In anticipation of the Inquest report

In January 2019, the ACT Coroner is due to release her recommendations following the Coronial Inquest into the death in March 2017 of British cyclist Mike Hall.

Wiser heads have recommended that everyone ‘hold fire’ instead of pre-empting the release of that report. However, I sometimes feel the need to march to a different drummer.

The observations and opinions below are solely those of the author and are in no way intended to pre-empt the ACT Coroner’s report and recommendations. Nor do they represent the views or wishes of Mike Hall’s family or friends, or of any advocacy group.

My wish is simply to see Australia become a better place for us all to live, and a safer place for those who choose to use a bicycle on public roads to get where they are going. This is an opportunity for change. Will we seize it?

AFPImage

Recommendations for the ACT Government

Read more ...

How Australian Justice Fails Cyclists
#mikehallinquest

Cycle’s Summing Up of the 3-day A.C.T. Coronial Inquest into Mike Hall’s Death

(Media outlets, to reproduce this article or parts thereof contact Ed Hore, details on this site)
(Please use the hashtag #mikehallinquest when sharing this document)

Introduction

MikeHallGhostBikePhoto Credit, Nat Bromhead - Bicycling Australia Magazine

The ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Coroner’s Inquest is over, and the Coroner’s findings and recommendations are now not due to be released until January 2019.

There are no winners from all this.

Please be aware when reading this, some people may find the details distressing.

The losers here, as the Australian Cycle Alliance (Cycle) sees it, include: friends and family of Mike Hall; all cyclists (vulnerable road users) in Australia and especially in the ACT; the reputation of the ACT as a safe place to ride a bicycle; Australia’s legal system that we expect to deliver justice; and the Australian Federal Police.

Below, Cycle first looks at the timeline of the incident on 31 March 2017 south of Canberra. We then look in detail – from a cycling perspective – at the Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation. Of course, we can only look at that investigation through the lens of the evidence presented in the ACT Coroner’s Court Coronial Inquest. It is not our intent to judge that legal process, or to pre-empt the findings of that Court. However, the rules and procedures of the Inquest have affected how the public have been able to view the AFP investigation.

We then list some problems, as Cycle sees them, at this point in time.

This article will not be the final one from Cycle addressing issues of public safety and protecting vulnerable road users. However, it is our summing up of three days that we all wish hadn’t needed to happen. We all wish that no cyclist is ever hit, injured or killed. “Towards zero”, to quote the current road safety strategy slogan throughout Australia. 

The Timeline

On the evening of March 30, Mike Hall rode into Cooma with a bright front light and a bright rear light running off his Dynamo hub. [Cycle understands that Dynamo hubs deliver between 6 volts of AC at 3Watts power when it is propelled forward at approximately 15 km/h, testing on a DC battery is not a valid test (This is a correct from earier as we were informed differently but have been corrected by an member of the electronics trade). He was filmed with a reflective stipe on this rear bag, and wearing new-looking reflective leg warmers.]

That evening, Mike arrived in Cooma in NSW. This arrival was filmed by two people (dot watchers) who were following the inaugural Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR). GPS data indicates he arrived at 7:48 pm, and ate, rested and slept in or near Centennial Park. [Sometimes GPS data can be a few hundred metres off, and so he may have also been in one of three hotels within a few hundred metres of Centennial Park.] About seven hours later, at 2:55 am, Mike set out for Canberra. Cycle is in no doubt that Mike was wearing his reflective leg warmings, as it was approximately three degrees and he had previously expressed concern on his Twitter feed about how close cars were passing him. He was also likely wearing his dark jacket with a wide white shoulder stripe on each arm.

MH Proof

The driver of the car that struck Mike at 6:22 am went to sleep at 9 pm, and woke up at 4 am. The driver, Mr Bobb, told Senior Constable Potts in hospital on the day of the crash that he left home at 5:30 am. In his formal interview four or five days later, he stated to the AFP that he left for work at 5 am. The driver told police that he was awake in the night to tend to a new born baby.

Mr Bobb was 19, and was on his P-plates. Cycle does not know if he had NSW or ACT P-plates. If he was a NSW P1 licence holder, then he would have been limited to driving at 90 km/h. As his home was 79 km from the site of the crash, with a stop at a petrol station and with two 80 km/h zones and a 60 km/h road works zone between his home and the crash site, Cycle calculates that he would have had to be travelling at an average of 105 km/h if he left home at 5:30 am. If he left home at 5 am, Cycle calculates that he may have been able to stay within the posted speed limits on his journey, but he would have got all the way to Canberra by 6:22 am – the time of the crash. [One variable would be how long he stopped at the petrol station.]

