Marathon runner condemns sentence of driver after she loses leg in cycling crash
A keen marathon runner whose leg was amputated after she was run over by a Tesco lorry while cycling in London said the £625 fine given to the driver proves cyclists are treated as " second class citizens on the roads".
Julie Dinsdale said she was "hugely disappointed" by the leniency of the sentence, which saw lorry driver Florin Oprea also given five points on his licence after he admitted driving without due care and attention.
The NHS midwife was crushed under the wheels of the lorry as it turned across her path while she rode through the capital on October 4 last year.
Oprea overtook her on Old Street in Clerkenwell before turning left on to Central Street, mowing her down in the process.
Just days before, a driving assessor had advised him that he needed to improve his use of his mirrors while driving.
Ms Dinsdale's right leg was immediately amputated by the front nearside wheel - a scene witnessed by her partner, bike pioneer Keith Bontrager, who was riding behind her.
The accident left her in hospital for five weeks, recovering at the Guy's and St Thomas' Amputee Rehabilitation Unit, and she now has a prosthetic and uses a walking stick.
Ms Dinsdale, who has taken part in marathons and cycling events all over the world, said the injuries had changed her life.
Two years before the accident she won the 2013 San Francisco Marathon for the over-50s women's class, and just a week before the collision she had completed the Three Peaks Cyclocross event in Yorkshire, climbing the county's three highest peaks through cycling and running.
The 53-year-old, from Brixton, said: "Every aspect of my life remains difficult and my inability to return to work or pursue my sporting and active lifestyle is an immense loss to me and causes me great distress."
In a withering dismissal of the sentence she said: "I am hugely disappointed by the decision of the court which finds that, despite the evidence that I was visible to the driver, he should not be handed a more substantial sentence given the impact his actions have had on my life.
"What is of greatest concern to me is that the driver continues to drive HGVs and it was said during the recent court hearing that he was now working for (haulage firm) Stobart.
"What has happened to me is devastating and I would hate for someone else to go through the same."
Ms Dinsdale added: "Despite cycling now being one of the country's most loved sports, especially following the success of the British cycling team at successive Olympics and the growing popularity of cycling as a means of transport in London, cyclists remain second class citizens on the roads in the UK.
"This is reflected by the behaviour of drivers and the courts."
Blackfriars Crown Court was told during a hearing on August 12 that Oprea had only been driving for Tesco for four days when the accident happened, her solicitors Leigh Day said, and that he had driven in the UK for just four months, previously working mainly in Italy.
The day of the accident was his first working alone, and days earlier he had completed a driving assessment in which an assessor said he needed to use his nearside mirrors more when driving.
It was also alleged that he was not following the route provided by Tesco, though he argued that he was following a satellite navigation system.
Ms Dinsdale's lawyer, Sally Moore, said: " We will now be taking civil legal action against Mr Oprea and Tesco.
"It remains a problem at the core of British society that serious collisions involving cyclists are still regarded as 'par for the course' and appear to be treated as such by the courts."
Simon Munk, from the London Cycling Campaign charity, which works for greater safety for cyclists, said: "We have been in contact with Julie's partner regularly. We absolutely agree with her that this is some way from appropriate justice.
"We continue to campaign for an improvement in road collision investigations and justice and to end lorry danger in London and nationwide."
He added: "We think there is a huge issue with the way the legal system treats collisions with those cycling, as well as the design of many lorries and many roads, and the expectation for people cycling to share space with the largest and most dangerous vehicles to them."
Roger Geffen, a trustee at the Cyclists' Defence Fund, which offers legal assistance to cyclists, who is also a policy director at Cycling UK, added: "It is shocking that a professional driver who has maimed a cyclist not only receives a derisory fine but is then allowed to continue driving.
"Our 'justice' system needs to stop dismissing cases like this as mere 'carelessness', and should show far greater willingness to take unsafe drivers off the roads, for the public's protection."