Community work for cycle death crash

The man responsible for the death of cyclist Patricia Fraser has been sentenced in Feilding District Court today.

Christopher David McClelland, 45, was sentenced to 175 hours' community work and disqualified for driving for 10 months.

Earlier this year he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving causing death.

On November 13, at 2.45pm, McClelland was travelling along State Highway 1, near Mt Stewart when he noticed Mrs Fraser, 34, and a friend riding single file in the cycle lane.

His car drifted towards the cycle lane. The front left corner of his vehicle hit Mrs Fraser's rear wheel.

The cyclists were wearing yellow high-visibility riding jackets and cycle helmets at the time.

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A Marton Man has pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death, after cyclist Patricia Fraser was "catapulted" off her bike and died on the side of State Highway 1.

Christopher David McClelland, representing himself, pleaded guilty in Feilding District Court this week.

Sergeant Murray Lyons said McClelland, 45, was travelling along State Highway 1, near Mt Stewart, on November 13 at 2.45pm when he noticed Mrs Fraser, 34, and her best friend riding single file in the cycle lane.

"The defendant has allowed his vehicle to drift from his lane to the left side of the roadside into the fog [cycle] lane where, without braking, he has driven the front left corner of his vehicle into the rear wheel of the victim's bicycle," Mr Lyons said.

"She was then flicked up over the bonnet and into the front windscreen pillar of the defendant's vehicle before being catapulted into the air and landing on the grass verge at the side of the road."

Mr Murray said McClelland managed to miss the other cyclist. His vehicle ended up stopping 100 metres away from the scene.

The cyclists were wearing yellow high-visibility riding jackets and cycle helmets, and were riding safely.

McClelland was remanded on bail for sentencing on March 14.
Manawatu Standard

The mother of a Manawatu woman killed on her bike is dismayed the car driver who knocked her down has lost his licence for only 10 months.

"It shows life is not worth much," Mary Murrow said of the sentence handed down yesterday to Christopher David McClelland, which also requires him to perform 175 hours of community work, but included no fine.

The 45-year-old Marton man earlier pleaded guilty in Feilding District Court to careless driving causing the death of Patricia Anne-Veronica Fraser, 35, a mother of four of Longburn, near Palmerston North, on November 13.

Mrs Murrow said she did not believe McClelland should have been jailed. "But I don't think he should be allowed on the road so soon."

She said the defendant, a kitchen-hand at the Ohakea air force base, admitted having seen her daughter and a female companion cyclist from 300m away as the pair were pedalling in the same direction as him near Sanson on a training ride for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

"He didn't concentrate and the vehicle just veered into her lane."

Mrs Murrow said the judge seemed to have overlooked four victim impact statements and taken pity on McClelland after hearing about his work for youth in the community.

"But he still didn't drive properly."

Her daughter's death had left her son-in-law Joe to look after the couple's children aged 5, 8, 10 and 13.

"The other annoying thing is that he can apply for a licence to get back on the road to drive to work," Mrs Murrow said of McClelland.

She understood the maximum disqualification period for the charge was 12 months, "so the law is stink".

"There needs to be a law change.

"There's no fine or anything - no hardship for him," she said of McClelland's sentence. "They said he is not a man of means."

Mr Fraser was taking his wife's death and yesterday's sentencing hard, she said.

But he completed the Taupo race on her behalf and led a tribute ride in her memory in Palmerston North in January on a white-painted bike which he was negotiating with a farmer to install on a verge beside the accident site.

Mrs Fraser died on the same day that three cyclists were fatally injured in a crash with a car near Morrinsville, in the Waikato.

The 23-year-old motorist, Kirsty King, was sentenced last month to 300 hours of community work and disqualified for 12 months. Unlike McClelland, she was also fined $10,000 on each of three charges of careless driving causing death.

A fifth cyclist - 27-year-old British visitor Jane Mary Bishop - was killed when she tried to avoid an opening car door on Tamaki Drive just three days after the two other fatal crashes.

Suzanne Charles, organiser of the Velo Girls cycling team in Palmerston North, agreed last night that McClelland's sentence was inadequate, especially compared with King's fines and a jail term of 2 years imposed on a young hunter for the accidental fatal shooting of teacher Rosemary Ives at a Turangi camp site last year.

Mrs Fraser's cycling companion, Tania Malaquin, said last night that she had sold her bike gear since the crash. "You can't see what I saw and do it again," she said. "I just want to stop when I pass cyclists and say: Don't do it, it's not worth the risk."

She said the pair had been best friends for about five years - as were all their children - and were training about four times a week for what was to have been their first ride around Lake Taupo. She was riding no more than about 1m ahead of Mrs Fraser, well to the left on a relatively straight stretch of road, when she heard a loud bang "and as I turned my head to the right, she was flying past me".

Mrs Malaquin did not believe the sentence fitted the crime. "My initial reaction was that it was a bit insulting, that an amazing life has been lost and all he gets is a little sentence."
By Mathew Dearnaley

Cycling advocates react to the light sentence for a man who killed Manawatu woman Patricia Fraser.

Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) manager Patrick Morgan says he is outraged and saddened.

"The light sentence in this case sends a message that killing another road user has few consequences. That is appalling."

"This is not a story about cycling - it's about accountability."

"Why does the life of Patricia Fraser mean so little?"

"Our messages to all roads users are simple:

First. follow the rules.

Second, don't drive or ride on autopilot. Lives depend on it."

Mr Morgan says the Cycling Advocates Network is working with Bike NZ and the NZ Transport Agency on fresh 'share the road' campaigns, and on training for cyclists.

"There is no single fix for preventing road crashes.

The way forward is a mix of lower speeds, investing in cycling, walking and public transport, safer roads, driver and cyclist training, tougher licensing, and better enforcement."

Patrick Morgan
Project Manager
Cycling Advocates Network
tel 027 563 4733

There is outrage at a sentence of community work given to a man who fatally struck a cyclist in the Manawatu last year.

Christopher McClelland was yesterday sentenced to 175 hours community service for careless driving causing the death of mother of four, Patricia Fraser.

Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan says the sentence is far too light considering someone's life was taken.

He says the issue is not about cycling, but accountability.

"We don't even call this an accident. It's a crash and it has causes. An accident is something like an earthquake that's an act of god. A crash like this is a consequence of actions or inactions by someone who should know a lot better," he says.

Mr Morgan says every crash is different, but overall, drivers need to reduce speed and make sure they follow the rules.

CAN needs to get a petition written and circulating to change the law.

The best option is probably to press for the penalty for any charge of driving causing death to have the same maximum sentence as manslaughter - as in this case it clearly was.  If not already, such a charge should also result in a criminal conviction.