MikeHallMap1

Mr Bobb was listening to music and was singing whilst driving.

Mr Bobb stated in his official statement that a truck parked outside a disused petrol station just a few hundred metres before the intersection where the crash occurred caught his attention. This may have led to up to seven seconds of inattention, or 200 metres of travel, at 100 km/h according to the expert witness.

MikeHallCrashScene

Mr Bobb stated in his conversation with Senior Constable Potts at the hospital after the crash that he had primarily been driving with his high beams on, as he had difficulty seeing with his low beams. On approaching the T-junction Mr Bobb said that he dimmed is lights as there was “a car in front”. In his formal interview four days later, Mr Bobb stated to Senior Constable Potts that he had dimmed his lights as he approached the T-junction, but there was no mention of a car in front. [When this was questioned during the Inquest, the Coroner stopped the questioning as, due to Mr Bobb’s level of English, the Coroner stated that the meaning of “a car in front” could not be accurately determined.] [Cycle is not clear on why a driver would dim their lights if there was not a car in front. Whether there was a car in front of Mr Bobb as he approached the intersection, possibly in the right turn lane, possibly partially obscuring his vision of Mike, we may never know. That may help to explain why Mr Bobb did not move further to the right as he approached Mike.] [See missing Day 2 seventh witness note below.]

Mr Bobb stated that he did not see Mike before he hit him. [This is likely true.] Mr Bobb said that he thought he had hit a kangaroo. [This is possibly true initially, but see note below about the ‘body slide’.] Whatever happened, it is abundantly clear that the driver, Mr Bobb, was either not looking out of his front windscreen when he hit Mike, or he was not able to see clearly what was in front of him on the road.

Mike was hit straight on, from behind, at approximately 6:22 am. It is not possible to know exactly where Mike was riding. But from the position of his titanium bike frame in the bonnet of the car, he was riding straight and true. Typically, this would mean (if the car was within its lane) that Mike was just slightly to the right of the white fog line, and just about where the wide paved shoulder of the road disappeared.

Mike was likely hit just before the middle of the T-junction intersection, as the first debris was in the middle of the intersection. The rest of the wheel debris was 25 metres further along the road. 36 metres beyond that was where Mike came to rest. [Within this distance, the ‘body slide’ was 48 metres.] It was another 105 metres to where the car came to rest. There were no skid marks. So, the car came to rest at least 166 metres (25 + 36 + 105) from where Mike was struck. [There is another estimate that this distance was 178 metres.] [The ‘body slide’ is the distance the body travels along the ground between where it makes impact to the ground to where it comes to rest. This distance was some 48 metres of travel distance. It is possible that at some point during this horrific ordeal, the driver realised that he had not hit a kangaroo.]

MikeHall CrashMap

Mr Bobb was tested and was not affected by alcohol or drugs. Also, phone records showed that Mr Bobb had not made or received telephone calls or text messages while driving. No effort was made by AFP officers to seize his phone and test it for data use during that time.

There was a speed camera on the road between Cooma and Canberra. There was no effort by the AFP to obtain speed records for Mr Bobb from that camera.

Mr Bobb had a casual conversation with AFP officers at the hospital in Canberra on the day of the crash. Senior Constable Potts took handwritten notes of this conversation. Mr Bobb was given a formal interview on April 4th, about four days later. He was offered a translator at that time, but didn’t want one. Senior Constable Potts was of the opinion that Mr Bobb did not require a translator.

The Investigation

The investigation of Mike Hall’s death by the AFP seemed, to Cycle, to attempt to blame everyone else except the driver. The case pointed the finger of blame at: the organisers of the IPWR, Dragonface Pty Ltd (owned by Jesse Carlsson and Sarah Hammond); ACTRoads and the road infrastructure; and Mike Hall’s lack of conspicuosity (a term used to mean he was not conspicuous enough to be seen by car drivers). [Cycle sees this as victim blaming.]

