Coroner in Dr Katharine Giles inquest warns cyclists not to undertake lorries

CCTV footage shown at inquest reveals scientist rode up inside of lorry that was indicating a left-turn before it struck her

by Simon_MacMichael   January 6, 2014  

Westminster Coroner's Court (copyright Simon MacMichael)

The coroner sitting on the inquest of Dr Katherine Giles, who was killed while riding her bike by a left-turning tipper truck in Victoria last April, says cyclists have to be aware of the danger of riding up the inside of lorries.

Dr Shirley Radcliffe’s comments came at the end of an inquest in which Westminster Coroner’s Court had been shown CCTV footage described as giving a “very clear view” of the events leading to the death of the 35-year-old polar scientist, reports the London Evening Standard.

Recording a verdict of “traumatic road death,” Dr Radcliffe said: “I don’t wish to place any fault or blame on the victim on this occasion.

“But I can highlight once again the danger of coming up on the near-side of lorries. It’s been recognised as causing many deaths in London.”

The CCTV footage showed Dr Giles riding up the inside of the truck and into the driver's blind spot as the lorry waited at traffic lights at the junction of Palace Street and Victoria Street having just picked up a load of earth and soil from a nearby building site.

The court heard that the lorry’s left indicator was flashing, and that there was also an audible warning that it was due to turn left prior to the fatal collision, which happened at 8.25am on the morning of Monday 8 April 2013.

According to a statement from cyclist Charles Lousada, who was riding behind Dr Giles: “It appeared she was trying to pull the bike away from the front wheels of the tipper truck. She was unbalanced... she appeared to be flipped backwards.

“She was motionless on her back. I could see her eyes open. Her head was injured... I knew she was dead. Any first aid would not have assisted with the massive head injuries.”

Dr Giles’s death resulted from injuries sustained to her head, chest and pelvis.

The lorry driver involved, James Matovu, was described by the coroner as having been “oblivious” to having struck Dr Giles, and stopped his vehicle once an off-duty police officer flagged him down as he drove along Victoria Street.

The Standard reports that he ran back to the junction where the collision had happened, the newspaper adding: “members of the public tried to stop him seeing the horror of the scene.”

Mr Matuvo said in a statement: “I’m very sorry that Katharine Giles died as a result of the collision. I was very shocked and upset by the collision.”

No charges have been brought against the driver, with Detective Sergeant Matt Austin of the Metropolitan Police saying that the case was not referred to the Crown Prosecution Service after officers concluded there was not enough evidence of the commission of an offence to give rise to a “realistic prospect of conviction.”

It is believed that Dr Giles, who lived in Maida Vale, was riding to her place of work at University College London’s Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling, where her work had led to her being described as a “brilliant young scientist.”

The coroner disclosed that Dr Giles’s parents had decided not to attend the inquest and the Standard adds that her friends also declined to be present.

In the days following her death last April, both the London Cycling Campaign and British Cycling urged for lorries to be banned from city centres at morning rush hour, something Mayor of London Boris Johnson has rejected.

A planned vigil for Dr Giles being organised by the charity RoadPeace was cancelled out of respect for her family’s wishes.

45 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

What a stupid comment. How can we all want more people to cycle, and then say that the only people who will be allowed to survive going out on their bikes are experienced survivors like us?

Of course people should take personal responsibility, but it is also the responsibility of planners not to encourage people into dangerous places with evil infrastructure.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [184 posts]
7th January 2014 - 9:24

116 Likes

Infrastructure once again is the major cause of this death. You cannot continue to paint lines on the road telling everyone where cyclists 'should' be, while at the same time telling cyclists they shouldn't be there.

This permeates out to junctions and other road areas without any cycle lanes - cyclists have to be on the left. This is what we (as road users) are told. The Highway Code even states "Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer." (Rule 63)

This implies that the more skilled and experienced you are the less likely you are to use these lanes because you'll better understand the danger they can put you in. Is that how good cycle infrastructure should work?

posted by teaboy [186 posts]
7th January 2014 - 10:27

115 Likes

I agree that ASLs, with their filter lanes, give cyclists the wrong perception about positioning. But I also contend that these same mistakes would be made without them because of the perception of where cyclists should ride.

This accident (which is so so tragic and sad for all involved) is perpetuated up and down the country where ASLs are not de rigeur. The problem for me is always about education. Educating truck drivers, educating car users and cyclists. I get fed up of hearing people on this site absolve cyclists of any responsibility out on the road, especially given that such basic understanding of other road users and the road would negate such occurrences . I'm not insisting on mandatory tests, but simple encouragement to use free Instruction and road craft would massively reduce the number of these accidents, which appear to be far too routine....and it's cheap too.

If I get any comments about victim blaming I'll just point to what the coroner said.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1186 posts]
7th January 2014 - 13:59

111 Likes

I think the coroner was right to say what she did, in that awareness about this particular danger might make the difference in future between a tragedy occurring or not, in the current road layouts.

That doesn't detract from the fact that cycling infrastructure should be immediately addressed as well. It would have helped if the coroner had made this point, alongside highlighting the danger of cycling in ASL's around left-turning lorries within the current road layouts.

As learner car drivers, we are taught how to deal with large vehicles and the particular characteristics and requirements they have when turning. There is no such mandatory training for cyclists. Even if ASL's were abolished, this education would still be beneficial to the cyclist

posted by 700c [587 posts]
7th January 2014 - 16:46

111 Likes

I don't agree that the coroner was right, if the vehicle was stationary when she passed she was at that point at no risk, the fault then is with the poorly designed truck that doesn't allow the operator to see all around them.

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
7th January 2014 - 22:15

108 Likes

McDuff73 wrote:
I don't agree that the coroner was right, if the vehicle was stationary when she passed she was at that point at no risk, the fault then is with the poorly designed truck that doesn't allow the operator to see all around them.

When is it ever a good time to undertake a left indicating vehicle? Even if it was stationary it is a bad idea. If I was in a car I wouldn't expect someone to undertake me while turning left.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1186 posts]
7th January 2014 - 23:49

112 Likes

I don't drive.

However I have been told on numerous occasions by authority figures to obey the road markings

Those road markings are telling me to go up the left side when I ride into an ASL.

Who put those markings on the road?

The local authority. Or are cyclists supposed to ignore road marking and develop their own sense of which marking to obey, which to ignore..

posted by hampstead_bandit [192 posts]
8th January 2014 - 0:18

108 Likes

hampstead_bandit wrote:
Or are cyclists supposed to ignore road marking and develop their own sense of which marking to obey, which to ignore..

To be honest, yes. Official advice and official road markings seem to conflict quite frequently (door zone cycle lanes surely have to be the paradigmatic example?).

Its one of the many peculiarities of British life, I guess. Sometimes if you do what you are told, you lose. Sort of like a high-stakes game of 'Simon Says'.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [733 posts]
8th January 2014 - 0:57

115 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
To be honest, yes. Official advice and official road markings seem to conflict quite frequently (door zone cycle lanes surely have to be the paradigmatic example?).

Which if you take it to its illogical conclusion, shall we just regard lane markings on motorways as advisory, speed limits as inconveniences, traffic lights as hints, and box junctions as invisible?

If your going to paint the roads, make the paint mean something and have some reason for being there! There is enough crap in the urban environment without adding more and more pointless crap!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1312 posts]
8th January 2014 - 8:54

101 Likes

hampstead_bandit wrote:
I don't drive.

However I have been told on numerous occasions by authority figures to obey the road markings

Those road markings are telling me to go up the left side when I ride into an ASL.

Who put those markings on the road?

The local authority. Or are cyclists supposed to ignore road marking and develop their own sense of which marking to obey, which to ignore..

That's a very simplistic, polarised view of road markings. But if you know your Highway Code some road markings are more guides than rules. For instance if you drive down a road which has no central road marking you don't ride in the middle of the road, or on the right. Equally, if you have a dashed line it indicates that you should stay left of it unless obstructed or over taking. Equally I've never seen police officers forcing any cyclist to mandatorily use a bike lane or an ASL filter. So if you really do think that all road markings are to be obeyed equally then maybe you need to get to grips with your Highway Code.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1186 posts]
8th January 2014 - 8:54

103 Likes

mrmo wrote:
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
To be honest, yes. Official advice and official road markings seem to conflict quite frequently (door zone cycle lanes surely have to be the paradigmatic example?).

Which if you take it to its illogical conclusion, shall we just regard lane markings on motorways as advisory, speed limits as inconveniences, traffic lights as hints, and box junctions as invisible?

If your going to paint the roads, make the paint mean something and have some reason for being there! There is enough crap in the urban environment without adding more and more pointless crap!

