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Oxford cyclist killed by bus fell after foot slipped off pedal

Victim was sharing bus lane as cycle lane ends just before junction

The father of an Oxford cyclist killed when she fell and was hit by a bus has called for more cycle lanes in the city in the wake of his daughter’s death. An inquest into the death of Claudia Comberti heard that she had most likely fallen after her foot slipped on the pedal of her bike.

Claudia Comberti died after she was struck by a bus operated by the Oxford Bus Company on Botley Road in May.

The Oxford Mail reports that her right foot slipped on her pedal, causing her to lose balance and travel 2.5m in the direction of the bus.

Comberti had SPD pedals but the newspaper reports she was not wearing cycling shoes. The chain on the bike was also broken, but police could not determine whether this happened before or after the crash. 

PC Adrian White, of Thames Valley Police's forensic collision unit, told the court: "Most likely, as Claudia started to drive the pedal forwards, her right foot lost traction on the pedal and slipped.

"It's the danger of having SPD pedals. Quite often [with my own bike] first thing in the morning, with a bit of dew under my feet, it will slip."

Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said Comberti kept hold of the handlebars as she fell, and the bike twisted.

According to police reports, bus driver Leslie Otto would have had less than a second to react after seeing her wobble.

Otto told the court: "I've been to that junction hundreds of times and there are always cyclists. The lights changed and as she pulled away, she started to wobble.

"What was totally unnatural was the way she fell off – it was such an unnatural angle. I couldn't have predicted it."

Comberti, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered fatal head trauma, but an expert statement read to the court concluded her injuries were 'not survivable' whether she had worn one or not. 

Both Comberti and the bus were sharing the bus lane due to there being no cycle lane. PC White noted that cyclists travelling towards the city centre are 'forced from what might be considered the relative safety of the pavement into the road', as the cycle path stops just before the junction. 

Otto said he was likely moving to overtake Miss Comberti when she fell, which police reports said was 'reasonable' due to the width of the road at that point. 

Comberti’s father, Sebastian, said: "The sad fact is that cyclists should not have to share road space with other vehicles. If there is now increased momentum in the campaign to create more cycle-only paths around Oxford, then that can only be for the good."

Salter said he had been contacted by a number of cyclists about Botley Road and agreed to raised concerns with Oxfordshire County Council.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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30 comments

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cyclisto | 6 years ago
0 likes

I do believe too that what happened is what LastBoyScout says. Had she been a little luckier, the bus driver would have been a little faster, and she would have hit the bus at the side and possibly survived. It is a tragic accident indeed that seems reasonable to have happened by a snapped chain and a slipped foot. My chain sometimes gets stuck on gears for a tooth and the gap can drastically reduce the control on bike. I have taken it to multiple bike mechanics but still no solution, any hints?

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gthornton101 | 6 years ago
2 likes

Even at 7mph that looks like the bus driver should have been able to stop at that distance to the cyclist shown in the image?

 

"The court heard how the Oxford Bus Company driver had no time to act before they crashed, though he tried to steer right to avoid her."  Presumably the bus driver mounted the curb of the central traffic island then?  That's the only place to go that's 2.5m to the right of position.

 

"...causing her to lose balance and travel 2.5m in the direction of the bus" so, backwards since the bus was behind her?

 

 

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LastBoyScout replied to gthornton101 | 6 years ago
1 like
gthornton101 wrote:

Even at 7mph that looks like the bus driver should have been able to stop at that distance to the cyclist shown in the image?

"The court heard how the Oxford Bus Company driver had no time to act before they crashed, though he tried to steer right to avoid her."  Presumably the bus driver mounted the curb of the central traffic island then?  That's the only place to go that's 2.5m to the right of position.

"...causing her to lose balance and travel 2.5m in the direction of the bus" so, backwards since the bus was behind her?

That's what I initially thought, but then realised that this picture must have been taken a few seconds before the crash, by which time she was further along the road and past the junction, speeds were higher, the bus driver was moving to the right to overtake her, so front of bus maybe only slightly behind her back wheel but off to the right, so not directly behind her, and she must have lurched/fallen 2.4m to the right, putting her in front of the bus with no time for the driver to react.

