A 35-year-old man who admitted he was riding much too fast on a sidewalk in Oslo has been cleared of causing the death of another cyclist with whom he collided last autumn. He did, however, get a 60-day suspended sentence for his recklessness.
The case marked the first time that a cyclist had been accused of negligent homicide in Norway, and it reflected the rising level of conflicts in Oslo between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists on the city’s narrow streets and heavily trafficked boulevards. A lack of bike lanes and accusations that cyclists often ignore traffic laws have led to ongoing public debate and many confrontations among those involved.
The tragedy that occurred near the busy intersection of Kirkeveien and Sognsveien in Oslo last year posed difficult legal questions, not least because of its chain of events. The cyclist was riding fast on the sidewalk because there’s no bike lane on the busy boulevard, and witnesses claimed he was swerving around pedestrians and other cyclists. He ultimately collided with another cyclist, a 46-year-old woman, who fell off her bike and landed in the street, where she was then hit by a bus and killed.
The bus driver was not charged but the cyclist was, for causing her death. Prosecutors had sought at least a 30-day jail term.
The judge in the case agreed, but news bureau NTB reported that the two lay judges on the case sided with the cyclist’s defense attorney. They claimed that even though the defendant’s cycling could be characterized as gross negligence, it was “unfortunate circumstances” that led to the “tragic result of the collision.”
The court thus convicted him of disregarding traffic laws and, in addition to his suspended jail term, he was was ordered to pay NOK 80,000 (around USD 13,000) to the dead woman’s survivors. The judge nonetheless wrote into his conviction that it was because of the man’s reckless cycling that the woman fell into the street and then was killed.
Prosecutors said they would study the ruling and may still appeal.