Contrary to what the BBC and Sky TV believe when they repeatedly invite me to take part in counter-productive car-versus-bike debates, I’m not on the side of the motorist at the expense of the cyclist, or vice versa. Instead, I’m for the motorist and the cyclist because, to be fair, I am both. With that in mind, I reckon I’m qualified to comment when cars are in collision with bicycles.
A recent fatal incident involving 25-year-old driver Kiera Coultas and teenage cyclist Jordan Wickington is one that I urge all road users to study, think about and comment on. Why? Because this started as another tragic accident. But it has turned into an important test case with enormous repercussions. It sets a precedent. And not necessarily the correct one.
On the face of it, Coultas, a hotel manager, is totally responsible for the lethal collision. She drove through a (green) light at 45mph instead of the permitted maximum of 30mph. What’s more, she was either sending a text or had just finished sending one as she approached the junction and tried to proceed through it. That’s when her car was in collision with and killed Wickington, a scaffolder who, incidentally, wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Judge Jeremy Burford QC found Coultas guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, banned her, warned her she’ll do time and ruled that while she waits for her jail terms, she must surrender her passport and agree to other restrictions. Fair enough. Fact is, Coultas’ car was in collision with and killed Wickington while Coultas was contravening one law (speeding), while almost certainly breaking another (using a mobile). Open and shut case? Driver guilty as hell? Cyclist in late teens the innocent victim? Yes, yes and yes… if you fail to look beyond the media sensationalism.
Dig deeper, however, and it transpires that Wickington played a major part in his own death. This he did by ignoring a red light and riding into the path of Coultas’ car, which was driving through a green light, remember? Yes, she was 100 per cent guilty of speeding and equally in the wrong for using a mobile. But let’s not forget Wickington’s role. He was 100 per cent guilty of jumping that red.
To make matters worse, he made the fatal mistake of ignoring the most important traffic signal at 7am in the depths of winter. It’s not known whether he had lights on his bike as he cycled in the dark, but even if he did, pocket torch-size bulbs are useless when a bike rider jumps a red and drifts across the path of another vehicle responding to a green.
So who caused this lethal collision? The irresponsible driver, aided and abetted by the cyclist. They both did wrong. And jumping a red light surely has to be the bigger wrong as it’s a more certain accident causer than using a mobile or speeding. With all that in mind, I put half the blame for this incident on the driver who didn’t use her brain; the other half on the bike rider who took a huge and, ultimately, fatal risk. So if she’s only 50 per cent responsible, why is she receiving 100 per cent of the flak?
Arguably, it wasn’t her speeding or mobile misdemeanours that killed the cyclist. It was his deadly decision to ride through a red when a car with right of way was approaching.
His family said: “We hope his death will deter drivers from using mobiles.” With respect, they should have added: “We also hope his death will deter cyclists and other road users from jumping red lights.”