The Independent: Injured cyclist gets driving ban for breaking red light
Sunday, 20 June 2010
A cyclist who broke a red light and seriously injured himself when he smashed into a car has been banned from driving a car for a year, in a ruling described as “highly unusual” by the author of the acknowledged bible on road-traffic law in Ireland.
The ruling has also been described as “unprecedented” by an organisation representing cyclists.
“It will serve as a warning. I don’t think that most cyclists around the country realise they could lose their driving licence if they break the law when on a bike. Cyclists must realise that a bicycle is a vehicle under the terms of the Road Traffic Act,” said Mike McKillen, chairman of cyclists.ie — the umbrella group of biking organisations around the country.
John Cully, 38, of Pleasant Street, Dublin, was convicted after he cycled through a red light on New Street in Dublin 8, moments before crashing into a Volkswagen Jetta car driven by a Dublin woman, Paula McCormack.
Mr Cully smashed through the windscreen of the car and is still recovering from injuries to his arm.
An independent witness told the Dublin District Court last week that Ms McCormack had a green light when she proceeded through the junction. Mr Cully was banned from driving for a year because there is no provision for cycling disqualifications in the Road Traffic Act.
The court was also told Mr Cully had not been wearing a reflective jacket, though he claimed in court that his high visibility clothing was removed by medics or ambulance crew when he was taken to hospital.
After the case, Mr Cully, originally from Ballyfermot, Dublin, said he intended to appeal both his sentence and conviction. He told the Sunday Independent that he had no previous history involving accidents, though he admitted he is a former drug addict and has served 10 years in prison. “I couldn’t possibly have run the red light. I was cycling in rush-hour traffic and if I ran the red light I would have been squashed by on-coming traffic,” he added.
He remembers little about the accident and is still coming to terms with his injuries. “The woman put her coat across me and her daughter was holding my hand and trying to talk to me.
“All I really remember vividly is the car hitting me and everything after that is a blur. I’m completely unable to lift anything heavy with my left arm. Doctors believe my arm will be permanently injured. I have received absolutely no compensation for my accident, and chances are I will never cycle again”.
He said he was shocked at the driving ban.
“I don’t have a car and I do not drive but due to the court ruling even if I wanted to I couldn’t” says John.
“I spoke to a barrister friend of mine and he says that this is the most ridiculous case he has ever heard of. I’m going to appeal,” he added.
But Robert Pierse, the author of Road Traffic Law in Ireland, which is now in its fourth edition and a required source for lawyers involved in road traffic cases, said the judge was perfectly entitled to impose a driving ban for a cycling offence.
Mr Pierse added: “It is highly unusual but legal. Road traffic law in Ireland is very complex, with 12 or 13 acts and more than 400 regulations. The whole area is badly in need of consolidation and I understand that a bill is due to come before the Dail to do just that — when they get around to it.”
Mr Pierse, who at 73 remains a highly regarded consultant at Pierse & Fitzgibbon Solicitors in Listowel — the firm he established in 1962, operating from his mother’s converted hen house — said that he had not come across any previous cases where a cycling offence led to a driving ban.
He recommended that people read his 1,400 page book on road traffic law in Ireland for reference. “It’s cheaper than sleeping pills,” he added.
– COLM GAVIN and JEROME REILLY