The sheriff who presided over the inquiry into the death of Olympic cycling hopeful Jason MacIntyre has urged cyclists to wear helmets and to ensure they are visible to other road users.
Mr MacIntyre, 33, was on a training spin on the A82 Inverness-Fort William road when a pick-up turned across his path and he crashed into its side.
Sheriff Douglas Small has also asked Highland Council to carry out a feasibility study into providing a traffic island at the crash scene at the entrance to its Carr’s Corner depot at Fort William.
The recommendations follow a three-day hearing at Fort William Sheriff Court into Mr MacIntyre’s death, which the sheriff said was a “tragic loss, not only to his family and friends but also to the cycling fraternity.”
The pick-up driver, Robert MacTaggart, 36, formerly of Alma Road, Fort William, was fined £500 and banned from driving for six months at the same court after admitting driving carelessly that day in January 2008.
In his findings issued yesterday, Sheriff Small said: “I am of the opinion that no cause, apart from the failure on the part of Mr MacTaggart to see Mr MacIntyre, can be identified.
“I am satisfied that Mr MacTaggart’s failure arose as a consequence of him not keeping a proper look-out of the road ahead of him when he turned across Mr MacIntyre’s path.”
Sheriff Small concluded: “Although Jason’s death could not have been avoided by him wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, all cyclists, including those in training, should wear a helmet when on public roads.”
Mr MacIntyre’s wife, Caroline, 34, of Lochaber Road, Fort William, yesterday welcomed Sheriff Small’s call for a feasibility study.
She said: “I am really glad I fought so hard for this inquiry even though I have to accept that I lost a wonderful husband and a loving father just because of another driver’s complete carelessness and lack of concentration.
“I wanted to be able to face my daughters when they grow up and tell them, hand on heart, that I left no stone unturned in finding out how their daddy died, and I feel I have done that.”
Mrs MacIntyre, who has twin 11-year-old daughters, Morgan and Chloe, added: “I am really pleased that the sheriff took on board our arguments that there should be a traffic island at the mouth of the junction to stop drivers cutting the corner at the spot where Jason died.”
She added that she believed her husband was perfectly visible, and MacTaggart would not have seen him “whatever he was wearing.”
Sheriff Small also said he was not happy with the questioning of Mr MacTaggart by some lawyers at the inquiry.
He said Mr MacTaggart had already pleaded guilty before the inquiry to causing Mr MacIntyre’s death by careless driving, when a narrative of the crash events would have been given by the fiscal.
Sheriff Small said: “It seemed to me that some of the questioning sought, without any foundation or basis in the evidence led, to establish a greater degree of culpability, for whatever reason.
The sheriff added: “To utilise a fatal accident inquiry in this way was, in my opinion, quite contrary to the spirit of the act and should not be encouraged by those in whose direction it lies to authorise the holding of an inquiry.”