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Hundreds to ride for safer streets in Oxford tonight after cyclist's death on Tuesday

Safe space plea comes after Claudia Comberti was struck by a bus after falling from her bike

Hundreds of cyclists will take to the streets of Oxford tonight to call for safer roads following the death of a woman who had been cycling on Botley Road on Tuesday, with campaigners saying that “private cars and vans do not belong on our city’s roads.”

Claudia Comberti died after she was struck by a bus operated by the Oxford Bus Company just after 2.30pm on Tuesday afternoon. According to Thames Valley Police, the 31-year-old had fallen from her bike moments beforehand.

Detective Sergeant Gavin Collier from the force’s serious collision investigation unit, said: “Having collated evidence from a number of sources, at this stage it is believed that the cyclist sadly fell from her bicycle just prior to the collision.

“Investigations remain ongoing to establish the cause of the incident, however we do not believe it was as a result of any interaction with another person or vehicle."

Ms Comberti, originally from London, was close to completing her DPhil dissertation at the University of Oxford. One of her supervisors said that her research into the impact of climate change on indigenous people in the Amazon had been recognised as important by the United Nations.  

She was a regular visitor to the Broken Spoke Bike Co-op, which in a blog post said: “She embodied that which we try to create and nourish — a love of the world and its people, the outdoors, a zest for life, of living what you believe.”

On Wednesday, 100 cyclists rode from Carfax in the centre of Oxford to the location where she was killed to install a ghost bike in her memory, with Broken Spoke’s blog post highlighting ongoing concerns about the safety of riders in the city.

“Ten people ghosted Claudia’s white bike down Woodstock Road to Carfax before the procession to Botley, riding two abreast in the centre of the lane as it is safe and legal to do,” it said.

“Unsurprisingly we were met with blaring horns, dangerous overtaking and aggressive comments from people inside vehicles as we rode to commemorate the friend who was killed on the road not 24 hours earlier.”

The post continued: “This type of response from drivers is a daily occurrence. This is ‘normal’. We accept this. We all have stories of near-misses, injuries and insults experienced while cycling.

“The roads are dominated by cars while cyclists are marginalised, abused and even killed. But when the everyday violence of this really hits you, like it hit us when we lost Claud, it is a wake-up call.”

Broken Spoke added: “Regardless of the specific circumstances of Tuesday afternoon, if a cyclist stumbles on the road, just like if a person stumbles on a path, there should be space for them to pick themselves up without being killed.

“This is our message: cyclists need space, they need to share a wide lane with other bikes not buses which are some of the largest vehicle on the road. No matter how strong a cyclist you are (and Claudia was very strong), you don’t stand a chance against a bus.

“Buses are not the problem; they are an important alternative to private vehicle use, but they too need their own lane.

“Private motor vehicles which pollute our air, clog our streets, and cause many thousands of injuries and deaths every year need to be de-prioritised. That’s what park and rides are for. 

“Private cars and vans do not belong on our city’s roads.”

More than 200 people have confirmed on Facebook that they will attend tonight’s Ride for Claudia, which starts at Broad Street at 7pm.

The event’s Facebook page says:

Dress in bright colours, gold leggings, neckerchiefs, hats, wigs ... wear a party!

Bring noise makers: horns, bells, instruments, drums.

Everyone and anyone welcome. Especially those affected by Tuesday's tragedy, whether you knew Claudia or not.

We are doing this to feel safe on the roads.

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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10 comments

Avatar
atgni | 6 years ago
1 like

BBC's South Today chose not to cover this ride and instead chose to run a piece about people cycling in a part time pedestrian road just before the ride actually started.
Reporter running at people on bikes to ask why they were riding, but made no mention of the delivery vehicles in the road that are subject to the same time restrictions.
Ill timed and one sided anti-cyclist drivel.
Maybe I will fetch that pitch fork after all..

Avatar
atgni | 6 years ago
2 likes

The CCTV will be key.
Assuming she fell off beside the bus and from where the bus came to rest I wouldn't say that was an especially safe place to overtake. But I wasn't there obviously.
Odd place for an experienced cyclist to fall off by yourself too.
Hopefully the CCTV does not show a handlebar nudge during an overtake.
I equally don't think I've joined a lynch mob.

Avatar
pwake | 6 years ago
1 like

So, from the comments above, the lynchmob has already concluded that it must have been the fault of the bus driver.

