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Men embrace after hearing; coroner records verdict of death by road traffic collision

The boyfriend of cyclist Min Joo Lee, known as Deep Lee, and the driver of the lorry involved in the collision that claimed her life at King’s Cross two years ago, have both said that the layout of the junction where she died was a factor in her death and have criticised Transport for London (TfL) for not doing enough to protect cyclists.

The pair met at the inquest into her death held on Tuesday at Poplar Coroner’s Court, where Coroner Mary Hassell recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision, and the two men embraced afterwards, reports the Camden New Journal.

Ms Lee, aged 24, died as a result of serious head injuries sustained when she was struck by a lorry driven by Terence Gibbs at the junction of Pentonville Way and Gray’s Inn Road on 3 December 2011.

Mr Gibbs, who had been driving lorries for several decades, told the inquest that the road layout was “outdated.”

He said: “It hurts believe me. I can remember what happened like yesterday. I am so sorry this has happened. I wish only for a miracle to bring the life of that lady back.

“I’ve done that route hundreds of times and I still do it now. You’ve got to make [the Gray’s Inn Road slip road] into one lane. There’s no cycle lanes – there’s nothing down there for cyclists. It’s winding me up.”

During the inquest, Ms Lee’s boyfriend, Kenji Hirasawa, warned that similar tragedies would occur unless the safety of cyclists was made a priority.

He said: “Transport for London is encouraging people to cycle more – but the roads are not safe enough. The environment is not safe enough. The same accidents are going to happen. I don’t think TfL are doing enough to make things better.”

Addressing Mr Gibbs, he added: “I hope you can have a nice life later.”

A detailed account of proceedings at the inquest was tweeted by William Perrin of the King’s Cross Environment blog, which has campaigned for the junction to be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists and unsuccessfully lobbied for corporate manslaughter charges to be brought against TfL in connection with Ms Lee’s death.

While there was an advanced stop line at the junction, a police reconstruction established she Ms Lee could not move into it, in part because there was no feeder lane, and partly because a bus and a minicab occupied the space reserved for cyclists while the lights were red.

The inquest was told she was hemmed in by traffic, and as she moved off once the lights changed, she was hit from behind by the tipper truck that Mr Gibbs was driving, although one witness believed she had been positioned alongside the vehicle, towards its rear.

Mr Gibbs, who was not charged with any offence in connection with Ms Lee’s death, explained that he was always vigilant for cyclists, checked his mirrors regularly, and moved off slowly from the lights.

He described his horror at seeing a bicycle in his rear view camera after feeling a bump he thought at first might be a manhole cover, and said he collapsed when he realised the cyclist was dead.

The coroner asked him whether, in hindsight, he would have done anything differently. He replied that there was nothing he could have done, repeating that he moved off slowly while checking his mirrors.

He also told the court that the narrowness of the lanes at the Gray’s Inn Road end of the junction meant he had to “straddle” them – something police said he was entitled to do, although they believe that had he not done so, there would have been no collision.

A Metropolitan Police road traffic collision investigator said that the driver would have been unable to see Ms Lee since due to her proximity to the front of the vehicle as a result of a two-metre blind spot.

TfL’s head of capital development, Nigel Hardy, said that it aimed to introduce cycle lanes on the Pentonville Road and Caledonian Road sides of the junction, with work due to start in 2014. There are no plans, however, for a cycle lane at the place the fatality happened.

The coroner, who recently heard the inquests into the deaths of Brian Dorling and Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, said that Mr Gibbs could not have reasonably been expected to see Ms Lee, adding that segregated cycle lanes were needed to protect cyclists.

“It is in some ways unsurprising that the collision took place because this was such a busy junction,” she said. “Ultimately, cyclists and trucks don’t mix. The best possible way of having to avoid collision is to separate them.”

Ms Lee, originally from South Korea, was cycling to begin the first day of her final year of a menswear design course at Central St Martin’s – and the first time she commuted to its new King’s Cross campus.

Andrea Casalotti, founder of London bike shop Velorution said in his reflections on the inquest that “the University should have alerted all students about the treacherous road conditions and advised on safe routes to the campus” – an issue, he pointed out, that was not raised on Tuesday.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

18 comments

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Ush [990 posts] 3 years ago
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Ride safe: take the lane

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kie7077 [926 posts] 3 years ago
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TfL’s head of capital development, Nigel Hardy, said that it aimed to introduce cycle lanes on the Pentonville Road and Caledonian Road sides of the junction, with work due to start in 2014. There are no plans, however, for a cycle lane at the place the fatality happened.

What, like this?

http://goo.gl/maps/rfe7n

I avoid this road because of this lane, just look at the lane next to it - motorists think it is ok to speed past whilst being fully in the lane next to the cycle lane, it makes this road a nightmare to cycle up.

Cyclists are supposed to cycle 1m from the curb, what is a cycle lane like this telling cyclists and drivers?

