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Cyclist killed after brakes on e-bike failed on notorious North Yorkshire descent, inquest hears

Craig Barnhart, the third cyclist in six years to die at Dibbles Bridge, had planned to have his disc brakes serviced after lockdown

A cyclist was killed when the brakes on his e-bike failed as he rode down a steep descent towards a notorious bridge in North Yorkshire that has been the site of a number of fatalities over the years, including two other cyclists in the past decade. Yesterday’s inquest into the death of 66-year-old Craig Barnhart heard that he was aware that his front brake needed servicing, and had been relying on his rear brake while waiting until lockdown finished to have the bike serviced.

According to data from his Garmin, Mr Barnhart, originally from the United States but who had lived in the Yorkshire Dales with his wife Anna for two decades, was travelling at 47 miles per hour when he struck the parapet of Dibbles Bridge after coming down the 16 per cent slope on 22 April this year, reports The Yorkshire Post.

The couple were out together on their e-bikes, and Mrs Barnhart told the inquest at County Hall, Northallerton, that her husband had passed her at speed on the descent, shouting that his brakes had failed.

After hitting the bridge, which is preceded by a sharp turn, he was thrown onto the roof of a barn, with his wife describing him as “looking dazed.” Both she and Paul Mountford, the owner of an adjacent cottage, shouted at Mr Barnhart to keep still.

However, he tried to sit upright, causing him to slip and fall from the roof, striking a stone trough and sustaining fatal injuries to his head, chest and pelvis.

Mrs Barnhart and Mrs Mountford said that following the second fall, he could not speak and was breathing heavily and although paramedics were on the scene quickly, he died less than an hour later.

North Yorkshire Police forensic collision investigator PC Paul Harris said that the hydraulic disc brakes on Mr Barnhart’s bike were “very much restricted,” with worn brake pads and no brake fluid, adding that the rear brake had been used “to destruction” due to the defective front brake.

Following the deaths of two cyclists at the same location in 2014 and 2015, both of whom had descended the same hill and been thrown over the bridge parapet, North Yorkshire County Council installed safety mesh on the west side of the bridge, but it did not extend to the point where Mr Barnhart struck the parapet and was thrown over it.

> Safety features on way for North Yorks bridge where two cyclists died

The council now plans to install more protection at the bridge, as well as signs warning cyclists of the danger of the descent and the bend that lies at the bottom of it.

Jonathan Leach, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire, recorded a conclusion of death in a road traffic collision with no third party involvement.

Simon joined road.cc 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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21 comments

Avatar
Paul J | 3 years ago
1 like

Poor family.

Though, it does sound like something out of a dark comedy. Landing on the barn, being OK enough to try get up, and so rolling off that to sustain the fatal injuries. The guy was clearly angling for a Darwin award, failed in his attempt, and the universe went "Wait a minute...".

I agree with others that the man was highly, highly stupid to go riding in a very hilly area on a bike with brakes he knew were defective. And it seems he'd been doing this for a while. And then he chose to go down this very steep descent.

Yes, it's a tragedy. However, the stupidity of this still needs to be highlighted to anyone who cycles.

Avatar
Spokesperson | 3 years ago
2 likes

I hope for her sake that the man's widow isn't reading the callous/offhand comments here. People - a man has died. Please don't chat about how he should have adjusted his brakes, got off and walked, etc. His poor widow will be living with that knowledge for the rest of her life. We all know about good cycle maintenance and what he should have done. RIP.

Avatar
wtjs replied to Spokesperson | 3 years ago
4 likes

People - a man has died. Please don't chat about how he should have adjusted his brakes

This is pious cant. Topics are not rendered politically incorrect by death, or if they are so viewed by some then others may justfiably ignore them.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

People - a man has died. Please don't chat about how he should have adjusted his brakes

This is pious cant. Topics are not rendered politically incorrect by death, or if they are so viewed by some then others may justfiably ignore them.

