In the criminal courts the treatment of those who have killed cyclists has remained patchy. We all experience irrational road rage from time to time from motorists. The unfortunate cyclist, Paul Webb, was deliberately run down by a motorist, Sean Fitzgerald, apparently in retaliation for a damaged wing mirror. Mr Webb died of his injuries. Fitzgerald claimed this was an accident. Unhappily for Fitzgerald, but happily for justice, two workmen in a nearby driveway heard the engine noise followed by the collision and the jury rejected Fitzgerald's defence. Fitzgerald was convicted of murder, sentenced to life and will serve a minimum of 13 years. This is a first, so far as I am aware, of a murder conviction for a motorist who has run down a cyclist. I have an uneasy feeling that Fitzgerald is far from the first, or last, motorist to attack a cyclist in this way but if the cyclist is dead, it is often difficult to challenge the motorist's version of events.
44. In my judgment, although it is illegal for cyclists to use the pavement (unless it is specifically sanctioned by a local authority for shared use), when weighing up the danger to himself (cp danger to pedestrians) it was a reasonable decision by the Claimant to ride on the pavements in this area rather than the road in the context of the duty of care owed to himself to take reasonable care for his own safety whilst cycling. In my judgment, although illegal and potentially negligent in any action vis a vis a pedestrian, it was not “blameworthy” in terms of negligence in contributory negligence."
So there we have it, judicial confirmation that the facilities for cyclists are so poor that they can reasonably decide to travel illegally on the pavement. I suspect Mr Kotula was wearing a helmet (because the report does not state otherwise) but there is also here further ammunition to use against those who argue that a cyclist is guilty of contributory negligence if he does not wear a helmet:
"50. In any event, even if contributory negligence had been established here, the relative culpability and causative potency of the alleged negligent acts of the Defendants and the Claimant under the principles in Davies v Swan Motor Co. (Swansea) Ltd.  2KB 291 were such that those of the Defendants were overwhelming: their negligence potentially threw users of the pavement into the path of vehicles on the carriageway; whereas the Claimant was rightly or wrongly using the pavement in the first place to try and avoid uncomfortable proximity with those very vehicles."
In the other civil case, which also came before HHJ Brown, the widow of Ninian Donald, claimed damages against the driver of a skip lorry that crushed Mr Donald as it turned left at traffic lights in Hackney in May 2007. The Defendant accepted 75% of the blame for the accident and damages were agreed, and approved by the judge, on that basis. This is a tragically common type of incident especially in London. Interestingly at the inquest the investigating police had no hesitation in heaping the entirety of the blame on Mr Donald.
I have commented before on the adequacy of police and coroners' investigations into the deaths of cyclists. Earlier this week I met up with a lot of lawyers, medics, bereaved and others interested in the legal investigations of death. It strikes me that there is a hierarchy of deaths; sterling and thorough work (not least by Coroners) goes into the investigation of deaths in custody (including those detained by UK forces abroad), deaths of soldiers, deaths in the workplace. The public funds, and rightly so, investigation and legal representation of the highest quality to take on such cases. Typically those involved in the coronial system at this level are favourably impressed. Relatives of the victims of Road Traffic Collisions are almost universally far less impressed. My own explanation for this is that our society is car dominant. Deaths in a factory or building site or an unnatural death whilst detained by the State are a disgrace and should not happen: deaths on the road, well that's the inevitable price we pay for enjoying our motor vehicles. The unnatural violent death of any individual is equally important. I wish we could move up the list of priorities at least those vulnerable road users who pay the ultimate price for taking up the Government's exhortations to walk or cycle.