A Canberra coroner has found that a cyclist’s death after being struck by a car on the Monaro Highway in 2017 was avoidable but was unable to recommend the driver be charged because of a lack of evidence due to the police disposing of his clothing.
Elite British cyclist Michael Hall was competing in the ultra-endurance Indian Pacific Wheel Race, and on 31 March 2017 was near the intersection of Williamsdale Road and the Monaro Highway when he was struck by a car driven by Shegu Bobb at 6:20 am, dying instantly.
Race fans were following Mr Hall’s progress remotely as he was equipped with a GPS tracker and knew immediately something was wrong.
Coroner Bernadette Boss found Mr Hall, who has been described as meticulous and careful, died as a result of head and other injuries, and made six recommendations which she hoped would enhance rider safety.
But she criticised police for the loss of his clothing which could have shown how visible he was on that fateful morning.
“It is unfortunate that the investigation into his death has been to some degree compromised by the loss of significant evidence in the form of his clothing and bicycle accoutrements,” she said.
She said Mr Hall was wearing dark coloured clothing but “regrettably, the clothing worn by Mr Hall was not dealt with in accordance with normal police procedures for retaining evidence. As a result, it has not been possible to test the clothing for reflective properties and therefore to conduct completely accurate reconstructions.”
The Coroner found that while she could not recommend a charge of negligent driving to the Director of Public Prosecutions, she would refer it to the Australian Federal Police to see if a traffic offence had been committed.
“Mr Hall’s death was avoidable, which makes the loss of this remarkable person even more keenly felt by his family and the community,” she said.
The Coroner recommended that the ACT Government should conduct a review of the intersection of the Monaro Highway and Williamsdale Road to evaluate its risk to road users, and define clearly what constitutes a major intersection on the ACT portion of the Highway.
The Government should also examine the speed limits for major intersections along the Highway.
The Coroner made three recommendations relating to enhancing cycle visibility:
The Australian Standard for bicycle lighting should be either updated or replaced; and the ACT Government should change the law so bikes had to have a flashing rear light when riding a bicycle in low light conditions on rural roads; and to clarify whether bicycles required a wholly separate reflector to be on the back of the bicycle, or whether the reflector may be integrated into the rear light.
She said all jurisdictions should consider these changes to the Australian Road Rules.
Pedal Power’s Mark Boast welcomed the Coroner’s recommendations but said the ACT Government needed to take a more systemic look at the issue, including continuing disrespect from drivers, better signage and working with surrounding councils in NSW.
He told the ABC that cyclists always knew Mr Hall’s death was preventable.
“Mike Hall was riding legally, he was well lit. We’ve had video of him … we know what he looked like from behind,” he said.
“Cyclists are basically in a situation where they’re legally doing what they’re entitled to do, and not being respected on the road.”
Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on the RiotACT.