The investigation is ongoing according to the police statement and the good thing is that buses in Oxford are fitted with 360deg cameras (feeds not driver visible), accelerometers and telemetry to record the movements of the vehicle. So, unless you're a full tin hat wearing conspiracy theorist, you would believe that all this data will be available for the investigation and should prove useful in determining what really happened; infinitely more useful than  supposition and opinion.

I'm stating this because my brother is a bus driver in Oxford, he rides his bike to and from the depot every day. Contrary to the misguided comments spewed above, he does not, once esconced in his bus, turn into some cyclist-hating maniac.

Also, the comment about drivers being forced to drive badly due to scheduling is simply untrue; the schedules are not unrealistic and generally easily achieved. It's also interesting to note that there is no bonus payment for achieving your schedules, but there is a bonus scheme that rewards smooth, economical driving based on the on-vehicle snesors/cameras.

 

Avatar
davel replied to pwake | 6 years ago
2 likes
pwake wrote:

So, from the comments above, the lynchmob has already concluded that it must have been the fault of the bus driver.

... infinitely more useful than supposition.
..

Can't speak for the others, but my comment was objecting to the tone of statement from a supposed professional investigator.

But I don't see any posts really concluding that it was the driver's fault, as you claim: much less from a 'mob'. There are a few insinuations that a professional driver shouldn't really just be squashing a cyclist who just falls off, given, you know, they'll be making allowances for such unpredictable behaviour from a cyclist.

But if you think the above is lynch mobby, in the context of Internet comments, puhlease. If the tinfoil hat fits...

Avatar
john1967 | 6 years ago
1 like

How does a cyclist just fall off,it can't happen. There has to be an underlying reason.A loss of traction or a sudden braking action but what ever it was that bus must have been fucking close. Yet another unnecessary death. RIP.

Avatar
Tjuice replied to john1967 | 6 years ago
0 likes
john1967 wrote:

How does a cyclist just fall off,it can't happen. There has to be an underlying reason.A loss of traction or a sudden braking action but what ever it was that bus must have been fucking close. Yet another unnecessary death. RIP.

 

Cyclists can fall off for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with other vehicles.  Some personal examples from commuting through cities (London and Oxford, as it happens) over the last 24 years:

* Shoe unclipped from pedal during hard acceleration (x1 and close escape 2 other times)

* Chain slipped during hard acceleration (subsequently discovered over-worn jockey wheels were causing the chain slip)

* Hitting a plank of wood that was sticking out into the road from the pavement (while it was dark - yes, I had lights)

* Bike slipped on ice

* Getting distracted by the motorcyclist riding next to me shouting at me while I was spinning the fixed gear well in excess of 120rpm at ~25-28mph and so forgetting to pedal - oops

(Okay, I accept this last one had something to do with another vehicle, but it didn't hit me)

Without access to the bus CCTV or any clear witness description of the tragic incident in question, we simply do not know what caused the cyclist to fall from her bike and I am not sure we have been given sufficient clarity of her and the bus's prior trajectory to know whether the bus was inappropriately positioned.  Perhaps it was bus driver error, perhaps it was cyclist error, perhaps she hit a pothole or something in the road that unexpectedly changed her path.  Hopefully the investigation will get to the bottom of it and some positive change will come of the investigation (although I don't think I'll hold my breath)

 

So, so sad.  RIP.

 

Avatar
Critchio | 6 years ago
3 likes

Bus drivers are put under so much pressure from their bosses to keep the route times as accurate as possible it affects their driving.

I've been tailgated so closely by a bus trying to push me along that I've had to come to a steady stop and turn to face the driver and shout at her to back the fuck off.

The sad thing is even if I don't impede the buses journey time into town I still get into town quicker than the bus, so they save no time squeezing by cyclists only to stop at the next light or traffic queue.

Avatar
Grahamd | 6 years ago
4 likes

I am not a police officer and am not qualified in any way, but I find myself wondering if the close proximity of the bus had anything to do with her falling. 

Avatar
davel | 6 years ago
1 like

"at this stage it is believed that the cyclist sadly fell from her bicycle just prior to the collision".

The fall isn't the sad thing in this, fucknut - I'm sure she could've dealt with the fall. That didn't kill her. I hope you aim to start work on investigating the collision at some point.

Avatar
brooksby | 6 years ago
3 likes

Isn't this exactly what people have been saying on all these close passes articles recently?: leave a good amount of room and don't tailgate, because then you won't kill someone if they fall off their bike for whatever reason!  (it usually doesn't matter if a motorist close passes or tailgates another motor vehicle, because on the whole people don't fall out of them...).  RIP to Claudia.

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