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
1 like

Pwake - I think the problem is the reporting of what the Police have said. They don't tell us exactly how it was an unfortunate accident, they mention dew, helmets etc.

 

The picture above misleads us a little though as I thought that's where the incident was hence I thought the bus should have been stopped behind her. However, the Oxford Mail picture still doesn't tell the whole story as it says she slipped and wobbled as she pulled away - she's a fair way through the lights there and seems pretty secure.

 

Again I'm guessing but I'd assume the bus never came to a stop for the lights and was coasting through... 

 

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Jimmy Ray Will | 6 years ago
0 likes

The photo is surely quite damming? There is a fairly big gap there, and the bus is travelling at a slow speed... as already mentioned, I am struggling to see how the bus became unable to avoid a collision at this speed / positioning. 

No doubting it was a freak event, its just curious how that freak event had such a tragic end. 

 

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LastBoyScout | 6 years ago
1 like

Edit - I've read the article and comments a couple more times and can see what must have happened with who was where and doing what. So, yes, it's a tragic accident.

 

I still have to take issue with her father's statement: "The sad fact is that cyclists should not have to share road space with other vehicles.", as he's completely wrong. Cyclists have every right to share the road with other vehicles.

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StuInNorway | 6 years ago
2 likes

Having read through this a couple of times, I'd say it was nothing more that a tragic accident,  and I can't see any reason for people to  assume the bus driver was at fault or too close. 
Having suffered a chain snapping when moving away in central London many moons ago, know how far that sudden burst of energy that is released asthe chain lets go can throw you off balance. If the buss was, as stated, preparing to pass,of course he would be less than 2 seconds behind, but not directly behind. When my chain let go I wasnear the left hand side of the road (Turning up Kingsway from Aldwych for those who know the area),  after an emergency brake application toavoid a lemming pedestrian, as I tried to start, I was in a higher than planned gear, and ended up 2.5-3m tothe right of whereI had been, and flat on the floor. So any bus about to passas this occurred, could be 2m+ to the right and still have run over me.
I suggest we allow the investigators who had full access to the dashcam footage, and the witnes statements to make the final judgement. 
I'm sure neigher the family of the victim, nor the bus driver need random people throwing around blame.

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flobble | 6 years ago
3 likes

Take a good like at the picture posted above.

On the other side of the junction, the exit is two lanes wide - a bus lane and a normal lane. Plenty of room for the bus to overtake, and reasonable (IMO) for it to do so.

You can also see the bus is doing 7mph (hardly racing) and the lights are green.

It's a tragic accident, but there's nothing in that picture to suggest anyone is to blame (other than those who set up roads which mix bikes and buses in this way).

 

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
6 likes

Personally I find this bit worrying as well

Comberti’s father, Sebastian, said: "The sad fact is that cyclists should not have to share road space with other vehicles.

This isn't going to work in the real world and I'd rather that drivers were educated not to run you over and we kept the freedom to go where we ant. Once you start to move off what is classed as 'the road' then I think it will increase bad driver behaviour.

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pwake | 6 years ago
2 likes

Why has someone always got to be at fault? As nbrus said, it's a freak accident. Plenty of people blaming the driver without knowing the facts (as much as could be determined). Someone stating that the driver must have done something totally reckless to have caused her death. The fact is that Oxford buses are fitted with 360degree camera coverage and accelerometers with a data logging system to monitor the driver's standard of driving; the drivers are actually paid a bonus for driving safely and econmically. All this data would have been available to the inquest.

There's plenty of cases where a cyclist has been injured and killed by reckless actions and the perpetrator has not been justly punished; this just isn't one of them.

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nbrus | 6 years ago
4 likes

This appears to be a freak accident.

I would agree with others that the she likely slipped as the result of her chain snapping. Some people only replace their chains when they snap and will even use old motor oil, vegetable oil or WD40 to lubricate them. Very few own a chain guage or will use a ruler to check for wear. This includes smart people.

