Safe driving tactics examined at cycle fatality trial

June 15, 2016 | By More

BicycleSafe driving tactics for truckies to keep clear of cyclists were called into question in the trial of a driver involved in a fatal crash with a Taiwanese tourist riding in Hornby.

The truck driver, David Peter Connell, 51, has denied the charge of careless driving causing the death of Taiwanese cycle tourist Ming-Chih Hsieh in the accident at the Carmen Road-Waterloo Road intersection on September 29, 2014.

The trial had its second day in the Christchurch District Court before Judge Gary MacAskill reserved his decision.

Defence counsel Kerry Cook questioned Serious Crash Unit investigator Senior Constable John Isitt about the rules and procedures for when trucks and cyclists are operating close together at intersections.

The Crown says a truck turning left – as in this case with a tractor unit towing two articulated trailers – is required to give way to a cyclist who may be proceeding straight ahead in a cycle lane to the vehicle’s left.

In this case, the Crown says Connell moved forward and then swung left while the rider was in significant blind spots beside the truck. The rider was crushed under the truck wheels and died at the scene.

The court was told of a suggestion that truck drivers wait 5sec to 10sec before beginning their turn, to ensure that there were no cyclists in the blind spots beside them.

Senior Constable Isitt accepted that it was reasonably possible that while Connell was scanning for hazards, the cyclist was in a blind spot when he scanned the left hand mirror.

Accident studies cited in court showed that even with a 5sec to 10sec delay by the truck, there was still a potential for a cyclist to remain in a blind spot.

The danger was reduced if the stopping lines for cyclists were in advance of where other traffic had to stop. It was reduced even more if there were dedicated green lights for cyclists.

In his video-recorded interview with police after the crash, Connell said that he had looked in his left hand mirror when he was stopped at the red light, and again before starting off, but had not been able to see the cyclist.

Crash investigator Dr Timothy Stevenson, called as an expert witness by the defence, said the “concept” of truck drivers waiting 5sec to 10sec before moving off was essentially trying to achieve the same thing as having advanced cycle stopping lines, or giving cyclists a head start with their own green light.

The cyclist in this case appeared to be in no hurry and yet he had managed to get quite a lead on the truck when the lights turned green. It seemed he had arrived exactly as the lights were changing and continued on.

Judge MacAskill asked about whether it seemed the cyclist had “recognised some risk” and had decided to get across the intersection before the truck. That was a possibility, Dr Stevenson said.

The defence disputed the police allegation that the truck had stopped ahead of the “limit line” for vehicles stopping at the intersection, which delayed or limited visibility of the cyclist. The defence said the stopped truck was about 800mm to 1m back from where the police said it was.

Judge MacAskill that however the case ended, the outcome may have “an educative effect” for the transport industry, particularly for operators of vehicles of this kind.

He said: “It is not really about rules. It is about taking reasonable care – that is what I am concerned with.”

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