This also seems sound

Cyclists have been warned not to wear headphones after a coroner ruled a mother caused her own death when the music she was listening to meant she failed to hear an oncoming lorry.

Cycling’s dangerous enough without making it more so by not being able to hear what’s going on as well.

I’m not even that keen on (urban, at least) driving with a loud radio on.

51 thoughts on “This also seems sound”

  1. “Professor Marks said: “I accept this was an entirely avoidable incident and the cause of the events that lead op to the accident rest entirely with the cyclist.

    No charges have been brought against the HGV driver and he has been totally exonerated.””

    He didn’t even hit her, so why would there ever be any question of charges?

  2. I’ve seen a close call on the Toucan crossing near my house. A young woman with headphones on went across when the crossing lights turned green without checking the road. If she hadn’t had headphones on she’d have noticed that an ambulance with both lights and sirens going ended up pretty much standing on its nose in order not to hit her. Eventually she realised something was there, and made matters worse by standing in the road getting stroppy with the driver rather than getting out of the way.

  3. Mal Reynolds (Serenity)

    I cycle to and from work but never with headphones. That’s absolute lunacy!

    For this let’s just let natural selection take its course.

  4. The laughing Cavalier

    Many years ago – it was in the time of Walkmans – I would see a man cycling up the Fulham Road wearing headphones and with a book propped up against the handlebars. Then, one day, he didn’t appear at the usual time and never again thereafter. I wonder why.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    Arthur,

    She may have been stupid, but emergency vehicles are meant to stop at all red lights until they know its absolutely safe to cross. That you woman could have been a deaf person. (Also, you shouldn’t cross a red light to let them through, its still illegal and you will punished if seen.)

    I listen to the spoken word when I’m out running or on the bike. There’s enough breaks in sound for me to hear reasonably well and I’ve never been caught out. The incremental risk is one I’m prepared to take.

  6. “Cycling’s dangerous enough…”

    Cycling is a perfectly safe activity.

    Cycling in traffic increases the danger. That danger isn’t, on the whole, caused by people cycling.

  7. Cycling in traffic increases the danger. That danger isn’t, on the whole, caused by people cycling.

    Tell that to the twat on a bike that whizzed through a red light in front of me the other day. Luckily I saw him coming in time.

  8. I used to cycle a lot. I and my cycling friends were united in flabberghastedness that anyone would be stupid enough to cycle in traffic with headphones on. Just utter fucking lunacy. Yet it has caught on.

    I see people driving with earbuds in these days. Indeed, a woman with earbuds in nearly drove me and my daughter off the road a few years ago.

    > For this let’s just let natural selection take its course.

    I’m not convinced it’s hereditary.

  9. The daughter of a colleague of mine told me she witnessed this accident in London a few years back. She saw the woman on a Boris bike talking on her mobile who tried to undertake a lorry on the inside of a bend, and went under the wheels. It was a terrible thing to happen and it was an almighty mess, but it was wholly her own fault for not paying attention and trying to cut inside a lorry.

    It was quite sad: the woman was French and she was in London because her husband was there on expatriation, working for the same outfit as me. Left behind two kids, too. Tragic, but avoidable. It’s hard to know what to do short of shock treatment by showing them videos of mangled bodies: that’s what they do with us in the oil business, and it seems to work.

  10. I think the problem is that the poor bugger that splats them has to live with it, though!

    According to my friend’s daughter, the driver who saw what went under his wheels in the incident above was a right fucking mess. As you would be.

  11. A popular method of suicide in Belfast is to jump off one of these bridges: a nasty fall into fast busy traffic. A bus driver hit someone doing that a few months back. Turned out the same bus driver had hit another suicide in the same spot thirty years earlier. Poor bastard.

  12. Have been wearing headphone and now earbuds when out cycling or walking for many years. Still hear the traffic and I’m hard of hearing.
    I do use something called ‘eyes’ – being aware of whats around me coming at me or what I need to avoid. I cannot cycle any more but I do usually avoid being hit by traffic most of the time. The exceptions being a particular zebra crossing by a roundabout and when I stagger into the road.
    For whatever reason some people appear not to use their eyes, relying instead on other people getting out of the way.

