Cyclist run over and killed by minibus travelling too close behind

Zhi Min SohOn 31st May 2017, a 23yr old medical student, Zhi Min Soh, tragically lost her life when she was run over by a Rabbie’s Tours, Mercedes 16-seater minibus.

Like many of the capital’s students, Zhi Min used a bicycle to travel around the city. That morning, she was cycling east along Princes Street in Edinburgh with the intention of turning right from Shandwick Place onto Queensferry Street. Zhi Min was on her way to the Western General Hospital as part of her course.

Due to the location of where she fell, there was much speculation at the time that it was her bicycle wheel that had become trapped in a tram rail and that had caused her to lose balance. However, the exact cause of her fall will never be known. What is known, is that after she fell, the driver of the tour bus failed to stop in time and collided with Zhi Min, dragging her underneath the bus.

One year on, Zhi Min’s parents sought legal advice to investigate a civil claim in damages in a bid to try and get some answers. The family were informed there would be no criminal case against the driver of the tour bus, but they wanted to understand how their bright, young daughter had been killed on one of Scotland’s roads.

Cycle Law Scotland became involved in the case in May 2018. Despite the incident happening at rush hour in the busy city centre, there were no eyewitnesses to the collision, nor was there any clear CCTV footage available. The Road Policing Investigation Report into the collision did not identify any conclusive physical evidence at the scene to explain what had caused Zhi Min to fall from her bicycle. There were a number of theories explored. The physical evidence at the scene did reveal that Zhi Min had fallen onto her offside.

It was never disputed that the driver of the tour bus had been travelling behind Zhi Min Soh on Princes Street and that the driver had been aware of her presence on the road. The minibus driver was driving within the 20mph speed limit but had been closing up on Zhi Min on approach to the junction. Clearly, when Zhi Min fell from her bicycle and onto the road, the driver was unable to take evasive action or stop in time. The tour bus ran over Zhi Min and her bicycle.

After careful consideration of the Road Policing Investigation Report and in consultation with Zhi Min’s family, Cycle Law Scotland raised a civil claim against the motor insurers of the tour bus.

The insurers denied liability stating that the close proximity between Zhi Min Soh and their policyholder’s vehicle did not demonstrate negligence on the part of the driver. Following the denial of liability, a court action was raised on behalf of Zhi Min’s family in Scotland’s highest civil court, The Court of Session.

There was no formal admission of liability but the insurers agreed to compensate the family for their grief and sorrow at losing Zhi Min, and in doing so, there was a recognition that there had been negligence on the part of their driver and that negligence had resulted in the untimely death of a bright young woman with her whole life ahead of her.

Jodi Gordon, who acted for the family, believes it is important that we learn lessons from this tragic case. There is no doubt that crossing tramlines poses a hazard to cyclists as do potholes, drain covers and a host of other road surface defects. It is so important to give cyclists room and not just when passing. Drivers must leave room in front to allow a cyclist to cope with a potential hazard safely, as after all, when driving behind a cyclist, remember that you are in control of a potential lethal weapon, capable of causing great harm.

Whatever caused Zhi Min to fall from her bicycle on the 31st May 2017 may never be known but had she been given sufficient room by the tour bus driver, she would most likely still be here. She would by now have completed her Medical Degree and returned to Malaysia to be with her family.

Zhi Min’s death was avoidable. The hope is that we learn from this unnecessary loss of life. As drivers, we must learn to recognise the vulnerability of cyclists and the fragility of life as we interact together on the roads.

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