Reckless driver tries to defend himself

Hassan Bakr, the driver accused of causing a crash involving a 60-rider group of cyclists in Sydney,...

Hassan Bakr, the driver accused of causing a crash involving a 60-rider group of cyclists in Sydney, Australia, last year, says it was the riders' fault for being in his lane.

Representing himself, the 34-year-old cross-examined his alleged victims at Downing Centre Local Court Wednesday morning, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Kate Nichols, one of the riders who crashed when Bakr allegedly stopped suddenly in front of the group on May 8, 2008, told the court that Bakr was about half a metre away from the riders when he veered into their lane as he drove by.

"Next thing I heard [was] a lot of shouting and everyone crashing, and I saw the car right in front of me, and I fell over other riders that had crashed," said Nichols, a survivor of the 2005 crash in Germany that killed Amy Gillett and seriously injured five members of the Australian team.

"While I was still in shock someone called out to get the number plate and at that stage I looked up and the car was 50 metres in front and drove off. It was too far away from me to get the number plate."

Bakr suggested that Nichols had been in the wrong by riding in the left lane. "By law it's not your lane, your lane is the emergency lane," he said. Magistrate Chris Clisdell pointed out that cyclists were allowed to use traffic lanes by law.

The riders were heading south, away from the city, at about 6.45am on Southern Cross Drive, one of the major routes into Sydney when Bakr allegedly swerved in front of the group and stopped suddenly.

Mr Bakr has admitted driving the car, but claimed that it backfired, forcing him to stop in the left lane. He has been charged with cutting in front of a vehicle, travelling in a transit lane, negligent driving and not supplying particulars.

Nichols and her father, Kevin Nichols, said they had not heard the car misfire, according to The Australian.

Kevin Nichols managed to avoid the crash, but said he heard his fellow cyclists hitting the back of the car. When he went to the car to question the driver, he was surprised at Bakr's reaction. "I did not see a person who was angry and enraged, I saw a guy who thought it was a bit of a joke," said Nichols.

(Additional editorial assistance by Susan Westemeyer)

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