, one of Mr Conley’s lights may have become dim, adding that most motorists only had visibility of up to 23 metres in darkness and that at a speed of 50mph, a driver would have one second’s reaction time to avoid a crash.

He added that the Long Ashton bypass was a “hostile environment” for cyclists and pedestrians since they could almost be rendered invisible to drivers coming up behind them due to the glare from the headlights of vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Deputy Assistant Coroner Terry Moore said that the accident was “a set of unfortunate circumstances coming together.”

Afterwards, in a statement, Mr Conley’s widow Samantha said: "You can't try to imagine what we have experienced since this tragic and terrible accident. It is with great sadness that we come here today.
We thank everyone who has helped us.”

She continued: "We also thank Paul for his life, which gave life to two beautiful children who described him as the bestest daddy.”

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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