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“The council would have done more if their lorry killed a dog”: Widow blasts “inhuman” local authority which claimed that cyclist husband killed in collision with bin lorry was “100% to blame” for death

RAF veteran William Ronald’s wife was awarded over £1.3 million in compensation last month, though this was reduced by 58% after a jury concluded that the cyclist was partially responsible for the fatal crash

The widow of a cyclist who was killed in a collision involving a bin lorry driver has said that the council’s response to the fatal crash – which she claims saw her family treated with “absolute defiance” and told that her husband was “100 percent to blame” for his own death – “fired” her up to build a legal case which last month led to the family being awarded over £500,000 in compensation.

Katrina Ronald, speaking for the first time since the conclusion of the four-year dispute with Perth and Kinross Council, told STV News that she believes that the local authority “would have done more if their lorry killed a dog instead of my husband”.

Her husband, William Ronald, a 46-year-old RAF veteran who had served in Afghanistan, was riding his bike near the village of Cleish, Kinross-shire, on 25 May 2018, when he was struck on a blind bend by the driver of a refuse truck belonging to the council. He was trapped under the vehicle and, despite the efforts of medical staff, died at the scene.

> Compensation awarded to widow of cyclist killed in collision with bin lorry reduced after jury concludes he was “58 percent responsible” for fatal crash

The collision was investigated by police, though prosecutors ruled out any criminal action against the council or the lorry driver, and council employee, Jordan Paterson, a decision which Mrs Ronald says resulted in a “wall of silence” from officials.

“I felt like everyone was saying William, someone who devoted his life to his country, didn’t matter,” she said.

“With no prosecution the council dug their heels in, treated us with absolute defiance and basically said ‘Your husband is 100 percent to blame, so go away’.

“Councils, police, and fiscals… all the communication dried up. They reached their own conclusions and that was that. It made me sick with anger but instead of feeling brow-beaten and rejected it actually fired me up more.”

A year after the fatal collision, she decided to take legal action against Perth and Kinross Council, which she believed, due to the actions of their employee, was responsible for her husband’s death. However, negotiations with the local authority broke down after the council’s insurance company failed to attend a scheduled meeting, and the civil action was escalated to a trial at Edinburgh’s Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland.

> Family of cyclist killed in Edinburgh tram track crash win compensation

Last month, we reported that jurors at the Court of Session concluded that Mrs Ronald should receive £1,319,750 from the council in compensation, and that her daughter should be awarded £95,000. Two other members of the family were also awarded £67,500 each in damages.

However, the jury also concluded that Mr Ronald had acted negligently at the time of the fatal crash by riding “too fast” (data from his bike computer showed that he was riding at 16mph in the moments before the collision), and assessed that he was 58 percent responsible for the incident, with the bin lorry driver receiving 42 percent of the blame due to his positioning on the road. That decision meant that Mrs Ronald’s compensation was reduced by 58 percent, to just over £554,000.

“The bicycle was going too fast,” Perth and Kinross Council’s advocate, Ranald Macpherson, argued at the trial. “Mr Paterson was driving at an appropriate speed. There was nothing more he could have done.

“This was a terrible accident which had tragic consequences. However, it was not an accident which was caused by Mr Paterson.”

“The way they treated us was frankly inhuman”

Mrs Ronald, however, believes that the jury’s ruling that the lorry driver was also responsible for the fatal collision has “proved the council was wrong”, and that she hopes her victory will inspire other families in similar situations to keep fighting for answers.

“I honestly couldn’t care less about compensation as I have my own means to live – I raised a legal action to get answers,” she said.

“I could not accept that someone would lay 100 percent of the blame at William’s feet, so for me the court case was not about proving William was right, but about proving the council was wrong. And we did that. We now have a black and white ruling to prove the council was wrong in their argument and I feel vindicated for that.”

Mrs Ronald also criticised what she describes as the council’s “inhuman” actions following her husband’s death, and their dismissive attitude towards vulnerable road users.

“Bigger picture though, Perth and Kinross Council need to take a long, hard look at themselves and their policies around dealing with bereaved families because the way they treated us was frankly inhuman and is actually what sparked this whole process,” she added.

“I honestly think the council would have done more if their lorry killed a dog instead of my husband.

“From day one they didn’t show a thread of empathy, but I wasn’t going to just meekly bow down because me, the girls and William deserved better. My youngest daughter, who was seven years old when her dad died, wanted to know the specifics of how he died. I didn’t want to be in a position where my only answer is ‘I don’t know’ and I certainly didn’t want to be in a position where I had to tell her ‘Well, I could have tried to get answers but I didn’t try’.

“To anyone else out there who has lost someone or is caught up in these kinds of cases – keep going. Ignore the naysayers. Ignore every wee thought that tells you it’s too hard or it’s not worth it because it is.

