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"No family should go through what mine did”: Chris Boardman speaks about losing his mum at the hands of killer driver for the first time

Boardman was emotional as he talked about losing his mum Carol in a cycling collision at the launch of the Road Justice report, saying his dad "never recovered" and describing his anger at the way road crime is treated...

Chris Boardman movingly spoke in public for the first time about the impact of losing his mother in a road collision seven years ago, saying “no family should go through what mine did”, as he called for greater protection for the most vulnerable on our roads.

At the launch of a new Road Justice report, which makes recommendations about improving road safety for vulnerable road users, former Olympian, campaigner and now England’s cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman opened up about the “horrific consequences” of that day for his family: the blow of grief his father has never recovered from, and a loss that Boardman has found himself unable to process.

> British Cycling calls for end to "hazardous leniency" in sentencing of drivers who kill or injure cyclists

Boardman said he was speaking not in his professional role but as someone who has “felt it and lived…the horrific consequences of road danger”.

Carol Boardman was cycling near Chester in 2016 when she fell off her bicycle and was fatally struck by pick-up driver Liam Rosney, who had been texting on his mobile phone. Rosney admitted careless driving and was sentenced to 30 weeks in prison and an 18-month driving ban in 2019. 

Boardman, who was commentating on the Tour de France on the day of the incident, described receiving a phone call from his father, who was “just about getting the words out” that his mum was in hospital.

Boardman described the “weird feeling” of making his way across Europe, “disconnected with everything that’s going on around you”. When he arrived at the Countess of Chester hospital, in the dark, he eventually found his family, and the A&E ward where he discovered they were keeping his mother alive until he got there.

On the way home from the hospital, Boardman said, his voice cracking with emotion, “my father just wailed, from grief, and he has never recovered from that. And I’ve kept it in a box for seven years, and that’s why I’m here because no-one else, no family should have to go through that.”

APPWCG report launch 2023
Launch of Road Justice report at APPWCG meeting on 11th September (Laura Laker)

The Road Justice report, coordinated by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Walking and Cycling (APPWCG), makes ten recommendations, including treating road crash victims as victims of crime, with all the investigatory and sentencing powers that affords. It recommends compulsory re-testing of drivers after any period of disqualification, ending the speed leniency that allows drivers to exceed the limit by 10%, and making the “exceptional hardship” claim genuinely exceptional. Currently the claim that losing one’s licence would cause the driver hardship, because they rely on their vehicle for work or caring duties, say, is successfully argued by 23% of drivers with 12 points or more.

Boardman described his anger about the way we treat road crime and the quibbling around measures intended to make the roads safer. Media coverage of the report has in part focused on the theoretical possibility a driver exceeding the speed limit by 1mph could receive points.

“People who commit road crimes, either through choice or incompetence, are not the ones that we should be protecting,” he said. “I get incredibly angry when I see this reduced to it being about one mile an hour. Repeat offenders have already been accommodated with a point system, so they shouldn't be shielded from consequences.”

He suggested that this narrative was ultimately costing us “hundreds of millions” of pounds, building protected cycle routes to shield cyclists from law breaking drivers, and denying people the right to cheap, “easy health” in being able to cycle and walk regularly in safety – something Dutch residents enjoy daily.

He said: “If we don't do all that we can to ensure that the vulnerable are safe, and feel safe, we’re unconsciously snuffing out the opportunity for what should be easy health for millions of people; a right that's routinely enjoyed by millions of people, young and old, just 200 miles from where we're sitting now.

“We are spending hundreds of millions on infrastructure to try and give people a sense of security that they should feel on any road, in large part because of fear of those that are breaking the law whilst in charge of heavy machinery.”

Boardman ended by welcoming the report’s recommendations, which, if implemented, he said would “only affect those that break the law, especially repeat offenders”. The report was led by the University of Westminster’s Dr Tom Cohen and supported by British Cycling and Leigh Day solicitors. You can read the report here.

Three Key Recommendations of the Road Justice report:

  1. Compulsory retesting for any period of Disqualification
  2. Ending speed leniency, the 10% either way rule
  3. Exceptional hardship - making it genuinely exceptional. 23% of those who amass 12 points or more currently keep their licence under the exceptional hardship clause

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17 comments

Avatar
QDubs | 10 months ago
2 likes

In the Road Justice Report there is a complete lack of focus on what is probably the number one problem - poor road design by traffic engineers.

These engineers should be held accountable for road designes that put people walking, bicycling and using mobility devices at great risk. This especially when better and proven much safer designs such as CROW are known and succesfully utilized elsewhere.

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hawkinspeter replied to QDubs | 10 months ago
2 likes

QDubs wrote:

In the Road Justice Report there is a complete lack of focus on what is probably the number one problem - poor road design by traffic engineers.

