A cyclist who was left with horrific, life-changing injuries after a drink driver ploughed into him from behind at speed says he wanted to “stand up and scream” at the judge who handed the motorist a “disgraceful” 12-month driving and £540 fine for “ruining my life”.
Glasgow cyclist Ian Gillies was enjoying a leisurely ride in the outskirts of the city on 6 May 2023 when he was hit by motorist Mark Hugh Shields on Cumbernauld Road, Stepps, at around 12.30pm, throwing him 30 feet away onto the pavement and causing him to suffer various severe injuries, which have left Gillies unable to work and battling with anxiety.
“The guy came out of nowhere, I had just looked behind myself about 20 seconds before he hit me from behind. Someone who witnessed it said he swerved into my lane trying to undertake a car and that’s when he hit me,” the 54-year-old told Glasgow Live.
“I remember it all. At first I didn’t know I had been hit by a car, I just knew I was flying through the air. It was only when I was tumbling through the air that I saw the blue car.
“I think I must have gone about 25ft in the air before coming down hard on the sharp edge of the kerb about 30ft away from the crash site. A woman was shouting that I was dead and I had to tell them I wasn’t.”
Following the collision, Gillies was rushed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where it was revealed that he had suffered an internal degloving injury to his back, broken ribs, a broken elbow, damage to his hip, and several cuts and bruises. Nine months on from the collision, the cyclist says he is still suffering from chronic pain – resulting from a planned surgery to his degloving injury being cancelled due to fears it would be too dangerous – which has left him unable to work or carry out tasks around the house.
“It’s hugely changed my life, I can't do anything that I used to, like play football,” he says. “I used to cycle everywhere, I used to go up to 80 miles in one day, and I’ll never be able to do that again.
“It’s majorly limited my mobility, I can’t wash my dishes, I can’t stand for too long and I can’t sit for long because I’m in agony. I’m unable to do my work as a manager in a large chemical plant because it’s an intense and active job. The crash has completely changed my life.”
Ian’s physical and mental struggles following the collision were tragically compounded just five weeks later by the death of his brother Scott, who was killed after also being hit by a motorist while cycling.
“Five weeks later my brother was cycling and was killed as well,” he says. “We were close and would go out together on the bikes. He had been helping me recover when he was killed. It’s been a horrible time for the family.”
However, despite the severity of Ian’s injuries, 44-year-old motorist Shields – who admitted driving without due care and attention and driving while over the limit – was given a £540 fine and 12 months driving ban at Airdrie Sheriff Court, a punishment the cyclist describes as a mere “slap on the wrist”.
“He left me for dead on that road. The guy has never shown any remorse for his actions,” he says. “When I saw him at the court I told him ‘you got away with that mate’ and he never reacted.
“He nearly killed me and didn’t even get community service. If I had landed any different I’d be dead, and for that he got a small fine for ruining my life.
“It’s a disgrace, all he got was a year ban, which you get anyway for being a drunk driver, and a £540 fine. He's ruined my life and he’s essentially got away with it.”
The 54-year-old continued: “I was a fit and healthy guy before the crash but I can’t do anything now. I’ve been off work sick for nine months because of my injuries and I don’t know how I’m going to get back to work. Some days the pain is so bad that all I can do is lie on the floor with my feet up.
“I feel real anger over the verdict. I was so shocked that I wanted to stand up and scream at the judge. I wanted to ask him if he was having a laugh.
“He’s ruined my life. I’m a 54-year-old guy who was constantly out doing active hobbies and now I’m a shell of a person.”
This kind of sentencing for a drink driver who injured a cyclist unfortunately isn’t an isolated phenomenon.
In December 2022, Daniel Towers, a motorist who hit a cyclist while over the limit before failing to stop, leaving his victim with a serious head injury and “struggling to breathe”, was handed a 12-month community order, with 200 hours of unpaid work, and banned from driving for 16 months by a judge at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court.
Towers’ lawyer told the court that the motorist, who informed police at the time of his arrest that he didn’t feel that he needed to stop after the collision as “he believed that he had only hit a traffic cone”, had “suffered significant anxiety since the commission of this offence, and he knows that he has done wrong. He hasn’t had a drink since the accident and does not intend to drink in the future.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.