Well, to be fair, some road markings are compulsory, some are advisory. All the same, it does seem to me, as a mere road user, that a lot of the advisory ones seem to be put in by people who don't really know what they are doing.

Also, motorists generally ignore a large proportion of the supposedly 'enforceable' ones and nothing is ever done about it.

In short, many of the supposedly 'compulsory' ones seem to in reality be 'advisory' and many of the 'advisory' ones seem to be ill-advised.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [733 posts]
8th January 2014 - 10:38

97 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:
For instance if you drive down a road which has no central road marking you don't ride in the middle of the road, or on the right.

So how come so many motorists (I'd say the majority of them) do _exactly_ that?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [733 posts]
8th January 2014 - 11:00

98 Likes

McDuff73 wrote:
I don't agree that the coroner was right, if the vehicle was stationary when she passed she was at that point at no risk, the fault then is with the poorly designed truck that doesn't allow the operator to see all around them.

To be fair to drivers, even if this were the case they can still only look in one direction at a time - which is normally forwards as this the space they are driving into.

posted by JeevesBath [131 posts]
8th January 2014 - 15:19

97 Likes

Highway code rule 221 (space around turning Lorries) is very relevant here. Although this bit is aimed at car drivers, it is even more important when considering the vulnerability of a cyclist in this situation.

If all users simply followed the road markings to the letter regardless of other traffic or environmental conditions, there would be chaos everywhere, from the dangerous driving/cycling etc that would inevitably result.

The points made about dangerous infrastructure and lorry/cyclist safety needing improvement are totallyvalid, this does not mean that you shouldn't exercise common sense when deciding whether or not to undertake a lorry who is about to turn left.

The highway code helps a great deal in stressing this point.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
8th January 2014 - 16:10

100 Likes

proper Dutch style infrastructure would have kept her separated from the lorry... painted lines on the road do not make proper infrastructure... ASL's and feeder lanes are a joke... a very tragic, bad joke...

posted by Paul_C [245 posts]
8th January 2014 - 18:02

92 Likes

McDuff73 wrote:
I don't agree that the coroner was right, if the vehicle was stationary when she passed she was at that point at no risk, the fault then is with the poorly designed truck that doesn't allow the operator to see all around them.

Regardless of the vehicle being stationary or not. It is not a good idea to filter up the inside whether it is a car/bus/HGV. You cannot rely on the driver checking their nearside mirror let alone their offside before they move off. And even if you know the junction and phasing of the lights even the most experienced cyclist can be caught out. It is up to us more 'streetwise' cyclists to demonstrate road skills and help newer cyclist get to grips with urban cycling before bad habits become too ingrained.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1064 posts]
8th January 2014 - 18:20

95 Likes

It concerns me that people can't see the sense in cycling safely around lorries, or in educating others to do so, because of righteous indignation about not having Dutch style cycling infrastructure

posted by 700c [587 posts]
8th January 2014 - 20:22

93 Likes

700c - we can all see the sense in being ultra cautious around HGV's but the problem is a large number of novice cyclists have no understanding of the mortal danger they are putting themselves in. Infrastructure plays a huge part in this, feeding cyclists up the left side of vehicles. Sure training is important but what kind of cities are we creating where a wrong assumption can lead to your death ? There is alot of pressure on all road users to keep pushing forwards and very little quarter is given on London's roads, especially if you stop and slow others down. So what does the novice do ? They assume the right thing to do is slowly carry on, following the guidance on the road, in this instance to her death.
London has a pretty solid track record in not fit for purpose infrastructure (eg superhighway coroner's reports/false sense of security) yet no one sees the need to do anything other than grandstand and dish out some fines for newspaper headlines.
Just tragic is all I can say.

posted by arfa [535 posts]
8th January 2014 - 22:19

94 Likes

700c wrote:
It concerns me that people can't see the sense in cycling safely around lorries, or in educating others to do so, because of righteous indignation about not having Dutch style cycling infrastructure

It concerns me more that this keeps happening with absolutely no action from government or city hall. It isn't that people don't see sense in taking care around lorries - it's the fact that the current infrastructure is so bad cyclists are actively being told not to use it because it's dangerous!