If you've ever had a chain snap on you then you will know that it is totally unexpected and you will be putting a lot of force on the pedals hence it will throw you off balance very quickly. This is usually much worse than having your foot slip off the pedals as you often can sense when your foot is starting to slip and start to reduce the force you are putting on the pedals. Of course, we are all just guessing as to what actually happened. This is a very sad case that could potentially have been avoided.

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Scoob_84 | 6 years ago
1 like

Byus driver at fault here surely

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don simon fbpe | 6 years ago
4 likes

Why was the bus so close that the driver only had 1 second to react?

RIP sister.

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kitsunegari | 6 years ago
2 likes

This just serves to highlight the dangers of infrastructure like this.

RIP.

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racyrich | 6 years ago
13 likes

If the vehicle in front of the bus had been a car that stalled and stopped dead it would be the bus driver's fault for hitting it. So why not when it's a cyclist?

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grahamTDF replied to racyrich | 6 years ago
2 likes
racyrich wrote:

If the vehicle in front of the bus had been a car that stalled and stopped dead it would be the bus driver's fault for hitting it. So why not when it's a cyclist?

 

It doesn't say she stopped, it says she swerved 2.5 meters.

 

Why don't people read stuff before commenting?

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ChrisB200SX | 6 years ago
1 like

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15621713.INQUEST__Cyclist_Claudia_Combe...

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/resources/images/6992693.jpg

"She travelled along West Way and stopped at red traffic lights at the McDonald's junction, in front of the 4B bus.

As the lights turned green, she pushed off on her right pedal but her foot slipped, causing her to lose control and veer right, colliding with the bus. "

I'm confused, was the bus behind her, or alongside her? Was the bus alongside her overtaking while they were both pulling away at the same time?

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scrumpydave replied to ChrisB200SX | 6 years ago
2 likes
ChrisB200SX wrote:

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15621713.INQUEST__Cyclist_Claudia_Combe...

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/resources/images/6992693.jpg

"She travelled along West Way and stopped at red traffic lights at the McDonald's junction, in front of the 4B bus.

As the lights turned green, she pushed off on her right pedal but her foot slipped, causing her to lose control and veer right, colliding with the bus. "

Why was the bus alongside her and pulling away at the same time?

 

Thanks for posting that image. I am perplexed as to how that situation can become fatal within a few seconds unless the bus driver does something preposterously reckless.

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BehindTheBikesheds | 6 years ago
4 likes

manslaughter, small error by cyclist, bus far too close and was driving at racing speeds (anything above 10mph)

Isn't that how it plays out now?

Presumptions made but no focus on lack of reaction by bus driver and why they gave no leaway/buffer space around vulnerable road user.

Two fucking set of rules!

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pockstone | 6 years ago
9 likes

Vehicle follows bike > bike swerves/topples( for whatever reason) > vehicle hits bike  =  vehicle too close!  Simple.

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grahamTDF replied to pockstone | 6 years ago
2 likes
pockstone wrote:

Vehicle follows bike > bike swerves/topples( for whatever reason) > vehicle hits bike  =  vehicle too close!  Simple.

 

It says 2.5 meters

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Simboid | 6 years ago
3 likes

1- This is why I ride in the middle in bus lanes, there is always another lane for the bus to overtake you in.

2- Less than a second to react? How close was this bus? In my experience bus drivers either treat you with respect or contempt, nothing in between so why take a chance? Take the lane if the tarmac's red and be safe, all the time.

 

Not long ago I rode into an area with parked cars either side and a good 7 or 8 seconds later a bus entered from the opposite direction. He could easily have stopped and let me through but he carried on without slowing, I had to stop, dismount and quickly get between 2 parked cars or I would have been killed. What I remember most was the utterly expressionless face of the driver, he was just staring like he he was curious about what was going to happen. It was chilling.

I do wonder if having a gory accident is like a badge of honour back at the bus depot, something that makes you 'experienced'. That and you could get months off fully paid because of the apparent trauma.

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
2 likes

To be fair Yorkshie (and they may be different) any flat shoes plus spd sl plus rain equals potential nightmare - you have to either use the heel and ride toe off the front or wear a pair of astro type trainers (studded base)...