  13. Same here, Martin. I still use a Walkman.

    I have survived 60 years of riding a bicycle on public streets (touch wood), and 40 years, off and on, of riding a motorcycle. A friend told me the key 40 years ago: pretend you are invisible. The bastard who turns left in front of you doesn’t see you.

  14. “That danger isn’t, on the whole, caused by people cycling.”

    My cycling experience has been that a huge proportion of the risks I ran came from other cyclists, whose stupid selfishness and incompetence frequently threatened to push me under a car or bus. Cycling-as-religion nuts should be arrested and put down humanely.

    The girl in the story wasn’t just cutting off her aural clues: when she went on to the roundabout she didn’t look right. Effing typical in my experience: out from a road end the buggers shoot, sharp left onto the main road, and no looking right at all. Did I say “humanely”? Perhaps inhumanely would be better.

  15. @dearieme

    Unfortunately your anecdata doesn’t match the statistics which show that in the majority of incidents involving people on bikes the vehicle driver is at fault.

    And what Martin and Gamecock said.

  16. I’m not convinced that “fault” is a particularly helpful concept here – “personal risk management” seems more relevant.

  17. @GlenDorran

    Is the measurement of fault fair in those stats? Genuine interest.

    e.g. silly twat undertaking a vehicle that is turning left. Is that considered the twat or the driver at fault?

  18. @MyBurningEars: hmm, that’s fine but there also needs to be a recognition that you pose to others. Magnitude of risk to others is far greater for those in charge of motor vehicles.

    @Cynic: good question. I haven’t looked at all of the deaths in London caused by left turning lorries, but I recall that a lot of them have been caused by the lorry overtaking then turning rather than an undertaking cyclist. I’ll dig around a bit more when I get a chance.

    Sadly, I have spent time reading the inquest reports on deaths in Edinburgh and the Lothians. The overwhelming majority can be put down to driver error.

  19. I feel a bit bad about calling the woman in Tim N’s link a “twat” there, actually. But she was undertaking a left-turning lorry on the inside while on the phone, so it’s probably fair. But still not nice.

    I am aware that we all do completely stupid things every day, myself included. A lot of the DIY I’ve done lately has involved a certain amount of “Yeah, this’ll probably be fine.” The trouble is that humans have evolved the instinctive subconscious reasoning “familiar equals safe”, and it’s hard to fight that. And we’ve built a civilisation in which lots of familiar things are unsafe, especially driving.

    > It’s hard to know what to do short of shock treatment by showing them videos of mangled bodies: that’s what they do with us in the oil business, and it seems to work.

    I agree, but the question is when to do it. The current approach is to interrupt people’s enjoyable evening television viewing with a horror story about misery and death and blame. I’m not convinced that’s ideal. Perhaps a special training course you go on when you get your licence?

  20. Tim Newman: “It’s hard to know what to do short of shock treatment by showing them videos of mangled bodies”

    Wouldn’t work. They’d just demand the banning of all lorries, or something.

  21. SQ2:“Turned out the same bus driver had hit another suicide in the same spot thirty years earlier. Poor bastard.”

    This is why I have no sympathy for people who jump under trains. I’ve heard the anguish in a driver’s voice over the tannoy. A colleague’s friend’s husband had to give up his job because some idiot couldn’t tie a knot on a rope slung over a tree…

  22. I’ve seen drivers overtake cyclists and immediately turn left, then go to the trouble of stopping, winding down the window, and screaming at the cyclist for having the temerity to… what, exactly? Be overtaken? Nearly get killed?

    Like I said, I used to cycle a lot, but I wouldn’t now. It involves entrusting your life to way too many people who shouldn’t be trusted with a fucking stapler.

  23. @S2

    Driving is the one everyday activity that people do where it is foreseeable that you could kill someone.

    It’s not going to be a popular view with people here, but driving licenses are handed out too easily and are too difficult to lose, even when it’s clear that the driver is incompetent.

    @TimN:

    Do they show mangled body videos in US driver training, or am I basing my view on a Simpsons episode again? If they do then it doesn’t have that much effect.

