The school cycling group was having a recreational cycling excursion. Neil was a year 9 boy in the group. He was not particularly athletic, but he did enjoy bike riding. He had only been on one or two previous excursions before this one. He wasn’t experienced in cycling on busy city streets. While he rode to school each day, this was on a route that only required him to cross one busy street which he could do by using a patrolled level crossing. He had never been on a bike trip lasting more than an hour. Neil had received only minimal instruction from the teachers supervising the activity. There had been no orientation session, no instruction on group formation, speed or the road rules. No enquiry had been made as to the experience or capability of the participants in riding bicycles. Neil’s only recollection of any instruction was that he should always brake first, using the back brakes to avoid going over the handlebars.
A group of more than five boys and two teachers left the school at about 1:30 p.m. They rode through the city of Albury to the Murray River and then on to Wodonga, a trip of more than 16 km which took about an hour. After a short break at Wodonga, they rode back to Albury, stopping at the bridge near the river where the teachers told them that they were dismissed and could go home. One group of boys, including Neil, set out for North Albury together. At first they all kept together but, after a while, because Neil was tired and puffed, he fell behind the other boys. Neil came to an intersection at which he was required to give way to traffic on the cross street. For some unknown reason, he rode through the give-way sign without pausing, into the path of a vehicle driven by a Mrs Beveridge. Neil suffered severe injury and brought proceedings in negligence against Mrs Beveridge and the school authority.
The court found that Mrs Beveridge was not negligent. It also found that the teachers responsible for the excursion were negligent in their failure to supervise the excursion and that this failure was a direct cause of Neil’s injuries. However, the court found that Neil was guilty of contributory negligence, considered to be 40%.