A woman who was looking at her mobile phone while crossing the street will receive compensation from a cyclist who collided with her after a judge ruled that bike riders “must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”
Pedestrian Gemma Brushett and cyclist Robert Hazeldean were both knocked unconscious following the collision at a junction near Cannon Street railway station in the City of London in July 2015, reports Mail Online.
Ms Brushett, who also sustained a minor head injury and what her lawyer described as “post-traumatic amnesia,” sued Mr Hazeldean, with Judge Shanti Mauger, sitting at Central London County Court, finding them both jointly liable for the crash.
The court heard that Mr Hazeldean, who suffered cuts in the incident, had ridden through a green traffic light and was travelling at a speed of between 10 and 15mph.
Spotting Ms Brushett crossing the road while looking at her phone, he sounded his airhorn and shouted a warning as well as swerving and braking.
When the pedestrian became aware of him approaching, she reportedly “panicked” and tried to step back to a pedestrian island but Mr Hazeldean had already altered his course to try and avoid her and the pair collided.
The judge described Mr Hazeldean as “courteous and mild-mannered” and said that he “gave every impression of being a calm and reasonable road user” but added that he “did fall below the level to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist in that he did proceed when the road was not completely clear.”
There were conflicting witness accounts of the incident. One cyclist, whose testimony was used to support Ms Brushett’s claim, was said to have confronted Mr Hazeldean afterwards and made a voice recording in which he accused him of “aggressive riding” and being “arrogant and reckless.”
The judge rejected that evidence, however, with three pedestrian witnesses who gave statements to the police saying that Ms Brushett was “not looking where she was going” and “the cyclist was not at fault.”
Giving judgment, Judge Mauger said: “The other witnesses feel that the accident was Ms Brushett's fault.
“Mr Hazeldean is clear that she was looking at her phone as she was crossing the road.
“Three other witnesses said she stepped out or that the cyclist could not avoid her.
“I find that she was looking at her phone and I accept the account of Mr Hazeldean that she turned and went back towards the central reservation.”
However, the judge found both parties equally liable for the collision.
She said: “When I stand back and ask 'how did the accident happen?' it seems to me that Mr Hazeldean owed a duty to other road users to drive with reasonable care and skill.
“Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.
“Ms Brushett must clearly have equal responsibility if she is crossing the road without looking – and if she is looking at her phone, even more so.
“But cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.
“The appropriate finding is that the parties were equally responsible and I make a finding of liability at 50/50,” she added, meaning that Ms Brushett will only receive half the amount she claimed.
Costs and damages will be set at a later hearing.
Commenting on the case Roger Geffen, policy director at the charity Cycling UK, told road.cc: “The UK’s civil courts have a reasonable record for upholding cyclists’ damages claims, even though criminal courts have a far worse record of convicting drivers or dismissing their driving as merely ‘careless’.
“Still, from media reports, it seems odd that the judge attributed responsibility on a 50/50 basis given the judge’s own reported comments on the case. However this case highlights why Cycling UK recommends regular cyclists have third party insurance cover to protect them from this sort of situation.
“It’s worth remembering that serious injuries to pedestrians from collisions involving cyclists are rare, and that the cyclist can also be seriously injured when they happen too.”
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.