An experienced road cyclist who collided with his training partner in the midst of a road rage incident with an angry driver has been cleared of reckless bike riding allegations in Wollongong Local Court.
Sydney-sider Anibal Diego Juncal, a competitive triathlete who averages more than 400km a week on his bike, was riding along the Old Princes Highway at Helensburgh with fellow cyclist Theo Matsis on the morning of September 10 last year when they were approached from behind by a Holden Astra being driven by Kai Mark.
What happened next is in dispute: Mr Mark, who was not charged over the incident, claims the two men were riding two abreast “smack bang in the middle of the lane”, forcing him to slow down considerably.
“I gave them a beep to see if they could move over so I could go around safely….one of the guys motioned for me to go around them [and] they stayed in the middle of the lane,” he said.
Mr Mark said he overtook the pair but stopped his car by the side of the road about 300m away and got out of the vehicle.
“I was aggravated. I wanted to say to them that their behaviour could lead to an accident. I was standing at my car door, I yelled at them [but] I wasn’t trying to provoke them,” he said, although admitted he was “waving his arms”.
Mr Mark claimed the collision between the riders was caused by Mr Juncal focussing on arguing with him and not paying attention to his own riding.
However, Mr Juncal claims Mr Mark drove his car so close up behind the riders he was about 10cm from their back wheels. Mr Juncal admits he yelled at Mr Mark “what’s you’re f—king problem” while motioning for him to drive around them, but claims Mr Mark called the pair “f—king w—kers” as he passed.
“He then cut back across after overtaking us and almost clipped Theo’s front tyre,” Mr Juncal said, adding when he then saw the vehicle parked by the side of the road, he decided to give it a “wide berth”.
“As we were approaching the car, a male jumped out of the car, flinging the driver door open and jumping out in front of me and yelled “you f—king w—kers”.
“I swerved violently to avoid him.”
What happened next in not in dispute: Mr Juncal clipped Mr Matsis’ bike at a speed of about 50km/hr, sending the two crashing to the ground.
Mr Matsis was subsequently taken to hospital with multiple injuries including a cut to his head, a fractured collar bone and fractures to his foot.
He remembers nothing of the crash to this day.
Police highway patrolman Senior Constable Michael Mostyn was tasked with investigating the crash.
He spoke with Mr Juncal, Mr Mark and a third cyclist, Paul Copeland, who came upon the scene a few minutes after the crash.
Both Mr Mark and Mr Juncal blamed each other and gave the above, differing version of events.
Eventually, Mr Juncal was charged with riding recklessly – much to his disbelief and annoyance.
At the centre of the court case, which played out over two days, was where Mr Mark was standing at the time the two riders passed him and whether this contributed to the collision.
On Mr Mark’s version, he was standing on the shoulder of the road behind his car door the whole time and never jumped in front of the bikes.
On Mr Juncal’s version, Mr Mark was in the middle of the road, directly in front of him and he had no choice but to swerve to avoid hitting him.
Magistrate Michael Stoddart said neither man’s version of events could be accepted in its entirety, raising doubt about what actually did occur that day.
He said Mr Juncal had to be given the benefit of that doubt and therefore be found not guilty.
However, in dismissing the charge, Magistrate Stoddart chided the two men for their immaturity on the day.
”This whole thing could have been avoided with some patience and calmness,” he said.
“It’s something that should have been avoided if the parties had been a bit patient and a bit courteous to one another.”
The sobering words resonated with Mr Juncal, who told the Mercury outside court that he should have remained calm.
However, he also said what the pair experienced that day in terms of Mr Mark’s road rage was a regular occurrence for cyclists no matter where they rode.
"Every time I ride I get abused at least once,” he said, adding he only ever rides with up to two others and considers himself a courteous rider on the rode.
“Ninety-nine per cent of driver don’t have a problem with cyclists which is great, but it’s the one per cent that are in a hurry – they are the ones you have to watch out for.”