These engineers should be held accountable for road designes that put people walking, bicycling and using mobility devices at great risk. This especially when better and proven much safer designs such as CROW are known and succesfully utilized elsewhere.

At the very least we should confiscate their crayons.

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chrisonabike replied to QDubs | 10 months ago
0 likes

Amen brother!

We're trying, in some places [Cambridge] [Manchester] [Edinburgh - with an actual councillor cycling it for himself!] but there are a couple of real barriers in the UK:

 - technical debt (knowledge - even "how it could be", experience etc. - even getting the right parts for kerbs and drains)
 - an apparent "not invented here" culture.
 - the main one - different goals / expectations compared to e.g. NL.  In the UK it's maximum safe capacity / permeability for motor traffic vs. prioritising safe and efficient movement of people).

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Bungle_52 | 10 months ago
10 likes

It seems to me that Chris Boardman has behaved in a very dignified way over the death of his mother. I would have been livid with the driver and would not have been able to hide my contempt for a system that considers killing a cyclist merely careless. I really hope that now he has finally opened up and given his response in a well reasoned and cogent way he will be listened to and his recommendations acted upon. I am not holding my breath though.

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leedorney | 10 months ago
8 likes

I'm 51, I've always cycled for leisure and performance based fitness for health. Other than that bus or train. To own a car isn't a benefit from my pov but a removal of independence. To see a collection of bikes parked up makes me smile inside. There've been times on the road when I've feared for my life vis the car, that's criminal and grossly unnecessary. The Law needs altering to deal with individuals who flout respect for the most sensitive road users whatever they be and stamp them out in society

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stonojnr | 10 months ago
4 likes
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Cyclo1964 | 10 months ago
3 likes

So had a quick read through the report and summed up in general the impact to vulnerable road users and I thought great this is move forward until I got to the part of recommendations and progress ! 

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hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
15 likes

It's such a shame that so many lives are affected by drivers just being extremely selfish and not caring about other road users.

The level of injustice in this country around road deaths is staggering.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
4 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

It's such a shame that so many lives are affected by drivers just being extremely selfish and not caring about other road users.

The level of injustice in this country around road deaths is staggering.

Unfortunately "selfish" is always from some standpoint.  We (sellers of motor vehicles and related industries, the politicians who saw advantages in pushing this trade, us all for buying into it) have made it easy for everyone to consider the amount or quality of driving we do to be normal.

"Sensible" and "normal" is rarely seen as "selfish".  OTOH everyone being "punished" because some break the rules offends our chimpanzee sense of fairness.  Here "safety" possibly works against change here as roads are "safe enough" (for drivers) that most people never get memorably affected (see RoadPeace for notes on this).  Even though we all suffer low-grade ills from mass motoring (noise, pollution ...) that's "normal" so we don't see it.

From a "user perspective" there's always someone doing things worse, or less justifiably.  After all I only drive a couple of time a year, and I have a much smaller vehicle than most, and it's powered by home-grown electricity, and I've done my advanced driving, and it's only because I have to (taking my poorly squirrels to the vet / because no-one will deliver nuts to our isolated squirrel sanctuary ...)

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 10 months ago
6 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

Unfortunately "selfish" is always from some standpoint.  We (sellers of motor vehicles and related industries, the politicians who saw advantages in pushing this trade, us all for buying into it) have made it easy for everyone to consider the amount or quality of driving we do to be normal.

"Sensible" and "normal" is rarely seen as "selfish".  OTOH everyone being "punished" because some break the rules offends our chimpanzee sense of fairness.  Here "safety" possibly works against change here as roads are "safe enough" (for drivers) that most people never get memorably affected (see RoadPeace for notes on this).  Even though we all suffer low-grade ills from mass motoring (noise, pollution ...) that's "normal" so we don't see it.

From a "user perspective" there's always someone doing things worse, or less justifiably.  After all I only drive a couple of time a year, and I have a much smaller vehicle than most, and it's powered by home-grown electricity, and I've done my advanced driving, and it's only because I have to (taking my poorly squirrels to the vet / because no-one will deliver nuts to our isolated squirrel sanctuary ...)

I was meaning selfish as in specific drivers prioritising their speed over the safety of other road users and/or using their phone whilst driving as it's easier for them than to pull over and use it properly even though phone use drastically increases the chance that they'll hit someone.

To my mind, the best drivers aren't necessarily the ones with the quickest reactions and top notch vehicle handling (though that can certainly help), but the ones that take a relaxed, cautious attitude with them. Appreciating that speed rarely makes much difference to journey time is important as so many instances of poor driving (e.g. MGIF)  don't actually benefit the driver to any significant degree. Traffic congestion is usually the much greater factor, so you might as well just slowly follow a cyclist to get to the next red light.

However, I do have issues with some courteous driver behaviour - mainly when they stop before a junction to "let out" or "let in" a driver in the side road without considering non-motor traffic and what kind of visibility the maneouvering driver has.

