AN elderly motorist killed a friend and neighbour as she cycled into a village to do her shopping, on the same day a campaign to improve safety for cyclists was launched.

Murdo Morrison was driving at twice the speed he thought he was travelling when he ran into the back of 59-year-old Mary Brook's bicycle.

She struck the windscreen of the car before being thrown into the air and landing 90 feet away down an embankment near ­Drumnadrochit, 15 miles from Inverness.

Miss Brook died of chest and spinal injuries a short time later despite efforts to save her by local residents and a retired doctor, Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

Morrison, 72, from Kinloch, Balnain, told police he was the driver and did not see Miss Brook, who also lived in Balnain, until it was too late.

He admitted, on indictment, causing her death by careless driving. Sentence was deferred for background reports on the first offender until November 19.

Fiscal depute Michelle Molley told the court visibility was good on the morning of July 22 last year when the accident happened.

She said: "Miss Brook was a fit and active woman who was safety conscious and experienced.

"She lived five miles from Drumnadrochit, not far from Kinloch and they knew each other. She cycled regularly along the A831 road in the summer months."

The collision occurred near the junction with the A833 to Beauly on a straight stretch of road in a 50mph zone.

Police estimated Morrison's speed at between 33mph and 46mph. He failed to react to the presence of the bike and collided with its rear wheel. Officers were called and he provided a negative breath test for alcohol. He told police he thought his speed was 15mph-20mph.

He said: "I saw the cyclist in front of me so I was slowly coming up to avoid her and out of the blue I felt the impact. I stopped and saw it was a cyclist I had hit. I thought I had left enough space between her and my car."

Defence agent Ken Ferguson told Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist, QC, he would reserve his comments until the report was prepared.

However, he added: "My client has not driven since the day of the accident."

The tragedy took place on the day that cycling campaigners gathered outside Holyrood to highlight the deaths of a number of riders. They placed two white painted "ghost bikes" - which represented a fallen rider - for MSPs and others visitors to see as they arrived at the parliament building.

The eight victims named by the tribute included two children. A memorial stone to all victims of cyclists in the previous last five years was also placed close by, with the words "Too many have died."

Among those who attended was the family of Douglas Brown, 79, who had died after being knocked off his bicycle by a tipper truck in West Lothian just days earlier.

Campaign group Pedal on Parliament has called for more money to be invested in ycling infrastructure, including safe, separated cycle tracks.