On Wednesday 9th April, an Inquest was held for the death of Venera Minakhmetova, who was crushed by a left turning lorry at Bow roundabout, where two other cyclists have been killed in 2011.
At the inquest there was only one witness, whose testimony proved to be unreliable. There was no CCTV camera at the junction, and the Police investigators reconstructed the crash from the tachograph on the lorry and concluded that “on balance of probabilities”, the victim did not stop at the cyclists-only red light prior to the junction.
Mark Treasure has written eloquently and clearly why the Coroner was wrong in deciding that the work that TfL has done at Bow roundabout is sufficient in making the junction safe:
All the fiddles and bodges that have been implemented at Bow are a flawed compromise, intended to fit cycling in around the margins of motor traffic flow, rather than coherent design. It’s a great pity the inquest seems to have ignored the issue of whether it could be substantially better – good enough to eliminate future tragedies.
Not forgetting that
There are still no pedestrian crossings at this roundabout.
I would like to comment on this remark by the Coroner in her summing up, as reported in the Evening Standard.
“It’s important that I’m open and honest about the cause of this collision, for no other reason that other cyclists need to understand what dangerous behaviour contravening a red light is, and that there are potentially devastating consequences.”
1. Venera was a frequent user of this junction and she had expressed her anxiety about the lack of safety. The Coroner should have concluded that “on balance of probabilities”, Venera was either confused by the new traffic signal set-up, installed only a few days before, or by the behaviour of the lorry. It only takes a couple of visits to the roundabout to appreciate that the most pressing danger are left-turning vehicle, and that must have been in Venera’s mind as she was negotiating the roundabout. It is insulting to the victim to assume, as the Coroner has done, that she recklessly and obliviously entered the junction, when there is no evidence that she did that. Especially if, as it has been alleged, she consciously went through a red light, it is reasonable to assume that she was extremely alert of the danger; Venera must have assumed that the lorry was going straight; it follows that either she was ahead of the lorry and the driver should have seen her, or she was behind it, and it was not indicating. “On balance of probabilities” these are the correct deductions.
2. Many organisations and individuals had pointed out that the new design was confusing; when the cycling light was showing red, it would have been amongst a sea of green lights. What is astonishing is that TfL installed this new system, which was new and untested, without studying how users would react. The Coroner should have issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report, asking Traffic Authorities to monitor novel schemes with CCTV or with people on the ground.
|Picture by Charlie Lloyd|