In the evidence presented about Dragonface, no mention was made about the safety instructions organisers repeatedly gave to riders, including: to follow all road rules, to be fully self-supported, to have an emergency GPS device, to have front and back lights, and to have two independent power sources [e.g. a Dynamo plus one or more batteries]. Counsel Assisting, in introducing the AFP’s case, however, did mention a phrase ‘Hunger Games on Wheels’ that Jesse Carrlson had used in just one media interview.

The investigation attempted to blame ACTRoads for the road design at this intersection. While ultimately Mike’s position on road cannot ever be known with complete accuracy, the verge is not an issue as Mike was hit while riding true and straight. So, whether he was left of the fog line, on the fog, or right of the fog line, Mr Bobb should have been looking forward and should have seen Mike in front of him at an intersection with a right turn lane.

The investigation attempted to blame Mike for being fatigued. However, the expert witness, who was an expert in pilot and truck driver fatigue, stated that there was no research to connect exhaustion with fatigue, that fatigue mainly affected decision-making, and that elite athletes could possibly train to reduce the effects of fatigue (but there was no research for that either). After saying that he suspected Mike looked fatigued in a video from two days earlier because he yawned twice, the expert witness on fatigue also stated that determining fatigue was not scientific, and that the best way to do so was to look at the person or even just ask the person if they are fatigued.

However, the expert did concede that he was unable to rule out a 19-year-old new father getting up to a young child being fatigued.

The investigation attempted to blame Mike for not making himself conspicuous enough for drivers to see him. However, video footage showed his lights to be bright, and showed him having a reflector on his bag, reflective leg warmers and white arm bands. And to make matters worse, the AFP disposed of all Mike’s clothing, and ‘lost’ his bag with the reflective material. And since, previously, all counsel present at the Inquest had agreed to suppress all photographs of the body, in the interest of justice, the public will even know for certain what Mike was wearing at the time he was struck.

The investigation attempted to blame Mike when it recreated his bike, but without the correct voltage (they used only a 6-volt battery), without his reflective gear, without the front light pool on the road in front of the bike, and without a rider or any riding motion. Additionally, the bike in the recreation was placed far to the left of the fog line so that it was almost out of sight of a driver’s line of vision.

When elements of the AFP investigation were challenged by a lawyer for the organisers, the Coroner said that the Court was not going to criticise the AFP investigation.

The investigation brought eight driver witnesses to the Inquest (a ninth was not contactable). Two were travelling south towards Mike, six going north successfully passed Mike without hitting him, the ninth was waiting to enter Monaro Hwy from the T-Junction.

Of the two going south, one saw his bright lights and thought he was a motorcycle. The other one was an AFP officer who saw his front and rear lights, as well as his legs turning. [Cycle believes that this means Mike had his reflective leg warmers on.] The AFP officer did not stop Mike to say anything to him. [Cycle believes this was possibly because he was compliant with ACT road rules.]

Of the six who passed Mike safely, four claimed they had to swerve to avoid hitting him, two clearly saw his legs/leg warmers, one saw his right arm reflector, one was distracted by a deer (“I love deer”, he said), one had his view of the road obscured by fog, and two said that they saw his black clothing. [Cycle believes that when you say you see someone’s black clothing, you are actually seeing the reflective material that makes you then notice and remember the clothing.]

And, of the four who claimed to have had difficulty avoiding hitting Mike, none were driving to conditions, which would have meant driving below the maximum speed limit of 100 km/h on a dangerous, dark road that had fog patches and was full of kangaroos. The Counsel Assist advised the court that the ninth witness, who was uncontactable, was interviewed twice, in the first interview he stated he saw a few cars coming from the south, but in the second interview said there was one or two. [Without his testomony it is now impossible to establish if there was a car in front of Mr Bobb.]

These witnesses were only interviewed in September, four to five months after the crash. Most if not all of them volunteered to give evidence, some using CrimeStoppers to contact police. And it is an established fact that memory is not perfect, and it deteriorates over time.

Counsel Assisting also said the Monaro Highway is not used very often by cyclists. However, Strava heat maps show 30 riders per day, which probably means that 100 a day on average use that road [as not every cyclist uses the Strava ride sharing app].

Counsel Assisting also sought to represent Mr Bobb, the driver. This was unusual and is not done in other state Coroner’s Inquests. Then, in the interest of justice, the driver was prevented from giving testimony. [Cycle wonders if this was to prevent him from contradicting his earlier statement. It also meant that no one would be able to ascertain if he had been speeding or not, or whether he dimmed his lights at the T-junction for “a car in front”.]

