A Driving Instructor's Blog

This story from the newsfeeds tells how Julian Evans (a cyclist) was knocked off his bike and killed by Deborah Lumley-Holmes (a motorist).

Before I continue, let me make it quite clear that as far as I’m concerned, Lumley-Holmes should be in prison for what she did (she got a six-month suspended sentence and was banned for a year). It’s not easy to comment on the case beyond that, since pertinent facts appear very hard to come by. But that isn’t stopping some of the radical cycling groups from shooting off both barrels of their mouths.

I’ve mentioned many times in this blog about how the mitigating pleas put forward by guilty parties (any crime) when they go to court are invariably laughable. In Lumley-Holmes’ case, we have:

…an “exemplary citizen” and [her defence] said in addition to raising £18,000 for charity she had worked as a volunteer at a local hospice and had done this even when she had breast cancer.

On the day in question she had taken an elderly neighbour suffering from dementia shopping in Newmarket and was driving home when the collision took place.

The simple fact of the matter is that she cannot remember what happened, she cannot explain how she didn’t see the cyclist for as long as she did (or didn’t, depending on how you look at it), and she has no other defence. This simple collection of details alone should at least have seen her separated from her driving licence permanently (or for several years, pending a medical investigation of her capabilities). Unfortunately, the Law of this land is a complete ass sometimes. Too often, in fact, and it’s something we all have to live with.

Now, you might think that this would be the end of the matter. Unfortunately, the Spandex Fetishists Militant Front sees it as some sort of conspiracy against cyclists. Well, since they want to stir things up – including me – let’s not leave it there. Not yet.

My aversion to “professional” cyclists is no secret. They ride anywhere where it isn’t technically illegal just “because they can” – and that includes not on adjacent cycle paths, which puts them right into the path of motor traffic that the cycle paths were put there to avoid. Irrespective of the fact that a motorist is not legally allowed to drive over a cyclist, there is also the duty of care incumbent on the cyclist to keep out of the way wherever possible. Unfortunately, this duty is something which is being waived in ever increasing numbers by cyclists. The vast majority of them break the Law (of the road, as detailed in the Highway Code) on a regular basis, and they jeopardise themselves in the process. Whether it is deliberate or through simple ignorance is a point of debate, but the fact is that they DO break rules – and they bend a great many more of them! Often, right in front of motor vehicles.

Against that backdrop, then, it is worth noting that various cycling groups have latched on to the Judge’s comments about Lumley-Holmes being “a good person” (indeed, they have been on the case since the incident happened over a year ago). This has led one of them to say:

I’m sure we’re all just as aware of the abuse scandals in the church as we are of our own recent embarrassment at having spent the 80s thinking what a lot of lovely work for children’s charities Jimmy Savile was doing. Let’s not pretend that either doing some charity work or, even less, being religious are accurate litmus tests for a Good Person.

In the usual blinkered way, this writer clearly misses the fact that if you’re going to invent nonsense based on irrelevant comparisons, and make parallels that are from a universe far, far away, precisely the same must apply to the injured party – Julian Evans, in this case. You see, much has been made of how much of a great guy Mr Evans was by all those who have now heard his name for the first time, and who also ride a bike. I have no reason to dispute that, nor do I want to. But a couple of things not mentioned anywhere else can be explained better in pictures.Newmarket Road, Risby

This is Newmarket Road (where the accident happened). It is clearly a narrow-ish country lane. Cyclists have every right to use that road, of course, but by doing so they put themselves in danger because – as I have said several times before – roads are primarily designed for motor vehicles.

Looking at the road from another angle – and at both ends – you begin to see what sort of place it really is. At one end, there is what appears to be a breaker’s yard:Newmarket Road - one end of it

At the other end there is some sort of depot where lorries enter and exit. You can see one heading that way in the first picture:Newmarket Road - the other end

Then, if you pull back and look at the overall area, you discover that Newmarket Road is a short spur which leaves and re-joins the busy A14 dual carriageway:Newmarket Road and the A14

I stress once more that the Law does not prohibit cyclists from using that area (including the A14, as far as I know). Therefore, they have every right to be there. But by doing so they put themselves in danger.

As an aside, Lumley-Holmes says she can’t remember what happened. Mr Evans unfortunately isn’t here to give his side. So who is to say that he didn’t swerve or something?

CTC – the Cycling Charity – was actively seeking people to attend the trial. Why? They could have just read the news reports afterwards like everyone else. Or rather, perhaps they were simply attempting to forward their radical views. After all, anyone coerced into attending would hardly have been the most objective of observers. Indeed, a comment after the sentence reads:

I met Jules on a London to Paris charity cycle ride in 2008, a nicer guy you could not wish to meet. I was shocked to hear of his untimely death and especially the manner of it. The sentence in no way fits the crime. Mrs Lumley-Holmes has offered no explanation for how she managed to run him over from behind on a straight road in good visibility.

You’d have thought this guy was present and witnessed the whole thing on high-speed video from multiple angles, wouldn’t you? As it is, no one – Lumley-Holmes, the court… and especially members of cycling clubs not directly associated with the case in any way at all – knew the true events.

CTC’s homepage says:

The Road Justice campaign’s aim is to make the roads safer by making the justice system take a tougher approach to bad driving.

It carefully avoids any sort of balance by omitting the obvious line “and bad riding”. If policing were improved, and applied objectively, these people whose Spandex is obviously too tight and cutting off oxygen to their brains would find quite a few of their own kind answering to the Law. If you look at CTC’s third “example” they complain that a cyclist was charged with “careless riding” instead of the driver in a collision being prosecuted – and they take issue with that. Clearly, they want their cake and to eat it, too!

The way things are going, I think they’re in for a big shock, because society is gradually waking up the the real problem of too many cyclists using dangerous roads in dangerous ways. Cyclists have a duty of care to themselves and those about them. Someone needs to explain that to them in words they understand. After all, dead people stay dead – nothing can change that.