Speed to blame in biker’s death

A coroner has concluded that excessive speed caused a Kelso biker to lose control of his machine on a day-trip with friends, ending in tragedy.

Father of four, Michael John Bates, aged 47, died of multiple injuries sustained when his Ducati bike high-sided as he braked after coming round a bend and saw a tractor turning into a side-road, the inquest at Kendal Magistrates Court heard yesterday.

After the accident on the A683, near Ravenstonedale, Cumbria, Mr Bates was flown to James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough, but was declared dead on arrival.

Deputy coroner for South and East Cumbria, Mr Alan Sharpe, recorded a conclusion of accidental death and gave his condolences to the 15 friends and relatives of Mr Bates who attended the inquest, including his widow Jacqueline.

Mr Sharpe said on July 14, 2013, Mr Bates and five friends had ridden from Kelso to Kirkby Lonsdale, where they stopped for an ice-cream at Devil’s Bridge, a popular meeting place for motorcyclists. When travelling back the group had split into two, the first led by Mr Bates and including Craig Baxter and Graham Jones, both of Kelso.

Tractor driver Thomas Edmondson had been preparing grass for baling and was returning to his yard, travelling south on the A683. He was turning into the back road to Ravenstonedale by the Fat Lamb pub.

Mr Bates’s red Ducati was leading his friends and was travelling between 55 and 60 miles per hour, which was within the speed limit. Approaching the Fat Lamb they negotiated the right hand bend, which is clearly sign-posted by chevrons and has the word Slow written on the road surface.

“On taking the bend, Mr Bates saw Mr Edmondson’s tractor and braked heavily, and as a result lost control of the motorcycle. It is significant that there was a high-sided event,” said Mr Sharpe.

“Mr Bates’s vehicle twisted and flipped him ahead of the motorcycle which severely increased the injuries he suffered when he collided with the tractor wheel. It was this collision which caused his death.

“Once Mr Edmondson had made the decision to commence his manoeuvre there was nothing else he could have done to prevent the accident,” he added.

Mr Edmondson said there was about two seconds between seeing Mr Bates’s motorcycle come round the bend and the collision.

Mr Baxter, who was on his blue Suzuki GSR 1000 following Mr Bates on the same line, said he saw his friend’s bike high side and Michael slip over the handle bars hanging on to them.

He agreed there was less than two seconds between the bend and the collision.

It was noted that perhaps there ought to be a lower speed limit on this stretch of the road.

But PC Richard Wiejak, of Cumbria Police, said the national speed limit was an absolute maximum, with the Highway Code saying speed needed to be amended to suit road conditions and risks.

At the Fat Lamb turn there was a triangular warning sign, a slow sign and double white lines. Police investigations, including a reconstruction, had confirmed a 50 metre view between the turn and the bend. At 60 mph the bikes would have been travelling at 27 metres a second. With reaction time of one second, there was less than a second to stop, not enough at that speed.

The coroner stated: “I make no comment on the appropriate speed for vehicles to travel, but I do accept evidence from the officers that the speed limit is an absolute maximum and not always advisable.

“The speed at which Mr Bates was taking the bend, given its nature and signage, was excessive and caused him to lose control of his bike.”