“Take whatever pain and anger you have and use it to motivate you and sharpen your thinking. You’ll get the truth and answers you need. You’ll get your justice.”

> Cyclist hit by truck driver has compensation cut after judge says lack of helmet contributed to injuries

Innes Laing, partner at Digby Brown Solicitors in Kirkcaldy who led the legal action on behalf of the Ronald family, also told STV News: “Civil trials are extremely rare as most cases are settled out of court via negotiations – I think less than two percent of personal injury actions actually end up in front of a sheriff or judge.

“I’m genuinely moved by the sustained drive, strength, dignity and patience shown by Katrina and her children because it’s not easy to hold fast for so long.

“Katrina is also completely right – all bereaved families deserve answers and empathy and I hope others out there, from victims to responsible third parties, take note of the lessons from this rare but extremely important legal action.”

A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “We are very aware of how difficult the loss of Mr Ronald has been for his family. The civil case brought against the council was dealt with by our insurers and we note the verdict of the jury. Our thoughts continue to be with Mrs Ronald and her family.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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30 comments

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Gus T | 7 months ago
1 like

I find it strange that the police can provide an exact speed for a bicycle that doesn't have a speedometer but not for a vehicle that legally has to have a tacho. 

Not that I'm inferring collusion between Police Scotland and the Council involved.

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Jetmans Dad replied to Gus T | 7 months ago
0 likes

Gus T wrote:

I find it strange that the police can provide an exact speed for a bicycle that doesn't have a speedometer but not for a vehicle that legally has to have a tacho. 

Not that I'm inferring collusion between Police Scotland and the Council involved.

There is nothing strange about it whatsoever ... if the rider is running cycle computer. 

The computer literally keeps a record of the exact speed the bike was doing at every point in the ride and it is very very easy to extract that data afterwards. That is, after all, one of the most basic features of a modern, GPS, cycle computer. 

Does a tacho in a commercial vehicle do the same thing? Even if it does, are bin lorries required to use one? I thought they were for longer distance vehicles in order to ensure drivers stick to driving time limits etc. 

Certainly the tachometer in my car just tells me how many revolutions my engine is making which does not in any way tell me what speed I am going. 

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wtjs replied to Jetmans Dad | 7 months ago
0 likes

There is nothing strange about it whatsoever ... if the rider is running a cycle computer. The computer literally keeps a record of the exact speed the bike was doing at every point in the ride and it is very very easy to extract that data afterwards

Well, there is! The police steadfastly refuse to accept any evidence from a cycle computer of any type as any evidence whatsoever- they take that stance as a dodge to forgive any vehicle overtaking any cyclist travelling at any speed and crossing unbroken white lines while doing so, even when the manoeuvre is performed in a dangerous position. The cyclist is, by definition, travelling at less than 10mph. If they're dreaming of doing the cyclist for furious cycling, or whatever else they've read about in the Daily Bias, then the cyclist is travelling at whatever speed suits them

https://upride.cc/incident/ku15ekc_royalmailbigvan_dwlcrossclosepass/

You will not be surprised to the learn of the police opinion that the driver's view of the road ahead was the same as mine!

 

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Secret_squirrel replied to wtjs | 7 months ago
5 likes

You're confusing Civil and Criminal cases.  Different rules on admissability apply.  Case law prevents anything but a calibrated device being admissable in a Criminal case, whereas in a civil case the burden of proof is lower and anyway does not lead to a criminal conviction for a road traffic offence.

This "apportionment of blame" is only a feature of civil cases as a method of determining/limiting the payout.

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wtjs replied to Secret_squirrel | 7 months ago
0 likes

You're confusing Civil and Criminal cases

No I'm not. The great majority of these cases never get anywhere near being any type of case because they're automatically binned by the police. The point I am making is that most police opinions and statements made by the police in such cases are lies or are simply made up. The offence I showed below was an offence independent of the speed of the cyclist- they just use 'we don't know the speed of the cyclist' as a dodge. The Royal Mail driver was on the RHS of a vehicle on the RHS of the road before a blind RH bend.

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OnYerBike replied to Gus T | 7 months ago
0 likes

The previous road.cc article on this story (linked above but repeated below for convenience) reports the lorry's speed as 11mph. https://road.cc/content/news/cyclist-killed-bin-lorry-crash-deemed-58-re...

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Capercaillie | 7 months ago
2 likes

The collision occurred in 2018, so before the new Highway Code rules on hierarchy of road users applied. I wonder if a jury would be directed to apportion blame differently if it had happened more recently. With unclear priorities, I thought the larger vehicle should take a greater share of the blame. Also do the new rules apply in Scotland?

