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Cyclist holding onto workmate’s car killed after driver accelerated

“Playful workplace banter” led to death of Gareth Robbins, says prosecution

A cyclist ​who was holding onto a work colleague’s car was killed when the driver accelerated, in what the prosecution described as a case of “playful workplace banter” that ended tragically.

Paul Heenan, aged 40, decided to cycle to work at the Yuasa battery factory in Ebbw Vale in April 2020 after the gym he attended closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Wales Online.

Workmate Gareth Robbins, 33, told Cardiff Crown Court that he and colleagues teased Mr Heenan after he arrived at work that day, saying he was too old to ride a bike.

After their shift ended, Robbins got into his Peugeot 208 to drive home, while Mr Heenan got on his bike.

Fellow employee Liam Newton, who witnessed the fatal crash, said that Mr Heenan had led a convoy of cars out of their workplace and was swerving in front of them, while Robbins swerved as if to overtake the cyclist, without doing so.

“They were all talking back at him from their cars,” he said. “It was all just having a laugh, winding him up about riding his bike.”

Eugene Egan, prosecuting, told the court that DNA evidence proved that Mr Heenan had been holding onto Robbins’ car.

“The defendant drove very close to the deceased who was cycling along normally in the roadway with the kerb to his left,” he said.

“The front passenger window on the Peugeot was open and the deceased appears to have grabbed on to the B-pillar of the car.

“The cyclist had his left hand on the handlebar and his right hand out and he was holding on to the pillar of the vehicle where the front passenger seat belt area is. He was, in effect, being towed along.”

He said that Robbins “accelerated and he knew that the deceased was clinging on to the side of his car and defendant reached a speed of between 24 and 29mph. That is a very dangerous thing for a driver to do.”

Mr Heenan’s handlebar made contact with the car, causing him to lose control of his bike and fall, sustaining a fatal head injury. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Playful workplace banter had spilled over with tragic consequences,” Mr Egan added.

Robbins told the court: “I like to think he was my best friend and I just wanted to say I would see him in the morning.

“We have never known Paul to cycle into work,” he continued. “There was jesting about him cycling in because of the gyms.

“I said ‘Why are you cycling in? You’re too old to cycle in.’ It was just laughing amongst friends kind of thing.”

Talking about the fatal crash, he said: “He was just cycling slow in front of me on the narrow road. I just thought he was joking about.

“As you come to the opening, widening of the road Paul was still cycling in front of me so I tried to go around Paul to make my way out.

“Paul was weaving like an S-shape when the road opened up when I tried to overtake.”

He said that as he passed Mr Heenan, he shouted through the open window of his car, “I’ll see you in the morning, skip,” before accelerating away, but denied that the cyclist had grabbed onto his car.

Robbins was cleared by the jury two counts of causing death by dangerous driving – one relating to Mr Heenan holding onto the car, the other for driving too close to the cyclist – but admitted causing death by careless driving. He will be sentenced next month.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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yupiteru | 2 years ago

Such a sad, tragic and unnecessary accident, but unfortunely the seeds of it being inappropriate for an adult to ride a bike in many peoples eyes, were sown many years ago.

Sadly there is still a stigma attached to riding a bike when working in certain industries.  I experienced this greatly when working as a coach builder in the rail industry and had the mick taken out of me daily, I had a thick skin but some others not so much and they gave up cycling to work because of it.

Fast forward a few years when I was working in an office environment and it was a completely different attitude, with many showing great admiration at not being a slave to the car everyday and took a genuine interest in my cycling activities.

Being in Ebbw Vale doesn't help mind you, certain areas of south Wales, like the valleys are like going back in a time machine to the 70's and if you ride a bike you are just a big poof, especially in the eyes of many of the local rugby club boys - I live in south Wales and it is sad but true.


brooksby replied to yupiteru | 2 years ago

Go back fifty or sixty years, there is so much old footage of factories at the end of the working day, and everybody is either walking or cycling.

espressodan | 2 years ago

Sounds an absolute tragedy for all involved. I'm not sure how material the bike was, if they'd had a joke about him walking or jogging as they left the premises the risk could still have happened.
Ultimately, this represents the number one problem with cars, they're sold as comfortable, fun, convenient and benign, but their weight and speed means people adjacent to them are never more than a second and one misjudgement away from disaster and many drivers are completely desensenitised to that fact.

brooksby | 2 years ago

Mr Heanan was too old to ride a bike at aged 40???

(Yes, I know that isn't the bit you're meant to take away from this story).


AlsoSomniloquism replied to brooksby | 2 years ago

From the mentality of it is a childrens thing and driving is for adults. Although work place "banter" is normally childish from all sides and it appears Heenan was joining in. 

Alternatively I was checking on streetview to see where the incident took place and I'm guessing the speed bump was here still on company property. But what I found scary was the cycle lanes that had been put on the main road and since (badly) removed. They were definite murder strip potentials. 


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