Both Counsel Assisting and the Coroner claimed that Mr Bobb’s English might not have been good enough and so he was given a certificate that allowed him not to give evidence at the Inquest in the interest of justice.

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts tested Mr Bobb’s front low beam lights and determined that they were below the minimum required lux (illumination of the road in front of the car) and would not have passed a NSW roadworthy test (allowing a driver to see 30 metres in front of them). In his first formal interview, Mr Bobb told Senior Constable Potts that he could only see a few metres in front of him. In a follow-up interview, Senior Constable Potts asked Mr Bobb how far he could see if it were a soccer pitch, and Mr Bobb said “half way across” [that is, 50 metres].

The AFP did not charge Mr Bobb for driving with inadequately bright lights. Mr Bobb was over-driving, a term that means he was going faster than he was able to see, effectively meaning that he was a risk of hitting obstacles on the road before he was able to discern that those obstacles were even there.

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts never questioned Mr Bobb’s changing story regarding what time he left home.

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts never questioned Mr Bobb’s changing story regarding whether there was “a car in front” or not.

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts didn’t seize Mr Bobb’s phone, even though he admitted to being distracted by a parked truck on his left. [This is the direction where one would normally place a mobile phone. There was no mention during the entire Inquest whether Mr Bobb had a car hands free mount for his phone or not.]

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts didn’t follow up to find out if there was in fact a truck there. [Regardless, looking at a parked truck on the side of the road is not as important as looking in front of you as you drive in the dark at 100 km/h with poor headlights.]

The AFP investigation led by Senior Constable Potts didn’t check Mr Bobb’s phone for data/app usage.

No ultra-endurance cyclists were interviewed by the AFP, and none were asked to give evidence at the Coronial Inquest. Ironically, there were six ultra-endurance cyclists in attendance at the Inquest. Four of them had also competed internationally in similar events. The benefit of their knowledge and experience was not included in the investigation by the AFP.

In short, it seems to Cycle that the AFP made the assumption at the start of their investigation that the cyclist was at fault for not being conspicuous enough/visible enough to the driver, and then set out to collect evidence that supported that position. Evidence that did not support that view was not collected, marginalised, disposed of or somehow lost.

MikeHall AbdullahDoc

The Journey To The Other Side: Indian Pacific Wheel Race 2017 Documentary

In Conclusion

The AFP appears to have disposed of a lot of evidence.

There are no consequences for breaking the road rules that lead to a death. No consequences for being distracted while driving. No consequences for failing to drive to road conditions. No consequences for driving a vehicle that does not meet registration standards.

Cycle sees the following problems in Australia following on from this inquest:

  1. The ACT Coroner’s Court. This was not the place to find justice for Mike Hall, as it did not have the power to investigate, but only to determine the cause of Mike Hall’s death.
  2. Safe infrastructure. There is a troubling trend for road engineers to attempt to save money by not designing roads for all road users, and especially VRUs.
  3. Inattentive drivers. Drivers who are not held accountable for their actions are still a problem on Australian roads. This is unrelated to blame and punishment, which are different.
  4. The Police. Part of the problem on Australian roads is that the Police are seen to be failing to hold drivers accountable and are seen to not be acting, in the public interest, to protect vulnerable road users.
  5. The media. The mainstream Australian media often appear to be sensationalising the death of cyclists, possibly to help them boost their revenue.
  6. The Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP, it appears from the evidence presented and not presented at the inquest, failed to fully investigate the death of Mike Hall. The assumption appears to be: ‘The cyclist is responsible for their own death. Now let’s provide evidence to prove that.’

If the findings and recommendations of the ACT Coronial Inquest into the death of Mike Hall on 31 March 2017 are not made public in January 2019, then the only written record of the 3-day Inquest will be the detailed notes taken in court by Cycle representatives. Only Cycle had representatives taking detailed and extensive notes on all three days of the Inquest. And only Cycle has documentation to back up its reporting. Minor additions may be made, but no changes are foreseen to the content of this document.

[Please note, this document is copyright and cannot be reproduced in part or in full without the consent of the Australian Cycle Alliance inc.]

In the public interest

We have found it difficult to write up the proceedings from Day 3. And that is for many reasons. It has been a difficult week for all involved in this Inquest.