How should people be educated? The highway code says that cycle lanes can make your journey safer. This clearly isn't true, so following that government advice (education, if you will) is likely to put new riders into more danger in certain circumstances. Following the road layout as to where cyclists are supposed to be also puts riders into danger. So, what should be done?

posted by teaboy [186 posts]
8th January 2014 - 22:38

93 Likes

giff77 wrote:

Regardless of the vehicle being stationary or not. It is not a good idea to filter up the inside whether it is a car/bus/HGV. You cannot rely on the driver checking their nearside mirror let alone their offside before they move off. And even if you know the junction and phasing of the lights even the most experienced cyclist can be caught out. It is up to us more 'streetwise' cyclists to demonstrate road skills and help newer cyclist get to grips with urban cycling before bad habits become too ingrained.

Sorry but your talking nonsense, so its not safe to filter round a stationary car, and drivers are absolved somehow of checking all round them before moving off? as a driver you learn, mirror, signal, manoeuver, so your advocating drivers ignore what they learn in their driving lessons and test!? the road would be infinately more safe if the vehicles they are driving are made safe including removing vehicles from the road with blindspots! and penalising drivers heavily for driving badly.

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:20

84 Likes

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

When is it ever a good time to undertake a left indicating vehicle? Even if it was stationary it is a bad idea. If I was in a car I wouldn't expect someone to undertake me while turning left.

That's the point Colin, a stationary car isn't actually in motion!

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:26

82 Likes

Two thirds of lorries pulled over by police are being driven illegally or are not fit for the road, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police.

That figure says all you need to know about trucks the companies that run them and their concern for other road users, its time lobby groups for cyclists started putting pressure on the government to act in our interests and safety.

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:29

86 Likes

yes, cycling in heavy traffic with so many HGV's around is incredibly hazardous - hence the need for education of cyclists, especially novice ones who may assume cycle lanes are always the safest place to be.

How should people be educated? well, statements by the coroner in this case which are circulated by the press is better than nothing. It came too late in this tragedy but for those on here who insist the coroner was wrong to publicise the hazards involved in undertaking a left turning lorry, are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

I would also like to see free and widely available, useful urban training for those who cycle, at school and for adults, funded by local authorities / central government under their sustainable transport targets and initiatives . I'm not talking cycling proficiency tests here!- (chances of that happening with budget cuts are small, admittedly)

The Highway code may state that cycle lanes are often the safest places to be - but it also states to avoid lorries that are turning, and explains the particular requirements that large vehicles have when turning. It absolutely does not state to stay in your lane at all times regardless of what's happening around you! As a car driver or a cyclist, it would put you in great danger if you did. I don't think it's unfair to assume some common sense is applied. Cycling or driving according to the conditions and traffic position around you is a universal principle, surely?

In no way is this an apology for lack of separate infrastructure for cyclists, for lack of safety features on lorries, (which should be mandatory for all, IMO), or for the appalling number of deaths that occurred recently.

Also, at the same time, I wish the coroner could have cited road design as a factor here and made recommendations to build more separate cycle ways (the only way cyclists will avoid left-turning vehicles at junctions without replacing it with a different danger e.g. crossing lanes of traffic, IMO).

posted by 700c [587 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:42

83 Likes

Damn right McDuff, if those figures don't tell the powers that be that there is utter contempt being shown by a significant proportion of those running HGV's through urban areas then we might as well give up.
The bitter irony is that health & safety legislation protects employees in the industrial workplace but the broader public can just suck it and see.
Sure, cycling is no more risky than in the past but it could be made even safer still and this is needed to increase modal share.

posted by arfa [535 posts]
9th January 2014 - 11:45

84 Likes

The advice here about filtering around lorries is good however it is a bit of a sideline to the real issue. There are too many lorries on London's streets and this is the heart of the issue. Secondary to this is that, in any big city, it is necesary to filter in order to make reasonable progress by bike. The ability of bicycles to filter through traffic is also one of the things that makes them so attractive as a form of urban transport. If the number of large vehicles was reduced sufficiently it might be easier to persuade people to give lorries a wide berth. Given the number of lorries and the road culture in London I can't imagine a change in cyclist behaviour any time soon.