  24. @GlenDorran: “@MyBurningEars: hmm, that’s fine but there also needs to be a recognition that you pose to others. Magnitude of risk to others is far greater for those in charge of motor vehicles.”

    Which sounds suspiciously to me as if I can therefore drive into the path of a bus in my car and claim that it was the responsibility of the bus driver as he’s bigger.

    Will that wash on my insurance claim, you think?

  25. GlenDorran: “…driving licenses are handed out too easily and are too difficult to lose, even when it’s clear that the driver is incompetent.”

    I drive quite a bit in urban areas, and I have seen kids/teenagers/old people all wander blithely into the road without looking, often to catch a bus stopping on the other side of the road near the supermarket, because they can’t be arsed to use the zebra crossing that would take them 20 yards out of their way.

    I therefore propose a ‘walking licence’ and it’s withdrawal for jaywalkers. Seems fair.

  26. @JuliaM:

    No, that’s not what I said at all. I’m referring to the people (and there are many) who drive without regard for anyone else and whose actions are more likely to cause death/injury.

    There aren’t many deaths caused by cyclists or pedestrians.

    As I said above, I spent a grim few evenings reading FAI reports.

  27. @S2

    I’ve seen drivers overtake cyclists and immediately turn left, then go to the trouble of stopping, winding down the window, and screaming at the cyclist for having the temerity to… what, exactly? Be overtaken? Nearly get killed?

    Problem there (root cause rather than subsequent twatty driver behaviour) is partly two types of traffic with incompatible speeds mixing on that same narrow roads. Bit hard to fix in England, though.

    E.g. it is frustrating and a little dangerous to be stuck behind someone wobbling around at sub-10mph on a delimited country lane You’ve got folks roaring up behind, you’ve got narrow windy roads with limited visibility to pass. Any other vehicle and that kind of thing would be out of order, but it’s apparently okay for cyclists – okay, tractors sorta do that too but they at least are involved in growing food.

    Similarly I once passed (safely, but with some surprise) an idiot wobbling down the left lane of a 3-lane 70mph dual carriageway.

    I work around London fairly often, where a lot of cyclists behave like utter twats on the road and the pavement, so I’m admittedly less sympathetic than most as I’m more exposed to the twatty kind.

    I’m long on problems and short on answers with this one.

  28. > Perhaps a special training course you go on when you get your licence?

    Something like the motorcycling CBT? To pass your driving test, you should spend at least x hours on a bicycle in traffic: just to understand how drivers behave (and how they ought to behave) around cyclists.

    The sad truth is, forcing 18 year olds to gingerly weave their bicycles through busy streets for a few hours would probably lead to more deaths, not fewer.

  29. Perhaps a special training course you go on when you get your licence?

    A cycling licence before they’re allowed to use the same roads as motor vehicles would probably reduce the numbers of cyclists killed.

  30. @GlenDorran

    I don’t so much agree that licences are handed out too easily so much as the current test doesn’t seem to be all that effective at weeding out the bad ones. Too much luck involved, I think.

    Anecdata I’ve shared before: the guys I schooled with that passed first time were the ones that wrote their cars off within a year.

    Likewise the penalties for going at a safe but prohibited speed through unnecessary and drawn out motorway roadworks sections (e.g. 2 guys sorta working on one bit of road, but let’s cone off several miles with 50 limits and speed cameras) versus tossers that camp in the middle lane going 15-20 under the limit and overtaking no-one.

    Taking licences away for incompetence I agree with, just not the state’s way of measuring incompetence.

  31. @Andrew M:

    Edinburgh Council had a short lived project where they took their lorry drivers out on bikes under the supervision of a cycle trainer.

    I saw half a dozen blokes wobbling their way up Leith Walk in rush hour. They looked absolutely terrified, which I hope had the desired effect on their subsequent driving.

  32. @BiW: unlikely, as the evidence appears to be that its drivers who are the cause of most of the cyclist deaths.

    An unrepresentative sample of course, but British Cycling membership data suggests most of their members drive so already have road licenses.

