A DRIVER has been cleared of causing the death of a cyclist.
Helen Measures, 51, from Pishill, was alleged to have caused Denisa Perinova to fall off her bike while overtaking other cyclists on the B480 near Stonor on July 15 last year.
She was acquitted at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday on what would have been Miss Perinova’s 23rd birthday.
Dr Measures, a former church bell ringer, said that she was driving with due care and attention.
“I can’t help it if a cyclist falls off as I’m approaching and falls into my line of travel,” she told the court. Miss Perinova suffered severe head injuries after falling off her bike during a ride with boyfriend Ben Pontin, an experienced cyclist.
She was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, and transferred the next day to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital where she died a week later.
The court heard Miss Perinova, who worked at the Bloc Brazilian cafe in Henley, had been seeing Mr Pontin for 14 weeks before the accident.
They set off for a ride at 10am that day with Mr Pontin confident that his girlfriend was competent enough to ride on the road.
Miss Perinova used a second-hand bicycle that she had bought in Henley four days before. She was wearing an old helmet of Mr Pontin’s which had been adjusted to fit her.
The couple were cycling towards Henley and were just outside Stonor when a Mini driven by Dr Measures and coming the other way overtook two cyclists on the other side of the road and moved across the central white line.
Miss Perinova wobbled on her bike and fell into the road, although it is not known whether she made contact with the car.
Dr Measures, a mother-of-four, had been returning from a trip to Toad Hall garden centre in Henley with her partner Charles Bragg and young daughter when the accident took place.
She told the court how she had begun to overtake the other cyclists and did not see Mr Pontin until she had already begun the manoeuvre.
She decided to keep going and passed him safely just as Miss Perinova wobbled and fell into the road.
Dr Measures, a pharmaceutical researcher, told the court: “I looked ahead and could see there was nothing coming towards me that would prevent me from overtaking at that point.
“I can’t say where for sure I was in the process of overtaking when I saw them. I was surprised to see them. I didn’t know why I hadn’t seen them before.
“I decided the safest thing to do was to continue straight ahead because they were in single file. If I had been concerned I would have stopped. I didn’t see anything to give me cause for concern.
“I didn’t pay much attention to the first cyclist because the second cyclist was coming out at right angles. The first cyclist passed and there was sufficient space for the second cyclist to also pass.”
Janick Fielding, defending, asked Dr Measures: “Was there anything rushed or hurried about the manoeuvre? Was there any urgent need to get past the cyclists? Did you think you would cause alarm or distress to any road user?”
Dr Measures replied “No” to all three questions.
Sandra Beck, prosecuting, said: “This is a winding country road. There are better spaces advisable to pass. This is an area renowned for cyclists, as you said in your interview. Cyclists on this road are a common occurrence.
“Your claim that you had a clear view was wrong because there was something coming.”
Dr Measures replied: “I could not see 100 per cent of the road but I thought it was safe. I saw sufficiently clearly that there was nothing coming to stop me overtaking, even with the cyclists there was enough room.
“I didn’t see those other cyclists otherwise I wouldn’t have done the manoeuvre. There was sufficient room for the cyclists to get past me, even when I did see them coming they didn’t have to take evading action.
“When I saw them I gave them enough room, which was shown by the first cyclist coming through and that would have been the case for the second cyclist had she not come out sideways
“I can’t pre-empt everything that’s going to happen. If everybody had stayed upright there wouldn’t have been any issue.”
Miss Beck said: “You are putting the onus on the people coming towards you to get out of your way,” to which Dr Measures replied: “I never said that, that’s not my belief.”
Mr Pontin, 36, who lived with Miss Perinova in Highands Lane, told the court: “I had been pedalling quite hard. I stopped pedalling before the bend and in front of me I could see two bikes, with a car, maybe 60 to 80 metres away.
“Then the car started to overtake. It pulled right on to our side of the road and kept coming straight towards us. All four wheels were on our side of the road.
“I thought, ‘What a stupid manoeuvre’. I just couldn’t believe the person driving had overtaken at that point.”
Mr Pontin says he “feathered” his brakes before hearing Miss Perinova try to talk to him, asking something like “Benny, what are you doing?” He then aimed for a “tiny gap” of around 2ft between the car and the kerb.
Mr Pontin said: “All I remember was a massive ‘whoosh’ just next to me. Then I felt Denisa’s bike touch the back of my bike. I turned round, expecting Denisa to be in the seat behind me but she was maybe 15 metres back down the road.”
Alison Bell, one of the other cyclists, said she saw Miss Perinova lean forward in her saddle and talk to Mr Pontin when her foot slipped on the pedal, leading her to become unbalanced and fall.
She said Dr Measures’ car was already over the central line as Miss Perinova fell into its path but she did not see any impact.
Summing up, Mr Fielding said: “Ben Pontin said it was a stupid decision to overtake. It was nowhere near as stupid as Mr Pontin’s decision to put Denisa Perinova on that bike in the first place.
“He ought not to have been so reckless with the life of his young girlfriend and he failed with terrible consequences.”
Judge Patrick Eccles QC told the jury they would have to consider whether Dr Measures’ driving was careless and set in motion a chain of events which led to Miss Perinova’s death.
The jury of 10 women and two men took three hours, 50 minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict.