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Death of cyclist who rode through red light due to “distraction” says coroner

Karl Freeman died from traumatic brain injury after crash in Bury in January 2020

A coroner has said that a cyclist who was killed when he rode through a red light and crashed into a car died as a result of “distraction.”

Karl Freeman, aged 52, died as a result of a traumatic brain injury following the collision on Manchester Road in Whitefield, Bury, reports the Manchester Evening News.

An inquest into his death also heard that Mr Freeman had been riding with his “head down” and that there was nothing that the driver could have done to avoid the crash, which happened on Sunday 26 January last year.

“I think this accident took place because Karl was not paying proper attention to the road,” said Coroner Julie Robinson at the hearing at Rochdale Coroner’s Court.

“This is something that could have been easily avoided and it has resulted in tragic consequences.”

The coroner, who noted that Mr Freeman had not been wearing a cycle helmet, said it was “somewhat unusual” that he had been “cycling with his head down.”

The inquest heard that Mr Freeman rode through a red light at the junction of Sunny Bank Road, crashing into a Ford Fiesta. The driver of the car had been turning onto Manchester Road.

He hit the side of the vehicle and his head hit the ground after he fell from the bike.

Mr Freeman was taken to hospital by air ambulance but died there the following day as a result of his injuries.

The coroner asked his sister, Julie Freeman, whether she thought her brother, who had a history of anxiety and depression, may have ridden into the car on purpose.

“No,” she replied. “Why would somebody do that? Why would somebody cycle into a car deliberately? He didn’t have suicidal tendencies or anything.”

She told the inquest that she had wondered whether he might have been “pursued” at the time, or whether he was being harassed by someone.

However, PC Suzanne Keenan from Greater Manchester Police said there was no evidence to support that theory.

She said there was nothing “to suggest that he was trying to get away from someone or being chased,” and that the crash happened at a speed of no more than 10 and 15mph.

“It just appears he wasn’t paying attention at that particular time,” PC Keenan added, saying that Mr Freeman was holding his handlebars with both hands, and there was no evidence that he had been listening to music.

However, a toxicology report found that Mr Freeman was almost twice the limit for drink-driving, and also had diazepam, cocaine and what was described as “illicit” heroin in his system.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, the coroner said: “This is a death which has occurred as a result of an accident which was caused by distraction, and by Karl not paying attention to the road conditions.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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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