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marmotte27 | 7 months ago
5 likes

From the view of the location and taking into account the wide angle view suggesting more space than there really is, I'd say 25.7 kph (if true - how was this measured?) is really pretty fast there.
But the (oddly precise) apportioning of blame reeks like a let off for the council who can now claim to have been right all along in saying that most of the fault was the cyclists.

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HoarseMann | 7 months ago
16 likes

Why has a very specific speed been quoted for the cyclist, yet the lorry speed is only described as 'appropriate'?

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wtjs replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
20 likes

Why has a very specific speed been quoted for the cyclist?

Yes, this is odd when the police believe in only 2 speeds for cyclists: too slow, as they're always travelling at less than 10 mph when it comes to it always being legal to overtake them by crossing single and double unbroken white lines, and too fast when there's anything to do with allocating blame to a cyclist

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Sriracha replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
4 likes

Presumably because the bike speed recovered from his bike computer was very specific, whereas for the lorry it would have been an educated guess (or do they have an accurate tacho in bin lorries?).

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HoarseMann replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
4 likes

If there was CCTV on the bin lorry, I would expect speed overlays etc. or at least a calculation based on scene analysis. Makes me wonder if there was no CCTV or dashcam. If so, how reliable is this 'appropriate' speed estimate and is it based only on witness testimony?

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Jetmans Dad replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
0 likes

HoarseMann wrote:

If there was CCTV on the bin lorry, I would expect speed overlays etc. ...

Not sure about that ... for most of their time on the road, bin lorries are travelling very short distances at very low speed. Having speed overlays and records seems like overkill for a vehicle used in that way. 

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
5 likes

I find my bike computer lags behind where I am depending on several factors, at least one being how many connections it has at the time to the sattelites. I have been sat at a traffic light and my bike still shows a speed being measured. So it would nice how reliable they thought the measurements could be. (Although he was obviously going to fast to stop at the distance he could see.)

I was looking at cameras installed on Bin Lorries. Not all have got them but the search did lead to this story. Unfortunately the council / binmen didn't report anything to the police over these people driving stupidly fast along the pavement (paging Wheely) and then deciding a roundabout is also not for them. 

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Sriracha replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
3 likes

Sorry, it's getting a little off-topic, but sometimes karma strikes... enjoy:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D9QehY4i89o

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
1 like

Yep, I have seen that before. Of course no mention on whether the Police actioned the poor driving. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
0 likes

Sriracha wrote:

Sorry, it's getting a little off-topic, but sometimes karma strikes... enjoy: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D9QehY4i89o

Oi mate, you can't park that there you know

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Car Delenda Est | 7 months ago
1 like

sometimes I think bicycles should have speedometers attached so that anything under the speed limit is considered fine like it is with cars

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hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
22 likes

That verdict makes no sense. How can a cyclist be more at blame for an incident for simply travelling at 16mph than a lorry that's got poor road positioning? Taken to its logical conclusion, that means that a lorry can be entirely on the wrong side of the road and any forward movement by a cyclist would be taken as them partly causing the collision.

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Cugel replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
0 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

That verdict makes no sense. How can a cyclist be more at blame for an incident for simply travelling at 16mph than a lorry that's got poor road positioning? Taken to its logical conclusion, that means that a lorry can be entirely on the wrong side of the road and any forward movement by a cyclist would be taken as them partly causing the collision.

Agreed - to a point.

The collision occured on "a blind bend". Usually this means a bend around which you can't see what's coming.

In another thread, its argued that cyclists can't break a speed limit as they have no speedometer (although some do, of course) and are exempt in law. But this incident illustrates that road speed limits, except as legal maximums, are irrelevant to true safe speeds in various circumstances. What matters is whether a speed you're doing is safe in the circumstances. You don't need a speedometer to estimate this.  If you do, you shouldn't be driving or cycling.

To be safe when going around a blind bend, you need to be able to stop if you very suddenly come across something as you go around such a bend. I regularly ride roads with such bends and, despite the "inconvenience", sometimes slow to a crawl. On occasion albeit not that many, I'm very glad I do so as there's a careless drivist coming the other way too fast. I have time and lack of momentum to enable a hug of the hedge or verge.

In this case, it's unclear what the bin lorry was doing. Presumably it also was going too fast for the bend and also on the wrong side of the road, since the jury awarded some blame.

Could the cyclist have been more careful too? We'll never know without a lot more detail than is typically found in newspap blabber. But perhaps the jury had those details and so made that decision? And perhaps the fact that the cyclist was hit and killed is indicative.