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kie7077 [926 posts] 3 years ago
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Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I do, it changes nothing, many of the drivers who were in the lane behind you will 'punish' you by still driving too close even though they have to wait for a space in the other lane. Especially cab drivers, they are the worst for doing punishment passes, it is very obvious what they are doing, c***s.

Unfortunately riding safe involves taking a longer route around the back roads, perhaps ignoring bits of one-way road that are a pain in the arse for any cyclist wanting to avoid main roads in central London.

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j1mmy76 [68 posts] 3 years ago
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The police also criticised her for riding a fixed gear bike on the basis that she couldn't move off as quick as she would have done on a geared bike.

Words fail me.

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A V Lowe [615 posts] 3 years ago
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When I asked a senior police officer, attending a road safety event, why, that morning, I had seen his officers directing all cyclists from Theobalds Road down Proctor Street into the mayhem that is High Holborn at 9 am, he said that it was because of the large number of cycle crashes on Bloomsbury Way bus lane which lots of cyclists go along illegally.

It didn't seem to connect that with most of the cyclists going East-West making this illegal use of the bus lane, we might actually see quite a few crashes, because there were a lot of cyclists, whilst the hostile conditions on High Holborn, would see relatively few cyclists, and relatively few crashes - unfortunately those few crashes are often bad ones.

Any ideas on explaining that one to Mr Policeman?

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johnnytoobad [8 posts] 3 years ago
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"because a bus and a minicab occupied the space reserved for cyclists while the lights were red."

I can only presume that the police have tracked down and issued FPNs to these drivers?

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only1redders [111 posts] 3 years ago
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This is it: https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ll=51.530601,-0.122247&spn=0.001006...

You can see the ghost bike on the left hand side. The 3-lane one way system running in to that junction is kind of scary - I tend to stick to the middle of a lane and deal with whoever might beep their horn at me....the lights tend to turn red anyway, so people aren't usually in a rush

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Malaconotus [104 posts] 3 years ago
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johnnytoobad wrote:

"because a bus and a minicab occupied the space reserved for cyclists while the lights were red."

I can only presume that the police have tracked down and issued FPNs to these drivers?

The charges should surely be 'causing death by careless driving' since the inquest identifies them as a contributory factor. Odds that such charges would be brought?

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Simon_MacMichael [2502 posts] 3 years ago
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only1redders wrote:

This is it: https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ll=51.530601,-0.122247&spn=0.001006...

You can see the ghost bike on the left hand side. The 3-lane one way system running in to that junction is kind of scary - I tend to stick to the middle of a lane and deal with whoever might beep their horn at me....the lights tend to turn red anyway, so people aren't usually in a rush

Yes, that's the location, but it's not the ASL box you're looking at when that link loads (which does have a feeder lane), you have to scroll round to the right, it's the one where you're looking at McDonald's (which doesn't have a feeder lane).

You can see how narrow those two lanes are, it's also not hard to imagine the fighting for space happening across that junction as it goes to one lane on York Way.

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Critchio [230 posts] 3 years ago
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Maybe I am over-simplifying this but didn't that lass lose her life because a lorry had a two metre blind spot?

This is not transport from decades ago. This is transport in the year 2011 and beyond. No vehicle, whatever its size should have a 2 metre (or any) blindspot where a person on a bike is completely blocked from the view of the driver. Crikey, the technology is available and has been for many years to detect cyclists. Blind spots like this should not exist. My brother in law is a trucker. His nice new truck will not start until he has blown down a tube and had his breath tested. Does it have have cameras that obliterate blindspots and show the view and a small dash mounted monitor? What do you think....

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only1redders [111 posts] 3 years ago
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Ah, I see. I always ride up onto the pavement by the lights, dismount and cross the road on foot. Much safer.......which thereby proves the point

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Ush [990 posts] 3 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:
Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I do, it changes nothing,

I doubt that. The fact that cab drivers do a controlled "punishment pass" means that at least they've seen you, and more importantly, unlike the poor woman in this story you're not going to get into a situation with a HGV... which seems to be much the biggest danger.

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A V Lowe [615 posts] 3 years ago
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At the Gray's Inn Road - York Way route you make a start by banning all parking on the North side of Grays Inn Road, and setting very strict conditions for deliveries, with a deliveries lay-by set back by the junction with Caledonian Road to service ALL the premises in that gushet block, between Pentonville Road, and Gray's Inn Road.

There should be a marked advisory cycle lane and only one traffic lane heading to York Way with the cycle lane to the left of the traffic lane (out in the middle basically between the bus lane, and traffic lane for Euston Road and the traffic lane for York way

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kie7077 [926 posts] 3 years ago
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Ush wrote:
kie7077 wrote:
Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I do, it changes nothing,

I doubt that. The fact that cab drivers do a controlled "punishment pass" means that at least they've seen you, and more importantly, unlike the poor woman in this story you're not going to get into a situation with a HGV... which seems to be much the biggest danger.

