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Lewis Balyckyi case opens with driver pleading not guilty to causing death by careless driving

Promising youngster's mother recalls how son had told her he needed new set of lights...

A court in Lancashire has heard that a young cyclist being groomed for stardom killed on a training ride when he was struck by a transit van last year had told his mother that he needed to buy a new set of cycle lights. Lewis Balyckyi, aged 18 and a member of British Cycling’s Talent Team, died after being throwing from his bike following the collision, which happened at 5pm on 18 January 2011 on North Road in Bretherton, near Chorley.

Opening the case at Preston Crown Court against van driver Leslie Pitblado, who has pleaded not guilty to causing death by careless driving, prosecutor Francis McEntree read out a statement from Lewis’s mother, Jackie Balyckyi, in which she recalled their final conversation before her son left home at 3.30pm that afternoon, reports the Lancashire Evening Post.

“Knowing what time it was I remember telling him ‘watch the light - it’ll catch up with you’,” she said in the statement. The court was told however that despite darkness falling, Lewis had not been displaying any lights on his bike at the time of the fatal collision.

A motorist, Noel Taylor, who was driving in the opposite direction described how he had seen Lewis, who was wearing dark clothing and was said to have a hi-viz jacket “flailing behind him” moments before he heard the sound of the collision.

“I knew what it was because there was nothing else it could be,” Mr Taylor explained. “When I saw that cyclist without his lights on I thought ‘you’re going to have an accident’, and when I heard the smash I realised what had happened.”

He also described how he had seen the van being driven by Pitblado overtake him and move into the oncoming carriageway shortly before it struck the cyclist, and how the occupants of the van as well as local residents looked for Lewis, who was found dead in a hedgerow.

Mr McEntree told the court that 50-year-old Pitblado, from Leyland, Lancashire, was travelling with a number of work colleagues, including his son who spotted Lewis just before the collision.

“When the defendant was interviewed he accepts his son had seen the cyclist and he accepts he had been unaware of the cyclist until the point of the collision,” he revealed.

“You may draw the conclusion that is a lack of care and attention, the passenger having seen the cyclist, the driver did not,” he told the jury.

The case continues.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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