The report from the Coroner is due in January 2019. So, we will have to wait until then to hear what the findings and recommendations will be. And it is not our job to pre-empt the Court.

Our hearts go out to all friends of Mike, and of course to his family, too. And a big thank you also goes out from Cycle to all those who sent words (and likes) of support to Anna and the family. A thank you also goes to those who sent us previously unknown footage of Mike in his bright reflective clothing (that the AFP did not retain as evidence) with his bright lights, not to mention the photograph of the reflective leg warmers he showed to dot watches in Omeo because he didn’t feel safe enough riding on Australian roads at night (as he posted on his Twitter feed).

TwitterMikeHall

The upshot of all this is that, in our opinion, it has been shown that Mike was doing nothing wrong, was following all Australian/ACT road rules, and was extremely visible that morning on the Monaro Highway.

Rest In Peace Mike.

To start Day 3, a phone linkup with a driver was established.

This driver said Mike was hard to see, and was wandering, not in a straight line. When the driver was shown a video of Mike from the previous evening where he was bright and visible, the driver replied: “Not what I saw, no flashing light.” This driver was then thanked for his testimony.

After this, a request was made to the Court for Counsel Assisting to represent Mr Bobb, the driver who struck Mike. Until then, the driver, Mr Bobb, did not have any legal representation. While an unusual move, the Coroner allowed the Counsel Assisting to represent Mr Bobb.

After a short break, Senior Constable Slater of the AFP gave evidence. He was on duty at the time.

He said he passed Mike, going south, at around 5:40 am. He viewed a white light that was brighter than the surrounding posts on the side of the road. Once he got past Mike, he looked back and saw a red rear light and the cyclist’s legs going round. [Cycle suspects this would support the hypothesis that Mike was wearing the new reflective leg warmers that he purchased in Omeo just days earlier. This would corroborate what two other witnesses also claimed to clearly see.] When shown the video of Mike from the previous night, Senior Constable Slater agreed that this was similar to what he saw on the Monaro Hwy that morning. When asked if he thought he should have stopped to talk to the cyclist, he replied that he has asked himself that many times. [Cycle is not surprised he did not stop to talk to the cyclist, as according to the officer’s own statement he could clearly see that the cyclist was compliant with all road rules. Cycle would like to send a personal message to this officer saying that to stop would have been taken offesively as Mike was well within the law, so he should not feel guilty for not stopping.]

A number of additional witnesses gave evidence about what they did when they arrived at the scene of the crash. We will not report on much of that, as it is not relevant to us understanding what lead to the incident in the first place.

The driver, Mr Bobb, was scheduled to give testimony on Day 3. However, being represented by Counsel Assisting, and under direction from the Coroner, Mr Bobb was not allowed to give evidence. Among other things, the Coroner said that Mr Bobb was ‘highly suggestible’, young and quietly spoken. The Coroner said that the hearing could rely on existing interviews in which the driver, Mr Bobb, said he simply did not see Mike. The Coroner also said that it was in the interests of justice that Mr Bobb be given a certificate (an exemption from giving evidence in court). [Cycle will not comment on the proposition that simply not seeing a cyclist means that a driver of a motor vehicle is automatically not guilty of any offence without a thorough and proper investigation of the circumstances and all the evidence.]

Additionally, Mike’s mother Patricia did not wish to compel Mr Bobb to give evidence. [Mr Bobb did speak to and embrace Mike’s mother, Pat, after the Inquest concluded.]

[Cycle notes that it is not the role of a Coroner’s Inquest to find criminal guilt, or innocence. It is simply the role of the Coroner to determine, if possible, the cause of a person’s death if it is not already known and to assertain fault.]

Regarding the photo of Mike wearing newly-purchased reflective leg warmers in Omeo, the Coroner stated that the photo does not prove that he was wearing them the night he rode from Cooma towards Canberra. [As an expert in long-distance riding, Heath Ryan suggests that as it was 3 degrees that morning in Cooma, and dark, and that Mike Hall had posted concerns about Australian drivers on his twitter account, he most assuredly would have been wearing his reflective leggings instead of carrying them in a bag.]

The Coroner thanked the AFP, acknowledged Mike’s mother, Pat, and Mike’s partner, Anna. She also mentioned her admiration for Mike’s skill and ability in his sport.