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alansmurphy | 6 years ago
4 likes

So many "ifs" here - why did it matter if she fell 2.5m sideways, surely if she was pulling away from the lights the bus should have been stopped or at a relatively slow speed.

 

How do they know her foot slipped but not know what happened to the chain (why is one an exact science and one not) - there's a good chance of foot slipping if you break the chain though.

 

Plod seems keen to tell everyone he rides a bike, why?

 

If it's the picture above then infrastructure again plays a part, encouraging the cyclist onto a busy part of the road and onto a lane designed for big vehicles with potential left hooks a few metres ahead...

 

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CygnusX1 replied to alansmurphy | 6 years ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

How do they know her foot slipped but not know what happened to the chain (why is one an exact science and one not) - there's a good chance of foot slipping if you break the chain though.

They have dash-cam footage from the bus, a still from which is in the Oxford Mail story. I assume it shows a sudden lurch /shift of body posistion consistent with a foot slipping (the evidence given used the word 'probably') but the image isn't detailed enough to show if the chain was broken at that point.

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Awavey replied to CygnusX1 | 6 years ago
4 likes
CygnusX1 wrote:
alansmurphy wrote:

How do they know her foot slipped but not know what happened to the chain (why is one an exact science and one not) - there's a good chance of foot slipping if you break the chain though.

They have dash-cam footage from the bus, a still from which is in the Oxford Mail story. I assume it shows a sudden lurch /shift of body posistion consistent with a foot slipping (the evidence given used the word 'probably') but the image isn't detailed enough to show if the chain was broken at that point.

But if the chain broke the foot would also slip and you do wobble veer right then, been there done that,fortunately didn't have a bus giving me only a 1sec gap, when I've foot slipped it's just stalled forward momentum.

Regardless though it shouldn't be an issue how the wobble happened, the driver just didnt give enough time or space to allow for it, and that's the issue the police should be talking about, not morning dew causing pedal slip for an accident that happened on a dry day after 230pm in the afternoon

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like

Riding clipless pedals with normal shoes...smh.

 

What is this guy on about?

 

"It's the danger of having SPD pedals. Quite often [with my own bike] first thing in the morning, with a bit of dew under my feet, it will slip."

My SPDs operate as a catch and clamp system, not a frictional system. I managed to ride home last night in the pouring rain without slipping despite numerous clip-ins.

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CygnusX1 replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
0 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Riding clipless pedals with normal shoes...smh.

 

What is this guy on about?

 

"It's the danger of having SPD pedals. Quite often [with my own bike] first thing in the morning, with a bit of dew under my feet, it will slip."

My SPDs operate as a catch and clamp system, not a frictional system. I managed to ride home last night in the pouring rain without slipping despite numerous clip-ins.

I assume he means when clipping in. I'm currently sporting scabs down my right shin where my foot slipped off the pedal whilst trying to clip in.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
0 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Riding clipless pedals with normal shoes...smh.

 

What is this guy on about?

 

"It's the danger of having SPD pedals. Quite often [with my own bike] first thing in the morning, with a bit of dew under my feet, it will slip."

My SPDs operate as a catch and clamp system, not a frictional system. I managed to ride home last night in the pouring rain without slipping despite numerous clip-ins.

It is entirely possible to buy an SPD pedal that has flats and which accommodates normal shoes.

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Saesneg replied to Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
0 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Riding clipless pedals with normal shoes...smh.

 

What is this guy on about?

 

"It's the danger of having SPD pedals. Quite often [with my own bike] first thing in the morning, with a bit of dew under my feet, it will slip."

My SPDs operate as a catch and clamp system, not a frictional system. I managed to ride home last night in the pouring rain without slipping despite numerous clip-ins.

 

Apparently she wasn't wearing cleats (mentioned in the newspaper), which I presume is what he's talking about. I've slipped while wearing flat soled shoes on double sided SPDs before, even in the dry.

Though of course there's no mention of whether her pedals had a flat side, or were had a broad platform around the spd mechanism....

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