+1

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Hirsute replied to Spokesperson | 3 years ago
3 likes

What killed him was falling off the roof, not the brakes.

Perhaps you should be directing your ire at road.cc for not having 'comments are closed' ?

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Spokesperson replied to Hirsute | 3 years ago
0 likes

I agree, they should not have had open comments, if you don't know how to be respectful or add nice non-judgmental comments. Many years ago, as I was giving artificial respiration to a dying cyclist by the side of the road, another cyclist, maybe even someone like you, insisted on chatting to me about the estimated huge value of the victim's bike. Thanks guys! Flashback. Much appreciated.

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Hirsute replied to Spokesperson | 3 years ago
1 like

'Someone like you'

You are replying to the wrong person.

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wycombewheeler replied to Hirsute | 3 years ago
0 likes

deleted

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Pilot Pete replied to Spokesperson | 3 years ago
1 like

And you've just done exactly that....

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Batchy | 3 years ago
3 likes

This is terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. Having been born and lived and cycled in the Dibbles Bridge area most of my life, to think that this poor chap had also lived in the area for twenty years or so you would have thought that he would have had more sense than to ride around that area with no brakes. Dibbles Bridge was the scene of terrible coach crashes in the 1920s and 70s with serious loss of life and any amount of cyclists have come to grief there.

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HoarseMann | 3 years ago
1 like

Tragic. A reminder to check over my brakes and have a practise of the rear wheel foot jam.

https://youtu.be/848BA1JY1no?t=76

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andystow replied to HoarseMann | 3 years ago
2 likes

I've practiced it on one bike, but unfortunately won't work on the bike I ride the most as it has full mudguards. Plan C would be to just push the front mudguard into the tyre, hard.

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Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
8 likes

Misleading headline really.  Very little to do with the location - everything to do with the short (not getting off and walking) and long term (not getting brakes fixed) decisions the rider made.

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Pilot Pete | 3 years ago
13 likes

Terribly sad, but how negligent to ride a bike when he knew the front brake was defective, even more so to ride in the hills descending 16% gradients, to the point he destroyed the rear brake too. What on earth was he thinking?

PP

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NZ Vegan Rider replied to Pilot Pete | 3 years ago
0 likes

Agreed. 

Stupid decision. It may (but I wouldn't do it) be ok for tootling around on the flat but not downhills. 

I wonder how he would've been if he'd kept laying down on the roof and waited to be rescued too. 

The road / bridge isn't inherently unsafe and probably pictureque but much less so now with safety fencing. 

I've never read / heard of this with rim brakes. 

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Hirsute replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
1 like

Well I'm old enough to remember suicide levers.

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HoarseMann replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
1 like
NZ Vegan Rider wrote:

I've never read / heard of this with rim brakes. 

I've had a brake cable snap - pretty sudden loss of control. Thankfully it was on the flat and I wasn't going fast.

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Secret_squirrel replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
8 likes
NZ Vegan Rider wrote:

I've never read / heard of this with rim brakes. 

you've never heard of badly maintained rim brakes?  I think we'd all like a set of these paragons of braking virtue. What make are yours?

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Sriracha replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
1 like

Not sure which flavour of brakes, but it's not unheard of:
https://road.cc/content/news/cyclist-killed-after-crashing-honister-pass...

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fenix replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
3 likes

Rim brakes fail too. One bike shop fitted brake blocks backwards to a pals mountain bike. Almost zero stopping power on steep hills - he could easily have been killed.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to NZ Vegan Rider | 3 years ago
2 likes
NZ Vegan Rider wrote:

I've never read / heard of this with rim brakes. 

If you mean failures, then yes they can and with carbon wheels, you also get the danger of the rubbing causing the wheel to laminate or overheat and bursting. 

The thing you do not "easily" have is the ability to see the wear of the pad compared to rim ones. I don't see why he couldn't replace them himself though as it is really easy. 

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