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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Rider of modified e-bike, 30, died after colliding at high speed with woman walking along Yorkshire

His bike struck the woman, leaving her unconscious, before he was thrown from it and died instantly from a severe skull fracture. The couple and another pedestrian who witnessed Mr O’Dea’s riding described him cycling at high speed, and one man, Thomas Bevan, said he ‘had never seen a bike going as fast as that before’.

A police investigation later discovered an illegal modification to the bike, which Mr O’Dea had borrowed from his brother, that allowed a rider to bypass the manufacturer’s 15.5mph speed limit and UK regulations.

The inquest at North Yorkshire Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday that Mr O’Dea, who lived with his father in Cheltenham, had been visiting his mother and brother in York. He turned up ‘unexpectedly’ at the home of an old schoolfriend to show him the e-bike, but admitted he had already fallen off it earlier that day and then bought four cans of lager which the pair shared on a bench beside the River Foss. Mr O’Dea’s friend said he seemed ‘a little bit drunk’ but he was not concerned when they parted ways just before 3pm.

The couple involved in the collision were walking to a supermarket in the city centre and were on the left hand side of the path when they saw a cyclist coming towards them from the opposite direction. The man, who was not injured, said Mr O’Dea ‘bumped into’ his female companion, but did not slow down or stop and didn’t try to avoid them. They were not blocking the path. The woman agreed that the cyclist had been travelling ‘much faster than expected’. She regained consciousness at the scene and was treated in hospital for light injuries.

The other witness had been walking behind the couple, but overtook them near Fifth Avenue and saw Mr O’Dea ‘weaving from side to side very fast’ as he approached. He stepped off the path completely to allow him to pass, noticing that the cyclist ‘seemed out of it and not quite there’. He heard rather than saw the collision seconds later.

When police went to Mr O’Dea’s mother’s house to confirm his identity, she told officers that she had believed her son had been drinking before he went out on the bike.

North Yorkshire Police forensic collision investigator PC Richard Barker confirmed that the shared path does not have a designated speed limit, but is not open to motor vehicles. The surface was in good condition and visibility generally good, with no blind bends. Although a homeowner’s CCTV covering their garden and part of the path captured the incident, it could not be used to calculate his exact speed or other movements.

He had not been wearing a helmet and although the bike was well-maintained with no defects, PC Barker came across a small magnet taped to the frame, which had been used to bypass the speed sensor on the back wheel. PC Barker found Youtube tutorials concerning how to fit the magnet, but confirmed that a vehicle capable of going faster than 15.5mph would normally be classed as motorised and its user would require a licence and insurance. It was not clear whether Mr O’Dea would have been aware of the modification.

He added that under the terms of the Highway Code, cyclists are expected to give way to pedestrians on shared routes, allow plenty of room and be prepared to slow down or stop.

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire Catherine Cundy said: “This was a quasi-motorbike, the significant modification having over-ridden the speed limitations. The combination of the modification and the alcohol levels were key contributory factors and explain the manner of cycling witnessed.

"There is no evidence Anthony knew of the modification. I am not able to say whether wearing a helmet would have prevented his death.

"I hope that this needless tragedy will serve to dissuade other people from trying to modify bikes in this manner.”

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