At 7am on a sunny Saturday morning, retired nursery teacher Hilda Griffiths, 81, was enjoying a stroll in London’s Regent’s Park with her beloved rescue dog, Oscar.

Less than an hour later, she was lying in the back of an ambulance, vomiting blood, with multiple fractures to her skull and bleeding in her brain.

She had been run over. Not by a boy-racer in a sports car or a delivery driver on a moped, but by a City banker hurtling along at 29mph — in a 20mph zone — on his high-performance racing bike in June 2022.

Fifty-nine days later, Hilda died in hospital from her injuries. And last week, almost two years on, the man responsible for her death, Brian Fitzgerald — a vice-president at investment banking giant Credit Suisse — walked out of court a free man.

So why is he at large and able to cycle again? As the inquest heard, under UK law, the speed limit only applies to ‘mechanically propelled vehicles’. And therefore, in the words of the police review: ‘There were no criminal acts which would allow prosecution.’

Last week, almost two years on, the man responsible for her death, Brian Fitzgerald (pictured) — a vice-president at investment banking giant Credit Suisse — walked out of court a free man

Last week, almost two years on, the man responsible for her death, Brian Fitzgerald (pictured) — a vice-president at investment banking giant Credit Suisse — walked out of court a free man

Hilda Griffiths (pictured) was lying in the back of an ambulance, vomiting blood, with multiple fractures to her skull and bleeding in her brain

Hilda Griffiths (pictured) was lying in the back of an ambulance, vomiting blood, with multiple fractures to her skull and bleeding in her brain

Fitzgerald — who argued he had ‘zero reaction time’ — now goes back to his extremely lucrative desk job. (He is thought to have taken home up to £500,000 since the death of Mrs Griffiths.) Credit Suisse’s owner UBS declined to comment as to whether Mr Fitzgerald retains the support of his employer.

Meanwhile, Hilda’s family are left to pick through their grief.

‘I do not feel justice has been served,’ her 51-year-old son Gerard told the Mail this week: ‘She was a beautiful woman who ran the shop at her local church — she had a lot more life in her.’

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‘I’m not anti-cycling, but when someone kills your mother . . .’ He trailed off. ‘I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through.’

So how did Regent’s Park, a haven in the centre of our capital city, become a lethal playground for amateur cyclists more interested in setting a new ‘personal best’ than ensuring the safety of their fellow citizens? And does this reflect a broader arrogance among the rising number of cyclists nationwide who don’t just think they’re above the law but know they are?

Cycling is banned across most of Regent’s Park. It is the ring road surrounding the park, however, where riders go to enjoy flat, smooth Tarmac and a relative dearth of cars.

When the Mail visited earlier this week, it was very clear that hundreds of recreational cyclists — clad in garish Lycra jumpsuits — couldn’t care less about the 20mph speed limit applied to cars and motorbikes. Equipped with a radar speed gun, the Mail watched as wave after wave of cyclists charged past on state-of-the-art racing bikes costing more than £10,000.

The speed gun told a terrifying story. Over half an hour, the Mail recorded speeds of up to 32mph — 3mph faster than Mr Fitzgerald was going when he hit Mrs Griffiths.

Riding in large pelotons, the cyclists shield themselves from wind resistance in an attempt to go ever quicker. From around a corner, you hear the hiss, fizz and spit of the bikes before you see them. Then around the bend they come, like a furious herd, shouting, snorting and panting as they jostle for position.

Our speed gun revealed that the pelotons typically travel at between 25mph to 27mph down the straights, with faster speeds occurring when the group forms a single-file ‘pace line,’ swinging their carbon fibre frames beneath them, urging the bikes on as terrified pedestrians jump out of the way, ushering young ones from the kerb and hauling petrified dogs from danger. The Mail spoke with one elderly woman riding her bike at a stately pace past the park, who described being ‘screamed and shouted at’ by other cyclists for going too slowly.

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‘I’ve been subject to abuse,’ she told us: ‘And all because I’m not breaking the speed limit like them. It’s terrifying.’

The Mail asked her whether she would share her name. We were talking at a red light and by this point a number of speed cyclists had gathered to listen in. The woman looked around at the intimidating mob of middle-aged men in Lycra surrounding her: ‘I think just call me a local resident,’ she concluded.

The light turned green and she slowly cycled off on her fold-up Brompton cycle as the Lycra brigade whizzed past her.

It’s clear that Brian Fitzgerald is no renegade. Thousands of people cycle well beyond the speed limit around Regent’s Park every morning. In fact, Mr Fitzgerald was — at the time of the crash — riding with a group from the Muswell Hill Peloton cycling club.

The organisation states on its website: ‘The aim of our club runs is to keep our members safe and increase the enjoyment of getting out on their bikes.’ Sadly, it seems they don’t extend the same courtesy to pedestrians and members of the public.

