In the morning of 13.09.16, Sheila Karsberg got off a bus on Pratt Street in Camden. She intended to go up Camden High Street, so she walked on the pavement past the bus and noticing that the traffic lights were red for motor traffic she started to cross the street on the bicycle box. After four seconds while she was halfway across the lights turned green.
She was now in front of a Cement mixer which had been stationary at the lights. The driver’s main focus was on his right hand mirror, because the street ahead is misaligned and he needs to first make a slight right turn.
He doesn’t see Sheila in front of his cab, drives off and kills her.
Let’s repeat this: Sheila Karsberg was right in front of the cement mixer, but the driver did not see her and killed her.
Police estimated that because of blind spots, Sheila would have been visible to the driver for one second, had he been looking the right way. They decided not to charge the driver.
As we mentioned many times before, once Police decides to exonerate the killer, they feel they need to blame the victim for getting killed. So emphasis was placed on the irrelevant fact that the pedestrian lights were already red when Sheila stepped off the pavement.
“She broke the law, so she deserved to die”
That is essentially what Police is saying. The Coroner pursued this victim blaming by spending considerable time on her medical record, painting a picture of a diabetic with frequent memory lapses, onset of Alzheimer and worst of all (in the Coroner’s eyes) a propensity not to take the medication that she was prescribed.
“She was old, her brain not working well, a rebel, so she deserved to die”
What is most disheartening about attending these inquests is that no-one says: “Hang on a minute, this woman may have made a mistake but that is not a reason to kill her.”
Blind spots on monstrously big lorries are forgivable but walking across the street when lights are red is worth the death penalty.
We don’t want to blame the driver. Vision Zero is not in the blame business. We are in the problem solving business. And we think that errors like Sheila should not be punished by death.
Some work to improve the visibility of HGV drivers has been made but it is clearly insufficient. These are some of the essential things that should be done but are not done:
- It is unreasonable to expect a driver to be able to look at multiple mirrors at opposite directions in the sometime short time that he is stationary at lights; since a driver’s error has probable catastrophic consequences, much more technology is required to reduce the probability of errors. For example; movement sensors should be installed; rather than alerting drivers (again, they would be overwhelmed by too many inputs) the sensors should act directly on the mechanics and prevent further movement of the vehicle towards the moving person.
- A database of all KSIs involving HGVs should be used to understand how deaths like Sheila can be prevented. Now, nobody does this investigative work. That is why we have repeatedly called for an Independent Road Collision Investigative Authority, like is the case for all other means of transport
- CLOCS needs to be enlarged to include pedestrians. In 2016, HGV drivers killed four cyclists and fourteen pedestrians. It is absurd not to study the much greater number of cases.
We hope that the new Walking and Cycling Commissioner will lobby hard for the above changes.
There are many Sheila Karsberg in London and they don’t deserve to be trumpled over like a big rubbish bag (as the driver described what he thought he had run over).