MikeHallWales

Written by Heath Ryan, another endurance rider and a Cycle author

When Mike was killed and the Indian Pacific Wheel Race called off, all our lives changed. I had just begun an unpaid ‘career’ in ultra-endurance cycling. No one knew me. And I was not a major player. But my life changed. And I changed.

All of us who were still racing at the time changed. We all knew this. We all felt it. But we couldn’t express our feelings, because our loss paled in comparison to the loss experienced by Mike’s family and friends.

When Anna reached out to the Australian Cycle Alliance in July this year, I was in Europe recovering from racing the US Trans Am Bike Race while simultaneously preparing to race the Trans Continental Race (Mike’s race). This was to be the third crown in my personal ‘triple crown’ attempt to race all three unsupported transcontinental races in the same calendar year.

When I was asked by Ed Hore of Cycle to meet with Anna in Belgium before the race in order to explore how Cycle could help, I saw an opportunity to also personally play a role in assisting Anna. Possibly this could help me continue my own healing process following Mike’s death sixteen months earlier.

So, yes, in part I was at the Coronial Inquest for two days – taking notes, typing reports, stressing, grieving, feeling frustrated by the legal process, etc. – for Mike, even though I didn’t know him, only met him once, and only spoke one sentence to him (Aussie humour – ask me about it over a beer one day). 

In part, I was there for Anna. And for Pat whom I met while checking in at the TCR on race day (again, there’s another funny story if you dare to ask).

And while I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to hit and kill a cyclist, I was not there for the driver. I understand that forgiveness is part of the healing process. But I’m not there yet. 

That is because, in part, I was there for the potential future cyclists and future friends and families of cyclists who might be struck and killed by drivers. How was this tragedy allowed to happen? What can we learn from it? How can this all be prevented from happening over and over again? Because, to quote myself at Mike’s ghost bike: “It’s not right.”

The back story that few know is this …

Eight days before the start of the TCR, my only sister called me from Canada to tell me that she had incurable brain cancer and only had 14 months to live. Her two requests of me were: that I invite my ex-wife to a final family Christmas holiday, and that I pull out of the TCR as it wouldn’t be fair on the family if two of us died in the same year. If you know me, you’ll already know which request was going to be the most problematic.

Altruistically, part of me screamed: “Every cyclist should be safe on public roads.” A selfish part of me was concerned that 16 months of my life preparing for the triple crown would now all be a waste. But a deeper part of me began the process – known as ‘the new grief’ – of watching a loved one slowly slip away. 

So, my sister and I discussed it … and I promised her that I would not die on the TCR. Then, six days later, I had a coffee with Anna in the Square in Geraardsbergen and promised her that Cycle would do all it could to support her in any way she needed. And I kept both promises.

Me? I can’t promise to #bemoremike, because I didn’t really know Mike. 

But I can promise to be more Heath. And I think that perhaps my role may be to make people smile, and sometimes even laugh. I may even inspire a few with my riding. Not sure. 

Meanwhile I will continue to work with Cycle because the work they do is so important. And hopefully the families of other cyclists will never have to endure what Anna and Mike’s family and friends have had to go through.

Heath, The Dark Knight

 

TDK
Heath Ryan in Holland before the TCR, 2018.

The following video was filmed at the Mike Hall Ghost Bike, 25th of September 2018.

TDKVideoCapture

"The three-day hearing of the inquest into the road traffic collision that killed Mike Hall has closed, and yet we are left with many questions remaining unanswered.

I, Anna Haslock, am deeply disappointed with the police [AFP] for their poor handling of the case and their flawed investigation, including:

  • A police reconstruction that failed to test several important elements of Mike’s visibility system.
  • The AFP failing to retain vital evidence such as Mike’s clothing.
  • Police failing to retain the drivers phone at the time of the accident. By his own admission the driver was distracted and we’ve been unable to test what the distraction was.MikeAndAnna

Mike had every right to be cycling on the road at the time. He was well lit and riding safely. He had every right to assume that the car approaching him from behind would pass him safely and according to the law.

I attended the Court with a clear mandate from those who supported me via the Just Giving fund to bear witness and to ask questions where and when I was able to. I did this to the best of my ability with the support of local and national cycling organisations. I will now be considering my options and getting further legal advice.

The Coroner paid her respects to Mike as an impressive individual who could have gone on to achieve many more great things. Her words were a comfort, but the unfortunate reality is that the community of Mike's loved ones, friends and peers are left with many unanswered questions."

