A 16-year-old cyclist, who was killed after being struck by a speeding motorist while crossing a busy road, was “distracted by headphones and was not wearing a helmet” at the time of the fatal collision, an inquest has concluded.
Joshua Fletcher, a talented rugby player who was studying to be a mechanic, was killed on 16 October 2020 when he was hit by driver William Davies on the A48 Southern Distributor Road in Newport. The teenager fractured his skull and suffered diffuse cerebral injuries in the crash, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
An inquest at Newport Coroner’s Court heard that, following multiple tests by police investigators on the stretch of road, the driver was travelling at 8mph over the 40mph speed limit at the time of the collision.
However, the inquest concluded that the 16-year-old’s death was also caused by Joshua deciding to cross the road “when it was not safe to do so” while listening to music on his earphones, with Gwent Police’s forensic collision investigator Richard Wyatt telling the court that his “main concern is that Joshua didn’t have a helmet on”.
The court heard this week that Joshua was riding his bike home from college when he crossed the A48’s eastbound carriageway at a set of traffic lights. However, the 16-year-old was deemed by investigators to have “misjudged” the second set of lights in the middle of the road, and chose to cross while only motorists in the filter lane were stopped at a red light.
According to an investigation carried out using reconstructions and dashcam footage, Mr Davies would have first seen Joshua emerge from the filter lane 4.2m (13.7ft) away from the point of impact.
Southern Distributor Road
PC Wyatt told the court that the motorist had managed to react within 0.26 seconds, a reaction time described by the forensic collision investigator as “really quick and almost instinctive”.
Caroline Saunders, the senior coroner for Gwent, added that “it would not have been possible for Mr Davies to stop any quicker.”
Nevertheless, Saunders also noted that had Mr Davies – who was driving at 48mph when he hit Joshua – “been travelling at 40mph prior to when that footage started, he would have been travelling at a distance of three metres per second slower, so he would have missed Joshua.”
PC Wyatt responded: “Yes, but that is purely hypothetical.”
The officer went on to explain that the 16-year-old was wearing earphones inside his hoody, which were playing music from his phone, and that he was not wearing a helmet.
“My main concern is that Joshua didn’t have a helmet on,” Wyatt told the court.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Davies said that he believed he was driving at the 40mph speed limit and that his view was “unobstructed”.
He said he blinked and saw “a boy on a bike” and that he did not have “any time to react”.
A motorist stopped at the traffic lights also told the inquest that they saw Joshua “pedalling at quite a rate” with “his head down”, and that he “didn’t seem to be aware of the danger he was in”. Another eyewitness claimed that the teenager was “going at a fair rate stood up on his pedals” and that his “personal interpretation was that the cyclist misjudged the traffic lights”.
Recording a conclusion of a road traffic collision, Ms Saunders said: “On the balance of probabilities the excess speed at the time Mr Davies was driving has more than minimally contributed to Joshua’s death.
“That said, it is clear that Joshua decided to cross the busy road when it was not safe to do so. He was distracted by headphones and was not wearing a helmet.
“Joshua’s death was caused by a combination of factors: Joshua failing to cross the road safely, him not heeding oncoming traffic or the traffic lights, and the excess speed at which the car was being driven.”
Paying tribute to her son in a statement read to the court, Joshua’s mother Terri Fletcher said: “He was a happy, joyful, caring young man and he was dearly loved by all of his family. His aim was to become a mechanic and he’d applied for an apprenticeship. He was a lovely boy who would do anything for anyone. I was very lucky I had a lovely relationship with him.”
Shortly after Joshua’s death, local resident Paul Flynn wrote to the leader of Newport Council, Gwent Police, and local MPs Jessica Morden and Ruth Jones, urging them to review the safety of the road.
The lack of safety measures for cyclists in the area was underlined on 2 November 2020, just weeks after Joshua was killed, when another teenage cyclist was hospitalised following a collision involving a driver on the nearby East Dock Road.
14-year-old Codi Gulliford’s mother Christine said at the time: “The road is so dangerous, you would think that after young Josh dying a few weeks ago people would be more careful.”
The director of Sustrans Cymru, Christine Boston, said the incidents demonstrated a need for rapid change.
“One of the main barriers is around safety and the fact that there’s no safe space,” she said.
“There will need to be a lot of investment in cycleways so that there are more segregated routes for walking and cycling.”
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.