Cyclists must be prepared

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Yoga teacher who was staring at her phone when she stepped into the road and was hit by a bike WINS compensation fight as judge says: ‘Cyclists must be prepared’

  • Gemma Brushett, 28, successfully sued Robert Hazeldean after London crash
  • Yoga expert stepped out into the road while staring at her mobile in July 2015
  • Mr Hazeldean had come through a green traffic light and sounded a loud airhorn
  • Both parties were knocked out by the impact of the crash near Cannon Street
  • But judge ruled ‘cyclists must be prepared for people to behave in unexpectedly’

By MARTIN ROBINSON, CHIEF REPORTER FOR MAILONLINE

Gemma Brushett, 28, has successfully sued Robert Hazeldean after she was knocked down in central London during rush hour in July 2015. The yoga expert was staring at her mobile as she suddenly walked out from the crowded pavement into the road, the Central London County Court heard.

Mr Hazeldean had come through a green traffic light, and had sounded a loud airhorn attached to his bike, as well as shouting, swerving and braking in a bid to avoid the pedestrian – but ploughed into her at up to 15mph.

But in a significant ruling judge Shanti Mauger said Mr Hazeldean was liable to pay her compensation because ‘cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.’ He said: ‘Mr Hazeldean did fall below the level to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist in that he did proceed when the road was not completely clear.’

The garden designer was cycling home from work when he collided with Miss Brushett as she crossed a junction near Cannon Street station in the City.

Both parties were knocked out after the crash with the cyclist, from Archway, suffering cuts to his body and the pedestrian, from Kent, being left with a minor head injury.

But Miss Brushett then launched a bid for compensation, blaming Mr Hazeldean, who now lives in southern France, for the accident and she has won her case three years on.

Judge Mauger said the cyclist was ‘a calm and reasonable road user’ and that Ms Brushett ‘was looking at her phone’ when she walked into the road in front of him. But she went on to rule that Mr Hazeldean was liable to pay damages.

The court heard that Ms Brushett, who works for a finance firm in the City as well as running yoga retreats, was one of a ‘throng’ of people trying to cross the road at the start of rush hour when the accident occurred. She was looking at her mobile phone when crossing the road from east to west, and only noticed Mr Hazeldean approaching at the last moment. She ‘panicked’ and tried to dodge back to a traffic island, but the cyclist, who had been travelling at between 10-15mph, swerved in the same direction and hit her.

Ms Brushett’s lawyers told the judge that she could not remember anything about the crash due to ‘post traumatic amnesia’. However she relied on the evidence of another cyclist who had witnessed the crash and confronted Mr Hazeldean immediately afterwards. That witness had made a voice recording at the time, accusing Mr Hazeldean of ‘aggressive riding’ and calling him ‘arrogant and reckless’. Three other pedestrian witnesses however backed Mr Hazeldean, telling police that Ms Brushett was ‘not looking where she was going’ and that ‘the cyclist was not at fault’.

Mr Hazeldean himself in the witness box said that as he approached the spot where people were crossing, there was a large patch of clear road, although some people were still on the extreme left hand side of the carriageway about to step onto the pavement.

Ms Brushett was one of these, but having looked up from her phone screen at the last minute upon hearing him shout she panicked and darted back towards the right and into his path.

Judge Mauger said Mr Hazeldean was ‘courteous and mild-mannered’ and ‘gave every impression of being a calm and reasonable road user’.  She rejected the account of the crash by the other cyclist, adding: ‘The other witnesses feel that the accident was Ms Brushett’s fault.’

‘Mr Hazeldean is clear that she was looking at her phone as she was crossing the road,’ she continued.  ‘Three other witnesses said she stepped out or that the cyclist could not avoid her.  ‘I find that she was looking at her phone and I accept the account of Mr Hazeldean that she turned and went back towards the central reservation.’

But she went on to find that Ms Brushett deserves a payout.

‘When I stand back and ask ‘how did the accident happen?’ it seems to me that Mr Hazeldean owed a duty to other road users to drive with reasonable care and skill,’ she said. ‘Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way. But she added that Ms Brushett’s conduct as a pedestrian must have contributed to the accident. ‘Ms Brushett must clearly have equal responsibility if she is crossing the road without looking – and if she is looking at her phone, even more so,’ she said. ‘But cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.

‘The appropriate finding is that the parties were equally responsible and I make a finding of liability at 50/50.’ The result of the judge’s ruling is that Ms Brushett is now guaranteed a payout, but will only get half of the full value of her claim. The case will return to court at a later date for costs and damages figures to be fixed.