In the public interest

There were a number of witnesses in Court on Day 2 today – in fact, ten witnesses in all. In this summary, for simplicity, we have grouped these witnesses, thus they will not be discussed in the order of their appearance.

The first grouping only includes Senior Constable Potts, Chief Investigator for the AFP. Next we report on two expert witnesses, one reporting on fatigue, and the other reporting on road design.

Following that, we cover the only private witness, who was the media manager for the IPWR. We then conclude with summaries from seven motoring witnesses who saw a cyclists on the Monaro Hwy that morning – three who appeared in person and three who gave evidence via phone linkups.

SENIOR CONSTABLE POTTS

Senior Constable Potts took the stand. He was the AFP Officer in charge of the investigation.

From the Abdullah Zainab documentary video, Senior Constable Potts today agreed that there were four reflective elements on Mike’s bike: a front light, a rear light, a rear reflector, and a reflective element on his helmet.

Senior Constable Potts refused to concede that this was a better representation of how Mike’s bike appeared. He would only concede that it too was a good representation, as was the AFP’s recreation video of Mike’s bike which only showed a dull rear light.

In cross examination, Senior Constable Potts was asked about the lux (light coverage or lit area) of the front light of the driver's car, and whether the driver had been over-driving? The Coroner said that the lux topic had already been dealt with, and that Potts was not an expert regarding over-driving.

There is still confusion whether another car was in front or behind or beside the driver, or if another car was even present. In the notes made by Senior Constable Potts at the hospital the day of the crash, the driver mentioned “a car in front”. In subsequent interviews, the driver did not mention a vehicle “in front”. This discrepancy was not followed up by the AFP.

In a yet-to-be-presented driver statement (driver 7), the driver who was waiting to turn onto the Monaro Hwy mentioned that he thought he saw a few cars coming towards him on the Monaro Hwy from the south. In a second interview, this driver stated he couldn’t remember if there were one or two cars coming. Senior Constable Potts conceded that if there had been a car in front of the driver, this could have affected the driver’s visibility.

Senior Constable Potts was questioned again on what the driver could see in front of him from his low beam front lights. This distance grew over the various interviews, from 15 metres to half of a 100-metre football field. No further testing of the car lights took place.

There was evidence from the mobile phone service provider that there had been no cellular-based mobile phone calls or texts between 4am and the time of the crash. Senior Constable Potts was asked if the mobile phone had been seized as evidence by the AFP. It had not. When asked if the phone had been used for data-based calls or for music apps, Senior Constable Potts was first surprised by the question, but then admitted that the phone had not been seized or tested for data usage. When asked about driver distraction, Senior Constable Potts said that this was a consideration. When asked if the mobile phone should have been seized, Senior Constable Potts said “Yes”.

It had been inferred that Mike may have been swerving on the road. When Senior Constable Potts was asked about the angle at which Mike’s titanium bike frame was impaled into the left side of the car’s bonnet, he agreed that it was at a straight angle and that the bike therefore would have been travelling in a straight line and not swerving.

Senior Constable Potts stated that the driver was offered an interpreter but didn’t want one. Senior Constable Potts said that he thought the driver’s English fluency was adequate.

When asked if the Abdullah Zainab documentary video was more likely to be more accurate [that the AFP reconstruction bike video], Senior Constable Potts replied “Yes”.

At the end of this cross examination, Senior Constable Potts was thanked for his time by the Coroner and dismissed.

THE EXPERT WITNESSES

An expert on fatigue made the following statements:

  • There was no baseline for him to establish whether Mike was fatigued during the IPWR, based on
    footage of Mike in Abdullah Zainab’s documentary video.
  • In advanced fatigue, decision-making is impaired, much like being intoxicated. However, there is
    nothing in the literature to say whether this can happen on a bike. A bigger problem occurs when
    people are sedentary like pilots or motor vehicle drivers.
  • Fatigue is a separate physiological condition from exhaustion. The expert couldn’t say whether
    fatigue and exhaustion interacted at all.
  • There is no research available into how bike riding is affected by fatigue. Typically extreme fatigue
    affects decision-making.
  • When asked if elite athletes might be less affected by fatigue due to training to deal with it, the expert stated that training for fatigue could play a limited roll in coping with fatigue, but that he was unaware of any research evidence either way. Potentially you are able to train to better deal with fatigue.
  • It is difficult to identify if someone is fatigued. Usually you just observe the person. Or ask them if they are fatigued. “It is not scientific at all.”
  • When asked if the driver of the car may have been fatigued after sleeping seven hours, from 9:30 to 4:30, and waking up during that period to a new born baby, and then driving in the dark, the expert said he couldn’t rule that out.

