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Court awards ¥47 million to family of fatal bicycling accident victim

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court ordered a bicyclist to pay ¥47 million in damages on Tuesday to the family of an elderly woman he hit and killed after running a red light.

The family of Reiko Azuma, who died aged 75 in January 2010 after the accident in Ota Ward, expressed satisfaction with the ruling despite getting less than the ¥100 million they sued for.

“Unlike in earlier criminal proceedings, the court gave our case the same treatment as it would a car accident,” son Mitsuhiro Azuma said Tuesday.

The court found the male cyclist was traveling at between 15 and 20 kph when he knocked Azuma down at a pedestrian crossing, leaving her with head injuries. She died in a hospital five days later.

The bicyclist, now 46, was earlier indicted for manslaughter and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for three years.

Presiding Judge Motoko Miki ruled that the bicyclist’s inattention to the road caused the accident, and Azuma was “in no way at fault.”

Miki dismissed the bicyclist’s claim that Azuma died from falling out of bed in the hospital, saying no injuries were found to her head except those sustained in the accident.

“We want this case to make cyclists more aware that bicycles have the potential to become deadly weapons,” said Mitsuhiro Azuma.

The liability of bicyclists in accidents has attracted debate following the Kobe District Court’s ruling last July in favor of the family of a victim in a similar case.

The court ordered a mother to pay ¥95 million in damages after her son, then in elementary school, hit a 67-year-old woman on his bicycle on a hillside in Kobe, leaving the victim bedridden.