'Avoidable' death of champion cyclist could prompt safety improvements
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'Avoidable' death of champion cyclist could prompt safety improvements

The death of a champion British endurance rider in Canberra was avoidable, but could become a catalyst for safety improvements for cyclists travelling on roads, a coroner says.

Mike Hall died while competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race when he and a car collided near the intersection of the Monaro Highway and Williamsdale Road, just south of Canberra, on March 31, 2017.

Mike Hall before competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.

Mike Hall before competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.

The Indian Pacific Wheel Race is an unsupported, solo ride covering nearly 5500 kilometres from Fremantle to Sydney, crossing the Nullarbor Plain and passing through Adelaide and Melbourne.

He started from Cooma that day just before 3am and began heading north towards Canberra. The collision happened at 6.20am and he died instantly.

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Mr Hall had won a number of prestigious and difficult endurance cycling events and was considered one of the world's greatest endurance cyclists. He was in second place in the race when the accident happened.

Pedal power members and supporters of Mike Hall leave the ACT courts after the inquest into Mr Hall's death was finalised.

Pedal power members and supporters of Mike Hall leave the ACT courts after the inquest into Mr Hall's death was finalised.Credit:Karleen Minney

Coroner Bernadette Boss described Mr Hall as a remarkable man and said his death was avoidable, which made it even more keenly felt by his family and friends.

She said his death could become a catalyst for safety improvements for cyclists travelling on roads.

Speaking outside court after the findings were handed down, cyclist advocate Mark Boast described Mr Hall as the Chris Froome of endurance cycling and said his death highlighted concerns for cyclists on roads.

"We are really concerned about the number of collisions where cyclists are being hit from behind," Mr Boast said.

Cyclist advocate Mark Boast speaks outside court after the findings of the inquest into Mike Hall's death were handed down.

Cyclist advocate Mark Boast speaks outside court after the findings of the inquest into Mike Hall's death were handed down.Credit:Karleen Minney

"The cyclists are in the situation where they are doing what they are legally entitled to do and they are not being respected."

He said more roads required appropriate verges for cyclists to separate themselves from traffic and said at the site of Mr Hall's death it was almost as if the road funnelled cars and cyclists into the same space.

If motorists were constantly aware they could encounter a cyclist at any time on any road, he said, more road crashes in general could be avoided.

Mr Hall suffered multiple head injuries, a fractured spine and multiple chest and abdominal injuries.

Dr Boss said an autopsy had declared Mr Hall's death occurred almost instantaneously as a result of those injuries and she accepted that opinion.

Dr Boss found Mr Hall had been wearing dark clothing at the time and the driver reported he had not seen Mr Hall before the collision.

She said police had not followed the normal procedures for collecting evidence when dealing with Mr Hall's clothing, therefore the reflective nature of the clothing had not been able to be properly assessed.

Submissions had been made to the inquest that Mr Hall's clothing was reflective, but this was not able to be verified.

The driver of the car, Shegu Bobb, was not charged with any offences in relation to Mr Hall's death, and Dr Boss said while he might have been negligent there was not reasonable grounds to suggest he face any charges.

Canberra endurance cyclist Michael James described Mike Hall as a balanced and thoughtful man who left a lasting legacy on the sport.

Canberra endurance cyclist Michael James described Mike Hall as a balanced and thoughtful man who left a lasting legacy on the sport.Credit:Karleen Minney

Also speaking outside court was Michael James, a Canberran who has competed in both Indian Pacific Wheel Races held thus far.

He spoke of Mr Hall's enduring legacy in the sport, but said despite his achievements Mr Hall never let his stature dictate his behaviour.

"He was a gentle giant," Mr James said, "he was such a lovely man."

"A really balanced and thoughtful individual."

Mr James said riding across Australia was an inherently dangerous activity, but anyone that attempted it was very well prepared, especially Mr Hall.

"He did it using gear that he was experienced with, that he knew was reliable, that he knew did the job," Mr James said.

Dr Boss said a number of reports found the section of road where Mr Hall died was unsuitable for cycling, particularly at night, and that Mr Hall's bike light might have been indistinguishable from roadside reflector signs.

The inquest heard evidence from a number of motorists who had passed Mr Hall before the collision and described him as difficult to see. They said they had been surprised to see a cyclist on the Monaro Highway at night.

Dr Boss made a number of recommendations including that the intersection should be subject to a review and speed limits at major intersections along the Monaro Highway be assessed.

She also recommended the ACT amend its legislation to require cyclists to use a flashing rear light when riding in low light conditions on rural roads.

Pedal Power ACT chief executive Ian Ross welcomed the coroner's findings but called on the ACT government to go further and conduct a cycling safety audit of all rural roads and highways in and around the ACT by the end of the year.

Elliot Williams is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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