  33. I reckon that cyclists should be allowed to use the pavements — and there should be a speed limit and a strict “pedestrians always have right of way” rule on pavements — and any cyclist who wishes to use the pavement should have a number plate on their bike (or T-shirt or wherever) so that said rules can be enforced. (And I’m confident no-one would give a damn about a cyclist going fast on a deserted stretch of pavement in the middle of the night.) Entirely voluntary. I think most cyclists would prefer to use most roads most of the time, but they’d have the option of going onto pavements to avoid particularly dangerous bits.

    It’s not a perfect solution, but then there are none. At the moment, though, we force cyclists into the roads to cope with artics because of a slavish devotion to a law written before the invention of the internal combustion engine, the intention of which was to put the bicycles and horses, which moved at similar speeds, together.

    Anyone ever been to Stevenage? A cycle path for every road. Wonderful place for kids.

  34. “a law written before the invention of the internal combustion engine, the intention of which was to put the bicycles and horses, which moved at similar speeds, together.”

    Did not know that.

  35. @SquanderTwo

    There are lots of places I live (outside the Metropolis) with very wide, usually deserted pavements. And roads that are busy, narrow, pot-holed, speed-bumped, sped-on-anyway, with all manner of dangerously parked cars, vans and lorries.

    A kid or an elderly gent slowly pedalling down the pavement would be in the right place, in my opinion.

  36. S2
    “I reckon that cyclists should be allowed to use the pavements”

    Young mums with their five year old sproglets staggering along the pavement at three miles an hour brings out the gentleman in me, but being run over by grown-up jerks on their wank machines does not.

  37. @GlenDorran

    hmm, that’s fine but there also needs to be a recognition that you pose to others. Magnitude of risk to others is far greater for those in charge of motor vehicles.

    A pertinent and accurate retort. It is indeed something that motorists, and more so lorry-drivers, ought to be bearing in mind. The chances of me killing someone are probably far greater than the chances of me being killed, and I ought to drive to reflect that.

    Nevertheless… I do notice that the “blame game” gets played a lot whenever people discuss road safety and my feeling is it’s rarely productive and basically wrongly directed.

    Some chap dies when his cycle hits a dreadful pothole and he cracks his head open. Fault of the council maintenance department? His own fault for not wearing a helmet? Is he officially a “twat” or a “fool” or a “daredevil”? Actually, far as I can see, and aside from issues of insurance/legal compensation which basically are small fry in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Council might be legally mandated to keep the roads safe. Doesn’t mean they will. So kids, stick a helmet on. And adults – your own choice, but do manage your own risks rather than ignore them on the grounds of them being someone else’s job to have prevented.

  38. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Headphones rob you of your situational awareness almost as well as a blindfold. There was an incident near where I used to work where some kid decided to walk across the train tracks while listening to music on his phone. He was ‘lucky’ in that he only lost both his legs.

  39. There was a good article doing the rounds by a fighter pilot on observational skills needed when driving/riding a bike. The thing that stood out for me was the mantra drilled into them during training: move your head or you’re dead. Simply relying on moving your eyes means you are likely to miss lots of information.

    I started reading some of the literature he referenced about the effect of saccades and so on, but decided that one bit of advice was enough for the speeds that I travel at.

  40. How did the Telegraph get from this:

    “I cannot determine if she was on her iPhone listening with earphone at the time, but if she had been, it could have caused a distraction and could have contributed to the cause of the accident.”

    To this?

    “Cycling with headphones kills mother as coroner says she caused her own death”

    Some of you commenters need to work on your reading comprehension.

    And not fall for everything you read in the news, even if it reinforces your prejudice.

    You’ll be wanting to ban car radios next. And probably windows too.

  41. Tim Newman:

    “The daughter of a colleague of mine told me she witnessed this accident in London a few years back. She saw the woman on a Boris bike talking on her mobile who tried to undertake a lorry on the inside of a bend, and went under the wheels. It was a terrible thing to happen and it was an almighty mess, but it was wholly her own fault for not paying attention and trying to cut inside a lorry.”

