There has been a lot of anger generated.
Yes, they were stupid, yes we need to make sure that the ruling is changed, and yes it once again highlights the ignorance that anyone who uses a bike faces. However, it is very easy to loose focus when a juicy and easy target like the ASA comes along. I say this because a much more sinister news item was brought to my attention today.
Today a driver was found not guilty of killing a cyclist by dangerous driving.
Obviously we should always be careful when reporting on the facts of a case when we don't have all of the evidence before us, however, let's look at what facts we do have.
- Cyclist was cycling along Mountbatten Way, a nice straight road.
- Cyclist was wearing all the ASA approved safety gear (reflectives and helmet)
- Cyclist also had lights on his bike (though it is not clear if they were on at the time)
- Driver of mini-bus was driving along this road and passed the David Irving, the victim
- Driver hear a loud bang, saw his wing mirror slam into his vehicle and thought he hit a road sign, but kept driving on.
- Cyclist was hit by the wing mirror which smashed his helmet to pieces and was killed by the impact.
- It was only later when the driver heard about the serious incident from elsewhere, that he contacted police.
- Driver claimed he was driving slowly and that the sun had reduced his visibility
Now if I'm completely honest, I don't believe much of the drivers story. I suspect that many others feel the same. Driving slowly? Really? Didn't know he had hit a cyclist? Really?
I'm not going to go there, though. I'm going to assume that his story was true, which means we have a driver that was driving slowly along a straight road, slowly enough that he can stop within the distance he can see....
Distance he can see? Yes indeed, that is the way all drivers are expected to drive. Hmm. Then we hit a snag here don't we? Either one of two things actually happened here?
- He wasn't looking properly, i.e. he was distracted, and you have to be distracted for a long time if you hit a yclist, driving slowly on a straight road....
- He wasn't actually driving as slow as he thought...i.e. he was driving too fast to stop in the distance he could see.
- He had seen the cyclist, but thought he was too far out and thought he'd give him a close pass, which would teach the cyclist a lesson. Unfortunately he forgot about his wing mirror.
Opps. That was 3 not 2. Sorry about that, I forgot I wasn't straying from the facts that we know, although I have to admit, having cycled for a number of years on the road and having had experiences that have felt like punishment passes, 3 is a possibility.....
Anyway, if either 1 or 2 are true, then.....he was driving at a standard below which he should be expected to drive....i.e. Carelessly or Dangerously. So the fact that we also know that Mr Irvine had unfortunately died, it stands to reason that the court has to find the defendant guilty of, at the very least Death by Careless driving!
They didn't though
Running through the logic of this, that means that the jury decided that he wasn't driving, at least carelessly. Thus, he was driving at a standard expected of a normal and competent driver. Therefore......
...had any of those jurors been driving that minibus down that road at that time, they would probably have done the same.
That is a point that is really worth pondering.
The jurors have effectively admitted that they drive in a manner that could quite easily kill a cyclist, and it would just be one of those things, one of those accidents....you know....something that happens that is no-one fault, just an act of God.....
Do we really believe that this was an act of God?
I wonder if the jurors actually pondered this thought. I wonder if the judge instructed the jury to ponder this thought, the thought that, if I claim the right to use the 'there but for the grace of God go I' get out clause, then I too could be the man or woman standing there defending myself against the killing of that cyclist.
I drive in a manner that can can kill an innocent man, woman or child, on a straight road and my only excuse would be it was a bit sunny.
What is the answer then? How can we change this cultural justice?
In the past I've argued against new laws, but I do wonder if that is what is needed. Do we need a new law that makes responsibility absolutely clear and in some way protects the vulnerable cyclist better? Would additional guidance for the use of existing laws be sufficient?
I don't have the answer, but something needs to change. Until then, cyclists can almost be killed on our roads, with impunity.