It doesn't matter if they've seen me if they're going to do a dangerous pass - if I swerve to avoid one of the millions of bits of badly maintained road then they might kill me, that is the point, it is not safe and 'taking the lane' doesn't automatically make it safe and the close passes are bloody stressful - if more people are to cycle then these need to stop, right now cab drivers etc can endanger cyclists lives with impunity.

Another point is that on many roads with 2 lanes it takes a level of balls to take a lane that most cyclists don't have and shouldn't be expected to have.

Where would you cycle here? (it's a long uphill)
http://goo.gl/maps/NZzRy

In the cycle lane - expect close passes from the next lane.
In the next lane - expect total animosity from drivers.
1m out from the curb as is supposed to be the safest option?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1799 posts] 3 years ago
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Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I assume you meant to say - ride slightly safer: take the lane.

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Sven Ellis [47 posts] 3 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:

Where would you cycle here? (it's a long uphill)
http://goo.gl/maps/NZzRy

Where am I cycling to and from that Pentonville Road is a good route?

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Ush [990 posts] 3 years ago
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Your mindset is entangled with that of the punishment passing driver... who, while more frequent than I'd like is not quite as frequent as you suggest, nor as dangerous as you make out.

kie7077 wrote:
Ush wrote:
kie7077 wrote:
Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I do, it changes nothing,

I doubt that. The fact that cab drivers do a controlled "punishment pass" means that at least they've seen you, and more importantly, unlike the poor woman in this story you're not going to get into a situation with a HGV... which seems to be much the biggest danger.

It doesn't matter if they've seen me if they're going to do a dangerous pass

It depends on whether you believe that the majority of cyclists killed are killed deliberately due to dangerous passes inflicted consciously as punishment, or they're the result of motorists squeezing past cyclists that their colleagues (and a certain type of cyclist that insists that it's too dangerous to ride in the lane) have "educated" to stay in to the side.

kie7077 wrote:

- if I swerve to avoid one of the millions of bits of badly maintained road then they might kill me,

Agreed. So, if you claim a tiny little volume/width as your allotted "safe" place then you've left yourself little room for manoeuver. It boggles my mind that any cyclist would want less than the normal width of a lane for comfortable, safe, pleasant travel. Not to mention that I often like to ride with friends and talk sociably until we part ways. Why the fuck would I want to ride behind them in a single line having to shout to each other while there's a perfectly comfortable lane to the right of me? If car drivers are allowed to use it for scarfing bowls of cereal while sitting beside their friends I'm damned if I shouldn't use it with my mates.

kie7077 wrote:

that is the point, it is not safe and 'taking the lane' doesn't automatically make it safe

It's not completely safe and it's not always what's needed. However, what you are balancing against it is the alternative of funneling yourself into a narrow, dangerous space in which it's pretty much inevitable some HGV driver is not going to see you at least some of the time. Fuck that.

Taking the lane is not perfect, neither is walking about as a pedestrian, but a lot more cyclists need to be doing it more, especially if they want to have a pleasant time on the road.

The lack of ambition, imagination and foresight expressed by an objection to the idea that perhaps we might have a more pleasant cycling environment if we all simply occupied our legal entitlement to the lane blows my mind. It's a counterpoint to the motorist mentality that cyclists shouldn't be on the road... expressed this time by people that happen to be riding a bicycle. Thanks for that. It really helps.

kie7077 wrote:

and the close passes are bloody stressful - if more people are to cycle then these need to stop, right now cab drivers etc can endanger cyclists lives with impunity.

Are you actually under the impression that I'm arguing with you on that point? I agree completely, which is why I want undercover cops, armed with cameras out riding around prosecuting the maniacs that are allowed to drive. But instead cyclists are going to rally around the idea that somehow London is going to transform into $dutch-city-where-the-grass-is-greener.

kie7077 wrote:

Another point is that on many roads with 2 lanes it takes a level of balls to take a lane that most cyclists don't have and shouldn't be expected to have.

Where would you cycle here? (it's a long uphill)
http://goo.gl/maps/NZzRy

Looking that the streetview that you provided it looks like relatively light traffic. I'd want to be in the lane. I don't fancy going slowly up a hill weaving out to avoid potholes after having signalled to any rear approaching drivers by my road position in to the side that they can rip past in the same narrow volume that I'm in. Plenty of room for them to overtake in the rightmost lane.

At other times, if traffic were heavier I would probably be about, as you suggest 1m from the edge so that I can swerve inwards from road obstacles... as long as some tit on a bicycle doesn't try undertaking me.

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Ush [990 posts] 3 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Ush wrote:

Ride safe: take the lane

I assume you meant to say - ride slightly safer: take the lane.

It's arguable. I think it's a good deal safer in the sort of situations in which HGVs are involved. It's definitely not anywhere as safe as I'd like it to be though.. but that's only going to happen when the majority of motorists (and cyclists) accept that the right place for a bicycle is on the road.