As road users, cyclists must expect the unexpected – failure to do so could land you with a hefty bill
The recent trial of a cyclist who faces a £100,000 bill for costs after injuring a pedestrian is one that is of great interest to me, a personal injury lawyer and keen cyclist.
Among those expressing sympathy for cyclist Robert Hazeldean is broadcaster and safe cycling campaigner Jeremy Vine, who said: “I feel very sorry for this fellow. I haven’t met anyone who thinks he could have done more to avoid hitting the pedestrian.” Well, Mr. Vine has clearly not met District Judge Mauger of the Central London County Court. The judge considered all the evidence and decided that Mr. Hazeldean and the pedestrian, Gemma Brushett, should share the blame equally: the cyclist for not allowing the pedestrian to cross safely in front of him, and the pedestrian for not paying attention and looking at her phone as she walked across the road. As the judge said, cyclists as road users are under a duty to expect the unexpected.
Interestingly, Ms. Brushett’s key witness was another cyclist who, in his evidence, was highly critical of Mr. Hazeldean as he ‘accelerated’ towards a group of pedestrians crossing a busy road in the evening rush hour. Three other pedestrians gave statements to the police and all put the blame squarely on Ms. Brushett for not looking where she was going.
The following facts were established in court: Mr. Hazeldean rode through a green light and approached the pedestrian crossing at 10-15 miles per hour. He was accelerating slightly uphill. He shouted and sounded his air-horn as he approached pedestrians who were still crossing the road. Ms. Brushett had almost made it across the road when the cyclist crashed into her, having braked only at the last moment. It is unfortunate that when she finally realised the cyclist was approaching he was almost upon her and she was startled into taking a step back, which put her directly in his path. She was knocked out by the impact and sustained a minor concussive head injury.
The case also serves as a stark reminder to all cyclists to ensure they are adequately insured against personal liability, either through household or cycle insurance, and that uninsured defendants should take legal advice before entering a defence – in this case, the cyclist could have counter-claimed for his own injury and loss.