But yes, driving motor vehicles can be considered "selfish" in general though that can apply to so many facets of modern life.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
3 likes

I'm with you but ... it's all a sliding scale - or maybe some kind of bell curve of opinion*.  And given current or likely policing levels - absent your excellent suggestion about more (black box) tech solutions - it's either opinion / social norms or the infra itself doing most of the work of keeping people in line.

So although I'm hardly sympathetic I can understand the "but it's legal to buy this stuff (phones) / they even put screens in cars - they'd just ban it if it were proper wrong" and "everyone does it".

I'm sure I'd be appalled at some of the ignorant or selfish behaviour of people on bikes in e.g. NL - which there will be, because people.  But that's generally much less dangerous to me or them, and (depending on whether they're playing music) less irritating than them driving.

If we could just set higher standards for the dangerous stuff (I wish) but fix it for the humans to safely carry on like humans for more of their journeys...

* Like how drink driving was seen in the old days; certainly some "it's the law / I'd just never", lots of "one or maybe two are fine" and then a long tail of "but I'm not even drunk after 4!" going onwards to "yeah alright, 10 was taking the mick ... but I was pissed at the time!"

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 10 months ago
3 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

I'm with you but ... it's all a sliding scale - or maybe some kind of bell curve of opinion*.  And given current or likely policing levels - absent your excellent suggestion about more (black box) tech solutions - it's either opinion / social norms or the infra itself doing most of the work of keeping people in line.

So although I'm hardly sympathetic I can understand the "but it's legal to buy this stuff (phones) / they even put screens in cars - they'd just ban it if it were proper wrong" and "everyone does it".

I'm sure I'd be appalled at some of the ignorant or selfish behaviour of people on bikes in e.g. NL - which there will be, because people.  But that's generally much less dangerous to me or them, and (depending on whether they're playing music) less irritating than them driving.

If we could just set higher standards for the dangerous stuff (I wish) but fix it for the humans to safely carry on like humans for more of their journeys...

* Like how drink driving was seen in the old days; certainly some "it's the law / I'd just never", lots of "one or maybe two are fine" and then a long tail of "but I'm not even drunk after 4!" going onwards to "yeah alright, 10 was taking the mick ... but I was pissed at the time!"

Yeah, we're not likely to be able to stop any selfish behaviour as that's fairly ingrained. We should be focussing on selfish behaviour that harms society, though I think that'd include oil company execs, bankers, politicians etc.

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ymm replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
6 likes

It is staggering and truly appalling also. I am 100% for zero tolerance for any motorists breaking the law as let's face it, its motorists who present the greatest danger by behaving in an criminal or incompetent manner when they drive. Motorist behaviour is a social problem and society as a whole needs to fix it. Everything should be thrown at this issue as the benefits of higher levels of active travel are so huge they simply cannot be ignored.

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wtjs replied to ymm | 10 months ago
7 likes

I am 100% for zero tolerance for any motorists breaking the law

Unfortunately for most of the participants on this site, the bulk of the population is 0% for anything other than 100% tolerance of motorists breaking the law when the offence is against cyclists. Some, possibly most, forces go further and are keen on 100% tolerance of motorists breaking any law. This is YT13 WFS on the road on 7th September with no MOT since 11th May. First detected and reported by me on 21st July. It has finally had MOT test today (interestingly, the mileage has changed from being reported in miles to km) but there will be no penalty other than possibly an ex gratia payment to a police officer. In Lancashire, the police condone the driving of vehicles which have had no MOT for years

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Billy1mate replied to wtjs | 10 months ago
0 likes

Were you on your bike when that clip/photo was taken? I ask because the driver was on your side of the road whilst passing stationery vehicles, would that have been possible if you were driving a car? What I'm alluding to, is the 'it's only a cyclist, they'll move over' mentality that is rife.

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Sriracha | 10 months ago
9 likes
Quote:

...  driver ... texting...

And yet this is so common. I see it every time I walk to work, and again on the way home, every day. The police could see it just as easily.

Edit note that the earlier report says the perpetrator was on a voice call with his wife, rather than texting. I think that is an important detail, since I'm pretty sure it's the cognitive distraction as much (or more) than the physical handling of a phone that impairs the driving.

Avatar
Steve K replied to Sriracha | 10 months ago
8 likes

Sriracha wrote:
Quote:

...  driver ... texting...

And yet this is so common. I see it every time I walk to work, and again on the way home, every day. The police could see it just as easily. Edit note that the earlier report says the perpetrator was on a voice call with his wife, rather than texting. I think that is an important detail, since I'm pretty sure it's the cognitive distraction as much (or more) than the physical handling of a phone that impairs the driving.

On your edit - yes, that's right.  Hands free calls should also be illegal.

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