Transport for London to face more courtroom embarrassment at 3rd cycle death inquest

The repercussions of a Coroner's report on the safety of  Cycle Superhighway 2 continue to reverberate around London, with the Mayor of London facing a grilling on Wednesday before a sombre-faced London Assembly. And there's more potential for embarrassing revelations to come.

Following her inquest in to the deaths of Brian Dorling and Philippine De Gerin-Ricard at Bow and Aldgate respectively, the Coroner concluded that the design of CS2 was "an accident waiting to happen if cyclists are guided into the space where blue paint is on the left and they're in the very place where the lorry is going to hit them." (Read the full report here and my damning summary here)

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Labour's John Biggs and the Green Party's Jenny Jones were particularly articulate at the London Assembly, pressing the Mayor to act quickly and decisively to make the most dangerous junctions safer for cyclists.  Cornered, Boris Johnson stated "..this is always going to be extremely difficult, I can't guarantee to Londoners that we are going to be able to produce segregation where it is desired", despite his election commitment to "Go Dutch".

Behind the scenes, the Mayor and Transport for London will be most concerned at the prospect of more negative press coverage and criticism of their work at a third inquest in to another cyclist's death, due in December.

Korean exchange student Min Joo Lee ("Deep Lee") was just 24 years old when she was knocked off her bicycle in a collision with a construction lorry at the junction with Euston Road, York Way and Pentonville Road on the 3rd October 2011.   She was the 4th cyclist to die on or near that junction in 5 years, and the 13th cyclist to die on London's roads in 2011.

Transport for London were heavily criticised for their conduct at this deadly junction, having ignored the advice from their own consultant's report in 2007 which said that "casualties were inevitable" there.  Instead of acting on the recommendations of the report to reduce traffic speeds and to improve the layout of the junction, TfL instead suppressed it, with it only seeing the light of day after an FOI request by concerned local residents.

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A second report on this location, produced in 2009 by Colin Buchanan and Partners, has proven to be even more troublesome for TfL.  They reported that between 2005 and 2007 “pedal cyclist casualties made up 20 per cent of the total casualties”, and notes that “there are still quite a lot of cyclists on the network” here. 

However - and most shockingly of all - the report specifically excluded cyclists from it's findings; at the instruction of TfL.  Buchanan states: " “Following TfL advice, cyclists and motorcyclists were not included in the model."

Two years later, Min Joo Lee would lose her life on the spot where these studies were undertaken, and where TfL failed to act.

After her death, The Times - as part of their excellent and ongoing Cities Fit For Cycling campaign - would report that the heavily criticised layout of the road may have been a contributory factor in Ms Lee's death "The stretch of road where Ms Lee was killed appears to breach TfL’s published standards for minimum safe width for roads used by both cyclists and motor vehicles…

"Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who chairs TfL, was asked by the London Assembly last month whether the junction complied with the design standards. He replied that the template was a “best practise document intended to ensure that consistently high standards are applied to new schemes in order to reduce barriers to cycling”. He added that the junction’s layout had been implemented before the guidance was published."

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Indeed, it has recently been revealed that despite the Police's best efforts, TfL have only escaped a corporate manslaughter charge here because their design at King's Cross pre-dates manslaughter legislation.

Despite promising to change the junction where Min Joo Lee died two years ago (and despite a multi million pound re-development of the adjoining King's Cross Square) it remains unchanged.  TfL - keen to be seen to be doing something, anything - have appointed a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on the area, and begun consulting with local residents and stake holders.  But progress is painfully slow.

In the interim, Transport for London - and the Mayor's flagship ideal to make London a cycling city - will be under intense scrutiny at Poplar Coroner's Court once again when the case of the death of Min Joo Lee is heard on 17th December.

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2 comments:

Albert Beale said...

It's not actually true that, "Despite promising to change the junction where Min Joo Lee died two years ago (and despite a multi million pound re-development of the adjoining King's Cross Square) it remains unchanged." It's been made even worse.

Although it is the case that it hasn't been remodeled as part of the recent work on the fancy space in front of KX station, the junction had already undergone some changes (post-Min Joo Lee) in a great rush in the run up to the London Olympics. And although many of us who know the junction and cycle through it every day warned about these changes, TfL went ahead with a scheme that has actually made the junction even worse for cyclists.

See, for example, http://kingscrossenvironment.com/2012/01/09/tfl-improvements-may-make-things-worse/.

Thanks for you work!

Albert Beale (worldpeace@gn.apc.org)

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