A student who died when she crashed on her bike as she descended the Winnats Pass in Derbyshire’s Peak District screamed “my brakes have gone” just before hitting a drystone wall, an inquest has heard.
August Atkinson, aged 22 and studying veterinary science at the University of Bristol, had gone for a ride on her Genesis Equilibrium bike, a birthday present from her parents whom she was visiting that weekend.
They believe that the bike’s disc brakes were faulty, although the coroner presiding over the inquest into her death, which happened in April 2014, has said he does not believe there was a significant issue with them, reports The Sun.
Ms Atkinson had returned to her family home near Sheffield for the weekend and went out for a ride with her friend and housemate at university, Kieran Patel, with whom she was planning on riding from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
The pair became lost, meaning their planned 25-mile ride turned into a 40-mile one.
At the inquest at Chesterfield Coroners’ Court, Mr Patel said that Ms Atkinson had owned the bike for eight months but had “only been out on it a few times.”
He and Ms Atkinson’s father changed the inner tubes on her bike before they set off on the ride, and he told the inquest that there had been an issue with her front quick release lever, but they resolved it.
They rode up Winnats Pass, with Mr Patel saying, “The wind took it out of us we were tired.”
When they reached the summit, they took a wrong turn, meaning they had to climb the pass again.
“August complained her legs were cramping,” Mr Patel said. “I guess we had a little bit of apprehension about going down Winnats Pass, but nothing major.
“Going down I was cycling in front. I was constantly using my brakes on and off.
“August was behind me, coming down steadily, my speedometer said I was going at about 20mph.
“Then, August came past me on the right-hand side. She was getting faster; she must have been travelling at 30 to 40mph.
“She shouted ‘My brakes have gone’. She was freewheeling, she couldn’t stop.”
Ms Atkinson got through a sharp left-hand turn halfway down the descent, but witnesses said she was “wobbling” and “fishtailing” as she tried to slow down.
At the foot of the pass she swerved to avoid traffic and went over a grass verge before hitting the wall, sustaining fatal facial and chest injuries.
Police Contsable Ian Philips, who investigated the fatal crash, told the inquest: “Something affected her ability to bring the bike to a safe speed. We don’t know exactly what happened.”
Assistant Coroner Peter Nieto has said that he is considering a conclusion of accidental death, but Ms Atkinson’s parents believe the brakes were at fault.
Her mother, Elizabeth, said: “August was a sensible, level headed person, she was not a risk taker or someone who had lapses in concentration.
“She must have had control on the descent because she made it around a sharp bend and steered around cars.
“I know we are never, ever going to prove it, but it seems to me that something has let her down at that point.
“What I have found out since my daughter’s death is that there have been problems with the brakes on these bikes,” she added.
But Mr Nieto said that none of the evidence presented at the inquest suggested the brakes had been a factor in her death.
He said: “There were a number of factors which could have been involved in August’s tragic collision on Winnats Pass.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.