********

Personally I think that bin lorry drivers (or drivists of any huge and heavy vehicle) have far more responsibility in preventing "accidents" than does a cyclist or a ped. The bin lorry is, of itself, far more dangerous than a cylist. Even if the cyclist in this case could and should have been going slower for his own safety (and perhaps the safety of a ped like those around here who walk down roads with no pavements) the bin lorry driver was the one with the potentially lethal weapon. A 50-50 responsibilty therefore seems unfair.

But a better outcome would be for there to be no "accidents" and no court case of this kind as a result. As a cyclist, I'd rather be alive than wish thunkfully for my rights to have every drivist perform their duties as such flawlessly. So I take appropriate care, which seems to be abnormal. So far, so good - lots of prangs avoided in 64 years of cycling on the roads by avoiding the many, many antics of incompetent carloon drivists.

Perhaps too many of us trust to wishful thunking about what's (not) 'round blind bends and other such potentially hazardous cycling situations?

 

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hawkinspeter replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
14 likes

There's a world of difference between encountering an obstacle around a blind bend (e.g. a fallen tree, a jogger etc) and having a vehicle driving towards you on the wrong side of the road.

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HoarseMann replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
12 likes

From the previous article on this, I had a look at the collision report. Assuming the location is correct, this is the view the lorry driver would have going into the right hand bend, followed by the cyclists view into the left hand bend.

What struck me is the warning sign to expect cyclists and the road being so narrow, a bin lorry would almost completely fill it. With a wall to the side, there's nowhere to go. You would have to crawl around there in a lorry at no more than walking pace.

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chrisonabike replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
2 likes

Thanks for finding this.

Once again reminding us there are several possible speeds which might be considered "appropriate" and most of these are not fixed. There's the marked speed limit which applies to your vehicle (if any). There's the speed appropriate to the conditions for your vehicle (absent any others). Then there's the appropriate speed taking *that* into account AND the possibility of encountering other vehicles. (I guess in an ideal world allowing for them just choosing the "legal" one rather than something suitable).

IDK if this is suitably considered in legal cases? It doesn't always seem to be appreciated on the roads. Not sure what the teaching is but waaay back IIRC my driving instructor emphasised the limits being like a "never exceed" speed in a plane, not a target "cruising speed". (Although he did note that the examiner would be expecting a demonstration that I was aware of the current speed limit so to "make progress" during the test...)

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hawkinspeter replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
2 likes

Ideally the bin lorry should get someone to guide it around that. Not really a good road for a wide vehicle to use, though bin lorries don't have much choice about routes.

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mattw replied to HoarseMann | 7 months ago
2 likes

I'm inclined to think that the safe positioning on that bend is 1m from the RHS, as that will massively increase the view and there is an escape route.

Plus it needs a honk on the Hornit first.

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Cugel replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
2 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

There's a world of difference between encountering an obstacle around a blind bend (e.g. a fallen tree, a jogger etc) and having a vehicle driving towards you on the wrong side of the road.

There is - and unfortunately the vehicles driving towards you on the wrong side of the road are far more common, around blind bends, than fallen trees.

Given that this is so, I personally get very wary of blind bends, especially on the narrow back roads. If I have to give way to the possibility of mad speeding carloons in order to stay in one piece or alive, I'll do so. Many cyclists regard this as unfair or unreasonable so don't take the possibility into account - until a car eats them one day as they claw, too late, at their brake levers. (Let us say a "phew" for the speedy bend-taker cyclists who never get caught by one).

This is not to forgive the carloons, who should rightfully be prosecuted and banned forever from their tin boxes. But that'll be too late for a mangled-me. Also, no one seems to be prosecuting carloons much, even when they do perform a mangle of a cyclist, ped, horserider or your granny's cat.

In short, pragmatism trumps righteousness in the effort to stay unmagled and alive.

**********

PS Funnily enough, I managed to avoid bike-spearing a runner around a blind and quite sharp 90 degree downhill bend only a few weeks ago, by going cautiously. I traverse this bend a dozen or so times a year, on a regular circuit, but only this once encountered a hazard. It's always tempting to go rather faster 'round that bend, as I approach it at around 25mph before slowing right down to 10mph or less.

But what if I had whizzed it? 95 kilos of man-beast and touring bike into a slight yet rapidly-approaching wee woman ....... . 

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Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
24 likes

Massive respect to Mrs Ronald for her tenacity, may we all have someone to fight so bravely for justice if the worst happens to us.

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AllegedlyAnthony | 7 months ago
25 likes

In what world is 16mph dangerously fast? A car travelling at that speed would be congratulated for their caution...

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marmotte27 replied to AllegedlyAnthony | 7 months ago
0 likes

25.7 kph.

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Sriracha replied to AllegedlyAnthony | 7 months ago
10 likes

Probably a world where your average juror considers double figure speeds on a "push" bike to be the stuff of legend, crazy fast.

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