Here is one.
As I've mentioned before, I am a driver as well and have driven this road many times. During that time I have come across other cyclists, cycling exactly the same way I do. I can therefore confirm that there is no way in the world I would overtake at the locations that these drivers overtake. I also know that my wife, who also drives these roads feels exactly the same way I do.
The video linked above are all on a section of road that has a 30mph speed limit, which in general is ignored by most road users. If you drive at or within the speed limit (which I do) you just get tailgators. Often road users see the speed limit, not as a limit, but as a minimum speed.
How dare anything rob me of my momentum!!
Thus I felt particularly angry at a recent court case where a driver who was tried by jury was found not guilty of killing a cyclist.
Just today the cyclists family wrote a very moving letter to a local paper. It really is worth a read.What is especially worth noting is the bias that the family witnessed. They were not able to represent their daughter the way they felt they should. I know for a fact that this is not a problem isolated to this case.
I'm not going to discuss this letter though. It stands very well on it's own and I don't feel I need to add anything. I'm going to focus on the incident itself and the bias that I feel is present in every case of cyclist/bike against driver/car.
From here on you need to remember that we don't have all the facts. We don't know the exact location (if anyone does, please let me know and I will update this blog), we don't know the road conditions at the time, we don't know how much space the cyclists were all riding from the edge of the road etc. I can only discuss the evidence that has been released in the press.
It is also worth pointing out that articles often hold inaccuracies
With that in mind, let's look at what we have been told. Here is a summary:
The driver overtook two cyclists who were riding two abreast. She overtook them on a bend. We know the accused was 'surprised to see two cyclists suddenly appear around the bend, coming the other way. The driver had to 'make a decision of what to do' (travelling at between 30-50mph) and felt that the oncoming cyclists had enough space to pass. The first oncoming cyclist thought the overtake was unbelievable and had to aim for a small gap to continue safely. The second cyclist appears to have swerved in reaction to the proximity of the oncoming car, and unfortunately crashed as a result. It is disputed as to whether the car hit the cyclist or not. The cyclist unfortunately fell to her death.
In defence the driver, who claimed to be a 'keen cyclist' said, 'I can’t help it if a cyclist, with all due respect, falls over as I’m approaching them and comes into my line of travel....I would expect cyclists to generally remain upright as the first cyclist did.'
We don't know exactly where on the B480 the accident happened on the reports, however, the local article suggests it was in or near Stonor. The car was travelling at 50mph and yet no mention was made of the driver breaking the speed limit. The speed limit in Stonor is 30mph, therefore it is likely to be outside it, but close.
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The above map shows the road in question just to the north of Stonor. This particular section is straight and has a good view. I have chosen this section intentionally as we do not know which bend in the road the accident happened. Therefore, the section above represents an absolute best case scenario.
From Google maps it is possible to determine the width of the road. Overall width is approximately 6.5 metres. Therefore each lane is about 3.25 metres wide. We do not have any information on what car the driver was driving but assuming it was a Ford Fiesta (a fairly small car) with a width of about 1.98m, that leaves 1.27m within the lane.
Two cyclists riding abreast are likely to take up (conservatively) 1.5m of a lane. Let's assume that the driver gave the cyclists the minimum acceptable clearance of 1m. Thus the edge of the car would be (at a minimum) 2.5m from the edge of the drivers lane. Add on the width of the car and we are left with approximately 2 metres of space in their lane. Now assuming that the cyclists coming the other way are as they should be, about 1m from the edge of the road. That leaves us with 1m between the oncoming car and the cyclist that was killed.
1m is the minimum, MINIMUM overtaking distance for a car overtaking a cyclist going the same way as the car in ideal conditions. It is not a safe distance to pass a cyclist when you are travelling 30-50mph heading in the opposite direction.
Remember all of the above is on the road illustrated above. I would suggest that any driver overtaking on this straight road under perfect conditions in the way I have described above would be driving carelessly.
Would you agree?
Now lets look at a gently curving section of this road (not the sharpest bend).
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The above road gently curves. The road here has the same dimensions as I described above. The big difference is that the view is no-where near as good.
Would you overtake two cyclists riding abreast on this road at 30-50mph? Is that 1m gap good enough here?
I know I wouldn't ever consider overtaking here. It would be....dangerous, and this is one of the gentlest bends on this road.
Remember, the driver has admitted that she was surprised to see two cyclists coming the other way. Effectively she is saying here, she didn't see them. Why is this? Either, she wasn't looking properly, and thus she was driving dangerously (carelessly according to the court of course), or the bend was perhaps sharper than this and the drivers view was obstructed? I'd suggest if that is the case then there is no doubt it is dangerous driving.
How can this in any way not be death by dangerous driving?
This is where the problem arises. We are all drivers. Very few of us are cyclists. Imagine you've never ridden before and you hear the facts of the case. I don't know if it happened, but I suspect no-one looked at the detail of the incident like I have done here. I could be wrong, but I suspect I am not.
So you are a member of the jury and you hear that there probably was no collision. You hear that the cyclist fell over. You hear how wonderful the driver is, and how they are a church goer, a leading scientist, and a general all round good soul. You, as an experienced driver, with no experience cycling think.....hmmm, that could be me. I could have driven like that (and many do). The cyclist did just fall over after all......
That's how it happens.
It could have happened to any of us.
No it bl**dy well couldn't have. There are people who might well be lovely otherwise, but, when they enter their car,they change and they switch off to the needs of rest of the world. They are protected in their bubble. They feel safe, they feel warm, they feel happy. Then, something unexpected gets in the way. A couple of cyclists. Hmm. But I'm late to watch Coronation Street. I need to get home to feed the fish. I need to get the dinner on.
Oh, I'll be fine overtaking here......
I'm not saying that this happened here. I don't have the facts and I can't read the drivers mind. However, I'll bet anything that in many incidents like this, the absolute last thing on the drivers mind is the lives of the people they are risking. In fact, they don't even perceive the risk. They just perceive an obstacle to get past.... an irritation. A metaphorical fly that needs swatting. Must get past that cyclist.
And here we are with a life lost and many lives shattered by a tragedy and no-one is found to blame, because, it could have been me.
We have lost all sense of proportion. The car is so easy and so safe that we have all forgotten that what we drive can be lethal and that we DO have responsibilities that override any need to feed the fish on time.
That is why it is, and should always be important that in cases like this the families of the deceased MUST be allowed to represent their loved one. They MUST be allowed to humanise that cyclist. The jury must also been put into the position of the cyclist. They must be made to understand the vulnerability, that we cyclists don't have a roll cage.
It is time that we as drivers take responsibilty for our mistakes and realise that if we do something in our car that results in the serious injury or death of another that we will not just get a slap on the wrist.
It's time for justice.
Thanks to some help from Twitter we have now pinpointed the location of the accident using Crashmap. I would indeed appear that the accident happened at a more severely curving section of road than either of my examples. Here is where it occurred (within 10m according to Crashmap)
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There is no way, ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, that I would ever consider overtaking an individual cyclist, never mind two cyclists riding two abreast in this location (unless they were fully stopped for some reason and even then it would be done with extreme caution). If I did so, and if as a result of that action another cyclist died, whether I hit them or not, I would expect to be found guilty of death by dangerous driving.
Was the jury actually shown this or a similar image? Were any expert witnesses asked if it would be safe to overtake on this bend?
The more I look into this incident, the more I am utterly disgusted that the justice system has completely failed to uphold any justice on behalf of Denisa Perinova and her family, her boyfriend and her friends.
Can we really go on accepting injustice such as this?