An expert on traffic signals from ACT Roads was asked to attend the crash scene.

This apparently is standard practice. When asked what his role was expected to be, he stated that his role at the crash site was to see if the line markings, etc., were correct.

He was not an expert in Austroads standard, and there was no signalisation or road lighting at this intersection. Cycle does not know why he was asked to give evidence in regard to this incident at this intersection.

Most of his answers consisted of: “I am not an expert in that area.” When asked by the lawyer from ACT Roads if the road markings were accurate at this intersection, he responded with “Yes, they were”.

Cycle stopped taking notes on this expert witness at this time.

THE ONLY PRIVATE WITNESS

The media person for the Indian Pacific Wheel Race gave evidence about her role and activities during the event. On cross examination she explained that this event was not like a regular bike race that required closed roads, police resources or public awareness of potential disruptions to public road access. It was an event that started with 70 participants, and dwindled to 42 on the morning of 31 March 2017. Uniquely, the participants rode longer distances and carried personal supplied on their bikes.

In fact, this event is no different than people commuting on public roads – sometimes at five o’clock in the morning or at nine o’clock at night, for example.

THE DRIVERS

The first driver witness got in touch with AFP the afternoon of the incident. He gave his statement to AFP in September (year uncertain) because the APF didn’t get in touch with him before then. He may have been driving slower than 100 km/h as there were a lot of kangaroos about. There were pockets of fog. He has his high beams on. He said he was within the lane but that he tended to drive more to the left of his lane to avoid colliding with kangaroos on the road. Then the cyclist was “just there”.

The driver swerved to his right because he almost collected the cyclists. The cyclist was riding within the verge. But the verge was narrow there. “It was close. I can’t imagine how this felt to him [the cyclist].”

Driver 2 had extra headlights and had previously hit wildlife three times. The driver had their high beams on, and saw a cyclist on the left, quite lit up. There were no issues with visibility. The driver clearly saw white reflector stripes on the cyclist’s right arm (the left arm was not visible to the driver), but did not see any white stripe on the cyclist’s back. His legs “stood out” as his calves were exposed. The driver was travelling at 70 to 80 km/h due to the risk of wildlife on the road.

Driver 3 was travelling south from Tumut in a speed-limited truck set at 97 km/h at 4:30 am. The driver saw a white headlight coming towards him on the other side of the road. “It was pretty bright.” The driver first thought it was a car with only one headlight, or a motorcycle. The driver then realised it was s cyclists. The cyclist turned right into a service station, crossing the path in front of
the truck. The driver stated that the cyclist performed this manoeuvre close to the truck, but the driver felt there was no need to apply any brakes.

Driver 4 had high beams on, because of the risk of hitting wildlife. “It’s a bit of a dangerous drive, really.” He was driving at the posted speed limit, which was 100 km/h. The driver said he saw a cyclist wearing dark clothes, with no lights (possibly a dull red rear light), no reflective equipment, and no helmet. (Let’s leave this one here.)

Driver 5 was driving at 100 km/h using cruise control. The driver thought he saw the white eyes of a deer, but he didn’t brake. “I felt the white light was as bright as candlelight.” The driver didn’t see a red light or any reflective material, but kept looking for the deer. “All of a sudden I had to swerve around a cyclist. I was nearly right on him.” The driver rang CrimeStoppers within a few days. AFP
contacted him four months later for a statement.

Driver 6 had previously hit two kangaroos. He saw a something about 300-400 metres in front of him that morning. At about 200 metres it became clear that this was a cyclist. The driver moved right and safely crossed the centre line to give the cyclist the plenty of room while he overtook him. The driver observed two red lights, and a front light, but did not recall seeing any reflective material.

Proof of Mike Hall reflective clothing
This image has just been supplied, it shows new leggings with reflective properties.

 

 MikeHallVideoLinkPlease enjoy this video of Mike Hall as he was entering Cooma south of Canberra the night before he was struck.

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