There’s a lot of anger following the inquest into the death of Michael Mason, and justifiably so.
A driver hit and killed a man who was riding a bike directly in front of her car. For some unknown reason she didn’t see the man on the bike directly in front of her, but the police decided that this was not worth bothering the criminal courts with.
For more information about the case, I suggest you read this piece by Martin Porter QC, who represented Michael’s family at the inquest, this piece by Mark Treasure, and this piece by Evening Standard journalist Ross Lydall.
It’s a sad case, yet one more example of the UK establishment’s acceptance of road deaths.
But it’s also another example of why mixing cycling (or walking) with motor vehicles is never desirable.
Michael Mason was a very experienced rider. According to Ross Lydall’s blog post, he’d been “cycling daily throughout his adult life” – i.e. for over 50 years.
So he’s been riding a bike ever since the Beatles’ first single was released, since Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister.
In short, this guy really knew how to ride a bike.
So if someone as experienced as Michael Mason can get hit and be killed, any of us can. All those tricks and tips you think keep you safe when out cycling on the road? Michael probably had figured all those out before you were even born.
And yet his skill and experience wasn’t enough to save him. No amount of training, experience, testosterone or guile can save you from a car being badly driven. There’s no Bikeability level that will save you from a surprise rear-end shunt.
What would have prevented Michael Mason’s death, however, is a Dutch-style physically-separate cycleway.
Had there been proper cycleways along Regent Street – as there should be – then he would have been nowhere near that car, however badly driven it was. His death should never have happened.
And yet this simple truth still evades many.
The whole “shared space” concept is based on mixing motor vehicles with people walking and cycling, for example.
There’s recently been a glut of “cycling design guides” which suggest that mixing modes is desirable, even at low speeds. (Note: Mixing modes is sometimes acceptable when motor vehicle volumes and speeds are very low, but it’s never desirable.) Often cycling is touted as a way to “tame” motor traffic, while in reality the motor traffic intimidates and discourages people from cycling.
And there are still plenty who believe that becoming “skilled up” to cope with the current conditions is the only way forward for cycling in this country – despite the fact that many cyclists who are killed have a high level of skill.
This awful case shows how badly wrong those people are.
The aftermath of Michael Mason’s death shows us how shockingly lacking the British justice system is.
But the collision itself reminds us how lacking Britain’s road system is, and why it needs redesigning.