Fitzgerald, pictured, is a vice president at Credit Suisse having previously worked for Allied Irish Bank and Ulster Bank

Fitzgerald, pictured, is a vice president at Credit Suisse having previously worked for Allied Irish Bank and Ulster Bank

Fitzgerald refused to comment when approached on the street by MailOnline

Fitzgerald refused to comment when approached on the street by MailOnline 

Muswell Hill Peloton also has an account with the fitness-tracking app Strava boasting 288 members. Here, cyclists can compare their times and speeds with one another. (Since the incident, the group has made its account private.)

The Mail asked the club whether it had made any changes to its approach since that fateful morning in June 2022 but received no response. So what is the true state of the law around cycling?

Twenty-three rules within the Highway Code apply exclusively to cyclists. These include everything from not wearing clothing that may get caught in your bike chain to equipping your cycle with lights at night.

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One rule states: ‘You should avoid any actions that could reduce your control of your cycle,’ while another says: ‘You must not ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner.’

It’s difficult to see how Mr Fitzgerald did not break both of these rules by riding at 29mph. Or, indeed, how they are not broken daily by most of the amateur cyclists tearing around Regent’s Park.

On top of the code, the 1991 Road Traffic Act permits a fine of up to £1,000 for ‘careless cycling’ and £2,500 for ‘dangerous cycling’. If a cyclist causes harm to someone else, they can receive a prison sentence of up to two years for ‘wanton and furious driving’ under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

This Victorian legislation was quite clearly not designed for the ‘superbikes’ of the 21st century but, rather, for primitive push bikes, horses and carriages.

Senior Conservative politician Sir Iain Duncan Smith has since tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which could pave the way for tougher, clearer legislation for cyclists. He believes the 1861 legislation is no longer fit for purpose. Speaking to the Mail, Sir Iain made it very clear that the point of his ‘common sense’ intervention was that ‘the law should apply to cyclists, too’.

Asked why progress on this matter had been so slow — despite an attempt to legislate by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in 2022 — he said: ‘I believe the cyclist lobby may well have something to do with it.’

The argument against bringing cyclists to heel is that it will disincentivise people from taking up the healthy activity. ‘People haven’t stopped driving because there’s a speed limit,’ Sir Iain pointed out.

While the tragic case of Mrs Griffiths has brought this problem to the fore in London, it’s far from an issue exclusive to the capital.

According to data from NHS England, 331 pedestrians were admitted to hospital after a collision with a cyclist between 2022 and 2023. Six of these patients were over the age of 90 and 11 were under the age of four.

The total number of pedestrians hit by cyclists since 2020 increased by a third. Prior to that, between 2012 and 2021, on average, three people per year were killed by cyclists, with a further 138 seriously injured. On June 7, 2021, 79-year-old retired teacher and much-loved member of the Monmouth Choral Society, Jane Stone, was struck by a cyclist in Gwent, South Wales. She later died from her injuries. The perpetrator, 29-year-old Stewart McGinn, was sentenced to 12 months in prison (under the 1861 legislation), banned from driving for two and a half years and ordered to hand in the bike he was riding at the time of the crash.

On July 3, 2020, 72-year-old Peter McCombie suffered fatal head wounds when he was struck by 22-year-old cyclist Ermir Loka in London’s Tower Hamlets. Loka was sentenced to two years in prison after having fled the scene of the crime.

And in February 2016, 44-year-old Kim Briggs was killed when she was struck by cyclist Charlie Alliston, who was riding a fixed-gear bike with no front brakes. The mother-of-two was crossing the road in Old Street, east London, when Alliston smashed into her at 18mph. Mr Alliston was jailed for 18 months.

It's clear that Brian Fitzgerald is no renegade. Thousands of people cycle well beyond the speed limit around Regent's Park every morning

It’s clear that Brian Fitzgerald is no renegade. Thousands of people cycle well beyond the speed limit around Regent’s Park every morning

Kim’s widower, Matthew Briggs, has been a key campaigner on the issue for the past seven years. This week he voiced his gratitude to Sir Iain Duncan Smith: ‘Finally, I’ve found an ally,’ he told the Mail. ‘Iain gets it, he cares and he understands.’

He added: ‘It’s now up the to the Government whether or not to support the amendment. But it’s my firm belief that the Department for Transport has been captured by the cyclist lobby and the Government is running scared. Cycling has become a lawless activity.’

Remarkably, a programme running from 2016 to 2025 will see £6 billion spent on cycle infrastructure across the UK. As a cyclist myself, this should be good news. But in reality, the money has been woefully misspent with no thought or consideration to the safety of pedestrians.

For example, a favourite cycle route of mine takes in the A104 that joins Woodford to Clapton in east London. The road has a cycle lane almost indistinguishable from the pavement, meaning unknowing pedestrians often wander across my path.

Of course, I’m not travelling at 30mph, but — as the case of Kim Briggs shows — a collision at 18mph is enough to kill.

We’ve come a long way from the hobby horse bicycle of the early 19th century, the beloved penny- farthing and the legendary Starley Rover.

Today’s superbikes are finely tuned speed-machines. That’s all well and good when ridden by Mark Cavendish in the Tour de France, but less so when it’s Brian from Credit Suisse in Regent’s Park.

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