    Versus The Daily Mail:

    “Alan Warwick, 61, admitted causing woman’s death by careless driving.
    And the court heard Warwick’s vehicle was equipped with technology designed to prevent such a tragedy from happening.
    He had access to a screen which showed him four separate views around him but that he had spent the time prior to turning ‘tidying up his cab’.
    CCTV showed Mrs Hitier-Abadie stopping in a construction works lay-by moments before she was crushed to death, to check for a nearby docking station for the bike.”

    Who are we going to believe this time? The judge and the newspaper or something we read on timworstall.com?

  42. “Unfortunately your anecdata doesn’t match the statistics which show that in the majority of incidents involving people on bikes the vehicle driver is at fault”

    I’m not persuaded. Where I’ve done most of my cycling there are armies of cyclists so that the drivers are used to them. As I say it’s been my fellow cyclist who’ve scared me. Repeatedly. The few accidents I’ve witnessed myself have all been the cyclist’s fault. If an idiot pulls out into another lane without either looking over his shoulder, or signalling, then if a car hits him it’s the cyclist’s fault in my view. Maybe the statistics-gatherers take another view. In which case they’d be wrong.

  43. “deaths in Edinburgh and the Lothians”: bloody hell, I never cycled in Edinburgh. The drivers weren’t used to cyclists, and there were too many hills for cyclists to wobble up or overspeed down. I’m not talking about cycle accidents in cities where few people cycle (or at least few used to). My “anecdata” are just facts about what I have witnessed personally. What are your anecdata based on?

    I’ve cycled a bit in East Lothian: never felt at much risk at all. But then I didn’t cut out aural clues with headphones, or cut down my peripheral vision with a hoodie, or occupy my attention (and both hands) with a spot of texting. And that’s a combination I’ve seen quite a few times in Cambridge: more than once the wrong way up a one-way street.

  44. Cycle all the time with ear buds and can confirm that I have vastly better awareness – including aural – than if I were in a car.

    Even with earphones, I can tell whether the car behind me is going to pull out to overtake me or not judging by the engine tone. If it’s revving madly, driver is impatient and won’t wait until the opposite lane is clear before trying to push past.

    All comments about moron cyclists jumping lights are spot on. They give the law-abiding cyclists a bad name which is a tad unfair.

    What really irks is when someone walks out into the road without looking, you jump on the brakes and they act like you’re in the wrong, in a manner which they would never do if they had walked out in front a car who had then honked a horn loudly at them.

    [/rant]

    tl;dr – cycle at the speed of traffic, never pass lorries on the left hand side, look for indicators, stop at reds etc. Headphones has little or nothing to do with it.

  45. Dave C,

    Who are we going to believe this time? The judge and the newspaper or something we read on timworstall.com?

    You’ll note I wasn’t quoting anything I read on here, I was repeating what an eyewitness told me. Now if the subsequent investigation and trial has turned up something else, then I stand corrected. It’s a discussion, not a cock-waving contest.

    Although this:

    CCTV showed Mrs Hitier-Abadie stopping in a construction works lay-by moments before she was crushed to death, to check for a nearby docking station for the bike.”

    I’m somewhat surprised that CCTV can identify a person’s intentions, but technology is improving every day.

  46. @Tim Newman,

    That wasn’t aimed at you. You’ve just relayed a second hand account from an “eye witness”. Clearly she wasn’t an eye witness or the story has got badly mangled. The lady wasn’t on the phone, and the driver admitted responsibility.

    But a few people on this thread (Squander, JuliaM) have picked up on your rumour and run with it. One of them using it to justify calling the poor lady a twat. You know her family might be reading this.

    But this links to my previous comment. The headline didn’t tally with the actual quoted text; the coroner’s comments “[unknown] … could … could … contributed” was translated by the Telegraph as “caused”. But no one had noticed and used this to fuel existing prejudices.

    I like Tim’s blog, he’s good at pointing out others’ logic errors, but, unfortunately, he has too many dittoheads in the comments section (again, not aimed at you).

    I don’t know what the video showed, but if you stop near a docking rank with a Boris Bike and you look along the line of occupied docking stations, then you may reasonably conclude that she was looking for a vacant docking station.

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