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Judge finds in favour of cyclist run off regional road

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A Western Australian court has awarded an experienced cyclist a six-figure sum after he was run off his bike by an unidentified truck, resulting in a list of serious injuries.

During a 1,200km return ride between Perth and Albany in October 2014, Steven Berveling came off his bike on the Broomehill-Gnowangerup Rd when an unidentified truck attempted to overtake him, forcing the cyclist off the road and into nearby gravel.

Senior Slater and Gordon Lawyer Karina Hafford said the court’s decision was particularly timely given new laws, which were introduced by the Western Australian Government three weeks ago – mandating that vehicles travel no closer than 1 metre to cyclists in 60km/h or less zones.

The legislation also stipulates that vehicles cannot travel any closer than 1.5 metres in 60km/h or more zones.

Mr Berveling – who is a member and former president of the Sydney Cycling Club – was left unconscious by the accident, suffering a brain haemorrhage, a broken left femur, collarbone and ribs and was unable to work for six months.

He said while he still struggles to remember much of the day he is thankful that he is still alive and for the court’s decision.

“I am just very grateful for the result which confirms what I always believed to be the case,” Mr Berveling said. 

“Ultimately, I’m pleased that I am here today, that I can continue to live my life because it could have been much worse.”

It could not be confirmed whether it was the force of the truck’s aerodynamics or the truck itself that resulted in the incident but Judge Troy Denise Sweeney said in her decision “in fact, I find the plaintiff (Mr Berveling) was riding for his life at that point”.

Ms Hafford said the case was considered unusual given the truck driver could obviously not shed light on the incident.

She said much of the evidence given came from a rider 100m back from where the accident happened and a local farmhand who was sitting on a tractor nearby, waiting to cross the road.

“While Steven’s recollection of that moment is limited, it is clear from other witnesses that the truck driver was at fault in his attempt to overtake in such an unsafe manner,” Ms Hafford said.

“This case is a strong reminder for the need for improved protection of cyclists and even stronger validation for the laws introduced by the Western Australian Government on November 30.”

Mr Berveling – a respected Sydney barrister – has been riding bikes most of his life and in recent years has competed in the gruelling 5,000km Race Across America, which sees small teams of cyclists ride around the clock from the west coast to the east coast of the US in just six days.