The death of a world-renowned British endurance cyclist who was hit by a car while competing in a 3,500-mile race across Australia was avoidable, a coroner has concluded.
Mike Hall, 35, died almost instantly when he was struck from behind by a vehicle on a stretch of the Monaro Highway around 25 miles south of Canberra in the early hours of March 31 2017.
On Thursday a coroner said the “remarkable” sportsman’s death should be a “catalyst for change” to improve safety for cyclists on the country’s roads.
Bernadette Boss also said it was “regrettable” that errors in how Mr Hall’s clothing was handled by investigators meant the probe into his death had been compromised “to some degree”, but she did not single out any party for criticism.
Mr Hall, who was originally from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, was described by the coroner as an “exceedingly experienced ultra-endurance cyclist” who was “rated as being one of the most experienced in the world”.
He had set off from Fremantle in Western Australia on the morning of March 18 with other endurance riders for the gruelling Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
Just 12 days and approximately 3,000 miles later, he had crossed most of the continent to reach Cooma in New South Wales and was second in the competition.
Riding unsupported, competitors were expected to complete the race in 14 days. On March 31 Mr Hall had set off along the Monaro Highway, which had a 100kmh (62mph) speed limit, shortly before 3am.
An inquest held last year heard how at around 6.20am he was hit by a car in the northbound lane of the road, which had narrowed near an intersection.
The driver of the car was at first unaware he had struck a cyclist and thought he had hit a kangaroo until he found Mr Hall’s bike embedded in the passenger side headlight.
There was no evidence that the driver had been driving furiously, recklessly, or with alcohol or prescribed drugs in his system, the coroner noted.
A post-mortem found Mr Hall had suffered multiple injuries to his head and intracranial contents, fracturing of the spine, and multiple chest and abdominal injuries and his death had been “almost instantaneous”.
An investigation found that while Mr Hall’s rear light, which was operated by a dynamo and did not flash, was compliant with road safety laws, it would have been difficult for the driver to see.
It also found that the continuous light could have been misinterpreted by a driver for the static red reflectors on the road’s guideposts.
The design of the road and its shoulder rendered it unsuitable for cyclists, particularly at night, the investigators said.
The inquest heard that Mr Hall had been wearing dark clothing with reflective panels, although the items were not dealt with in accordance with normal police procedures for retaining evidence so their reflective properties could not be tested.
Dr Boss said: “Mr Hall’s death was avoidable, which makes the loss of this remarkable person even more keenly felt by his family and the community.
“It is unfortunate that the investigation into his death has been to some degree compromised by the loss of significant evidence in the form of his clothing and bicycle accoutrements.
“There is, however, sufficient evidence for his death to be the catalyst for changes that will enhance rider safety into the future.”
The coroner made six recommendations, including a call for the Australian Capital Territory and other state governments to amend laws to require a cyclists to use a flashing rear light when driving in low-light conditions on rural roads.
Dr Boss also recommended that Australia’s national standards body reviewed rules on lighting equipment for bikes.
She also referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police to review if any offence had been made.