Court rules in council's favour after cycling bridge fall

SYDNEY surgeon Ann Collins's broken body was lying at the bottom of a ravine beneath a rickety wooden bridge when a helicopter winched her to safety.

She was competing in the 2008 Sydney to Surfers Paradise charity bike ride on the Bluff Bridge over the Orara River, south of Grafton, when her front wheel lodged in a gap in the poorly maintained structure.

The bike flipped and sent Dr Collins over the railing and into the rocky valley below, causing compound fractures to both legs and a fractured and dislocated elbow.

Dr Collins sued Clarence Valley Council for $820,000 in the NSW Supreme Court, claiming it had been negligent in failing to maintain the bridge or warn cyclists about the dangers of crossing it.

The court ruled in council's favour, finding getting a tyre caught in the gap was an "obvious risk" and did not require a warning.

The council argued its funding was spread so thin it could not afford to keep all of its bridges in pristine order at the time.

Dr Collins appealed the decision but was unsuccessful.

The guardrails were only between 65cm and 73cm high and were never intended to stop a cyclist from falling, Justice Ruth McColl found.

"Having regard to the ubiquity of the gaps between the planks, the possibility of a wheel being jammed when the bicycle was near the railing, leading to the rider falling over the low guardrails, was obvious," she said.

Dr Collins's own evidence revealed she was already aware gaps between planks of the bridge existed before tried to cross the bridge.

The appeal was dismissed last week with Dr Collins ordered to pay the council's costs.


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