I think that we also need to stop focussing on the specifics of the highway code. Most victims of this type of accident are not the type of people who have the same special interest in cycle travel that we do and are unlikely to have studied the highway code in the same way that many of us will have done. It's unrealistic to think that the average road user chooses their behaviour based on reading the highway code. More realistic is that they take ques from those around them and from the infrastructure and road markings/signage.

posted by Matt eaton [457 posts]
9th January 2014 - 12:41

87 Likes

McDuff73 wrote:
giff77 wrote:

Regardless of the vehicle being stationary or not. It is not a good idea to filter up the inside whether it is a car/bus/HGV. You cannot rely on the driver checking their nearside mirror let alone their offside before they move off. And even if you know the junction and phasing of the lights even the most experienced cyclist can be caught out. It is up to us more 'streetwise' cyclists to demonstrate road skills and help newer cyclist get to grips with urban cycling before bad habits become too ingrained.

Sorry but your talking nonsense, so its not safe to filter round a stationary car, and drivers are absolved somehow of checking all round them before moving off? as a driver you learn, mirror, signal, manoeuver, so your advocating drivers ignore what they learn in their driving lessons and test!? the road would be infinately more safe if the vehicles they are driving are made safe including removing vehicles from the road with blindspots! and penalising drivers heavily for driving badly.

No, I'm not absolving drivers of checking around them and yes I'm advocating that many drivers forget what they've learnt during their lessons. Too often I have cars cut me up to make a left turn, pull out from a side street/parking space as I approach, tailgate me in 20 zones, force through traffic calming measures, overtake giving scant inches to spare. Regularly I follow drivers and not see their head turning to check mirrors/shoulder check or look into streets they are turning into. I could go on as could many others on the forum. I do agree though that penalties need to be less lenient.

As a footnote the Highway Code advises cyclists to not undertake vehicles indicating to turn left (72). Something that is contradicted by the provision of a cycle lane persuading cyclists into a place of perceived safety. So yes. Highly unsafe to filter down the inside.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1064 posts]
9th January 2014 - 18:21

82 Likes

giff77 wrote:

As a footnote the Highway Code advises cyclists to not undertake vehicles indicating to turn left (72). Something that is contradicted by the provision of a cycle lane persuading cyclists into a place of perceived safety. So yes. Highly unsafe to filter down the inside.

Sec 72

"When approaching a junction on the left, watch out for vehicles turning in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left"

All about vehicles in motion nothing about stationary traffic. Vehicles that are not moving are not hazardous to anyone its when they start moving that the problem ensues.

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
10th January 2014 - 11:38

76 Likes

I've no idea why this is still being debated. it's unsafe to go to the left of a lorry whether the lorry is about to turn left or actually turning left at the time.

The use of cycle lanes and ASL's is not mandatory. Highway code says you should 'use them unless it is unsafe to do so'. This is not contradictory with the presence of lanes and ASL's.

ie all road users must take the decision based where to position your car/ bike/ person etc based on traffic and conditions around you at the time.

What the coroner said here is factually accurate, and advice that should be heeded - regardless of the wider infrastructure and safety issues / shortcomings etc on which I think we all agree.

posted by 700c [587 posts]
10th January 2014 - 11:54

75 Likes

700c wrote:
I've no idea why this is still being debated. it's unsafe to go to the left of a lorry whether the lorry is about to turn left or actually turning left at the time.

Possibly because your wrong, a stationary vehicle will not run you over so its hardly unsafe to pass one just like the many parked cars most cyclists pass every day, the trouble starts when a vehicle with 'blind spots' starts to move, modern vehicles should not be permitted on the roads with said blind spots.

posted by McDuff73 [69 posts]
10th January 2014 - 12:17

74 Likes

McDuff73 wrote:
700c wrote:
I've no idea why this is still being debated. it's unsafe to go to the left of a lorry whether the lorry is about to turn left or actually turning left at the time.

Possibly because your wrong, a stationary vehicle will not run you over so its hardly unsafe to pass one just like the many parked cars most cyclists pass every day, the trouble starts when a vehicle with 'blind spots' starts to move, modern vehicles should not be permitted on the roads with said blind spots.

I think you're willfully missing the point, or is this just an argument about semantics? which seems rather pointless in the context of the seriousness of this tragedy,

The point is, what should this woman have done, in this situation? The coroner is advising to hang back. This would have saved her life. Do you disagree? Some people are saying on here that the Coroner was wrong to advise cyclists of this, which is baffling, TBH

(Just to repeat myself, the need for better infrastructure and safety devices for Lorries are in no doubt - but we are talking about practical advice for cycling in the real world, under current conditions).

posted by 700c [587 posts]
10th January 2014 - 16:27

76 Likes