Cycle death families' endurance in quest for truth

Brian Dorling Brian Dorling had been cycling to work at the Olympic Park when he was killed

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This week I've sat through two days of inquests into cyclists who died on the Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2) in east London.

The coroner was extremely thorough and when she files a report into both of these cases there may be more criticisms of CS2. The route currently runs from Bow to Aldgate.

French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, was killed on the route in Aldgate in July, and Brian Dorling died in October 2011 at Bow roundabout on one of the painted blue cycle lanes. Both had been hit by lorries.

Here are some thoughts on what I saw sitting in Poplar Coroner's Court. I thought it was important more people shared what all those involved had to go through.

The most striking thing is how families of those who died find the whole experience very upsetting but endure it in order to get to the truth.

In the case of Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, her mother asked to see her daughter's moment of death on CCTV for a second time.

Both of the families showed great dignity and composure in horrendous circumstances. They're trying as best as they can to deal with very public grief.

The other point I noted is the Met officers involved are clearly frustrated they outlined huge concerns about Aldgate and Bow roundabout which were effectively ignored.

It seemed to me they also had witnessed too many of these incidents and this was their own tipping point. They wanted their many concerns on the record.

French student Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, 20, was killed near Aldgate

Transport for London (TfL) itself is - perhaps not surprisingly in these circumstances - extremely defensive.

'21 concerns'

As an organisation it was under intense scrutiny, the main point being why are cyclists encouraged to use junctions on the cycle superhighway that TfL has been warned are dangerous.

At Aldgate, where Miss De Gerin-Ricard died, the Met raised 21 concerns.

That question still hangs over TfL and the mayor although, in fairness, they are now improving both of these junctions.

Finally the HGV drivers involved in both deaths are themselves clearly devastated by what has happened.

In both cycling deaths the coroner heard it was implied the two drivers had stopped doing HGV work since the collisions.

In court they both looked visibly upset and it seemed were living with the terrible consequences of what happened.

In each case the families of those who died seemed to try to forgive the drivers.

Miss De Gerin-Ricard's father, on his way out of court, shook the driver's hand and looked him in the eye. Her mother hugged him.

Debbie Dorling, Brian Dorling's widow, has previously shown similar forgiveness.

Debbie Dorling said it was only after her husband's death the junction was changed.

There are no positives in these deaths and it is hard not to reflect on the senselessness.

In both cases HGV blind spots played a part and it is hard to see how vehicles that have such glaring endemic safety flaws are allowed in busy streets.

The driver in the case of Miss De Gerin-Ricard had 3.7 seconds to spot her in one small mirror.

The stakes are too high to be relying on a driver looking at one small mirror for 3.7 seconds. Serious legislated redesign of HGVs has to be a political priority.

Practically, if you are a cyclist I would seriously consider looking at just how large these blind spots are. Consider hanging back from HGVs.

And what it also makes clear is cyclists and HGVs should, wherever possible, be kept apart particularly on busy dangerous junctions. Otherwise it's hard not to see the same thing happening again.

Tom Edwards Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

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  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    'Consider hanging back from HGVs'. Absolutely. And this is what you are taught in cycle training. Furthermore The Highway Code section 72 states: 'Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    TfL's often nearly admitted that the point of cycling paintwork is to encourage people to cycle by making it look 'normal', rather than making it safe.

    But where it's lethal - as in ASL feeder lanes that deliberately encourage cyclists to approach junctions on the left where they're at most danger - I think it's time they were held to account, and not allowed to use trucks as a red herring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The blame lays with government for not creating safe infrastructure for all. The root cause is this: UK roads put people in conflict. They've been built up over the years with a bias of one vehicle choice, the motorised kind. It's high time that people insist that our elected representatives ensure infrastructure guides people to safer behaviour by minimising the times people in HGV and bikes meet

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Redesign of HGVs and segregation is ideal but a long way off. In the meantime, better understanding of the issues for HGV drivers and Cyclists would lead to improvements in safety. As I cycling HGV driver, I am certain that I am safer around cyclists. I have a better awareness of where they might be and where they might come from. Make Cycle Awareness training compulsory in the DriverCPC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Tom - you should do a piece on the recent scheme at Poynton. Similar width road junction, but with no serious accidents so far, and traffic flow is much improved. Google for "poynton regenerated".


Comments 5 of 7



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