Court sets precedent for cyclists at fault in collisions with pedestrians

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Cyclist in a Tallinn park (picture is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A recent court ruling has set a precedent where a cyclist can be found guilty of causing serious injuries to pedestrians along the same lines as motor vehicle drivers, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday night.

Prosecutor Diana Helila told AK she was unaware of any analogous court decision in Estonia happening before.

The case involved a a cyclist traveling at speed down a minor country road in the village of Kaunissaare, Harju County, who suddenly changed their path to avoid a "sleeping policeman"-type speed bump, crossing to the other side of the road in the process.

The cyclist then hit a woman walking in the same direction, causing her serious injuries.

The cyclist was subsequently found guilty of causing injury through negligence.

Diana Helila said: "An outcome depends on what kind of injuries an individual suffers collision with a cyclist. If the victim suffers minor injuries, then the incident does not constitute a crime, but rather a misdemeanor."

Helila said the cyclist claimed in their defense that they were traveling at a speed lower than 20 km/h, but the court found the victim's injuries were consistent with substantially higher speeds – in fact the investigation was initially incredulous that a cyclist and bike could cause injuries of such severity, AK reported.

While the culprit, who was not named, could under law have been imprisoned for up to a year, Helila said, a suspended fine was issued instead.

Helila noted that the individual still now had a criminal record with respect to the incident.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) spokesperson Sirle Loigo told AK there had been 25 accidents involving a cyclist collision with a pedestrian last year, adding that such incidents, which often occur on minor roads with light traffic, are on the rise.

Loigo said: "We still have a problem whereby people fail to understand that the same traffic rules apply on light traffic roads as on the primary roads. The rule for driving on the right remains, and users have to take each other into account when traveling."

Loigo also said that cyclists often overestimate their skills and fail to anticipate potential hazards adequately, exacerbating the danger to themselves as well as others.

Cyclist fatalities occur every year, she said; so far this year, 11 cyclists have been injured in accidents, she added.

The situation has likely been complicated by rises in recent years in Tallinn and other major population centers of both electric scooter rentals and food courier services.

Several incidents involving scooter riders and pedestrians have been reported since the commercial services were first rolled out in summer 2019, and one hire scooter fatality was reported in Tartu last year.

Food delivery couriers from companies such as Wolt and Bolt often make use of bikes to deliver orders, with incidents involving pedestrians not unheard of either.

One source told ERR News that during the daytime of June 13 last year, he had been accompanying his seven-year-old son at a pedestrian crossing on Jõe and Reidi tee in central Tallinn. While waiting for the green man, the child was suddenly rear-ended by a Bolt food cycle courier at full force, to the extent that the courier himself was thrown about two to three meters, together with his food storage box.

The source said he thought the courier, who was using an electrically-assisted bike, was likely looking at his phone in the moments before the incident, which left the child with minor injuries and shock.

After around 10 seconds on the ground, during which he declined any medical aid, the courier remounted and rode off, the source said.

This article was updated to include a report of an incident involving a Bolt food courier.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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