Cyclist death coroner slams Camden council over killer junction

Report will give 56 days to detail plans to improve junction where Francis Golding was fatally injured

by John Stevenson   April 8, 2014  

Ghost bike placed in memory of Francis Golding (CC licensed image by Paul Downey:Flickr)

The coroner conducting the inquest into the death of cyclist Francis Golding said yesterday that she was “disappointed” by Camden Council’s “lack of urgency” in making safe the junction where Mr Golding was hit last November.

Mr Golding died after a collision with a coach at the junction of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road on November 7, 2013.

The inquest heard that Mr Golding hit a coach that had indicated and was slowly turning left.

The BBC’s Tom Edwards reports that a cyclist who was behind Mr Golding as the collision happened said: “I wanted to shout.. Words didn’t come out.. Mr Golding wasn’t aware of the coach at all.”

The cyclist also said: “I don’t think he was paying enough attention for two seconds of his journey and he really paid the consequence.”

In her summing up, Coroner Mary Hassell said: “He just didn’t see it.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police told the inquest there had been 77 collisions at the junction in the last 10 years. Of those, 29 involved cyclists, three of whom were killed.

The driver of the coach gave evidence regarding the moment he started to indicate and why he had to be in the third and then the second lane to make the turn.

Police said the driver had two seconds to see Mr Golding in his mirrors, but did not see him.

The Met said: “Redesign ought to be reconsidered.”

The coroner agreed. Responding to Camden council officers’ statement that the council would be reviewing the junction in the next few months, Me Hassell said: “What you have said to me is that ‘we haven’t really got to first base’.”

Ms Hassell also said: “I’m disappointed Camden Council... and whoever else needs to be considered here... have not made greater progress since Mr Golding’s death.

“I appreciate it is not a quick fix but progress has been slow. What I’ve been told is we’ve done a bit but not very much since November.

“I shall make a prevention of death report about the junction layout... Doesn’t help Mr Golding but it might help others.”

Its not the first time Ms Hassell has criticised a highways authority for its failure to provide safe paths through junctions for cyclists.

After conducting an inquest last year into the 2012 death of Brian Dorling at Bow Rundabout, Ms Hassall issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report, ordering the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) to respond within 56 days explaining what action would be taken to make the cycle superhighways safer.

As Tom Edwards says in his BBC report: “The overwhelming feeling when you leave these inquests though is the stakes remain too high for one small error to lead to a death.

“And ideally you wouldn’t want a coroner to be telling transport authorities to speed up work to improve cycling safety.”

18 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

No matter how many roads you redesign, if people don't pay attention to their safety, you're always going to get accidents. Be safe out there! RIP Mr Golding.

posted by AyBee [85 posts]
8th April 2014 - 12:29

15 Likes

AyBee wrote:
No matter how many roads you redesign, if people don't pay attention to their safety, you're always going to get accidents. Be safe out there! RIP Mr Golding.

Whilst I understand your point it is possible to design roads and junctions so that the number of collisions is reduced, and the severity of any remaining collisions is also reduced. As a cyclist there is always a reliance on other road users to keep you safe, in a way that doesn't exist for anyone inside a vehicle, no matter how careful you are of your own safety.

posted by teaboy [186 posts]
8th April 2014 - 12:38

29 Likes

teaboy wrote:
As a cyclist there is always a reliance on other road users to keep you safe, in a way that doesn't exist for anyone inside a vehicle, no matter how careful you are of your own safety.

Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

Completely disagree with the above quote though. You should never be putting your faith in people you don't know the ability of.

posted by AyBee [85 posts]
8th April 2014 - 13:07

29 Likes

AyBee wrote:
No matter how many roads you redesign, if people don't pay attention to their safety, you're always going to get accidents. Be safe out there! RIP Mr Golding.

Rubbish! The technology of making fault tolerant infrastructure in this environment is mature. We have simply chosen not to implement it in this country.

That is why it is so sad that the councils do nothing.

posted by P3t3 [62 posts]
8th April 2014 - 13:11

19 Likes

It's worth pointing out that the coach turned left from the third lane (i.e. as far over to the right as it's possible to get).
How many of us truly pay attention to traffic two lanes over?

posted by alexb [52 posts]
8th April 2014 - 13:12

20 Likes

AyBee wrote:

Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

You don't ever stop. Just as they never stop redesigning junctions everywhere anyway.

Its just that we choose to prioritise making them safe, and we decide to make bike traffic part of the equation. Every re-design makes it safer.

posted by P3t3 [62 posts]
8th April 2014 - 13:14

16 Likes

AyBee wrote:
Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

Comments like these just seem to ignore the wealth of data on cycling, design, injury rates and economic effects from other countries. To summarise - lots of other cities in other countries seem to do just fine shifting money from, for instance, general highways funding, into cycle infrastructure funding just fine without screwing their entire economy. And the result is fewer injuries and deaths, more cyclists, a healthier population etc.

In fact, from the statistics, it's far less economical to have a generally obese and unhealthy population that drives everywhere and very few cyclists who get hit too often, than a much higher proportion of cyclists who're healthy and fewer, less serious collisions (in terms of healthcare etc. costs v road infrastructure costs).

Of course, none of this is an overnight change. But look at how quickly some cities have been able to turn round cycle counts and collisions with infrastructure changes.

posted by PsiMonk [13 posts]
8th April 2014 - 14:03

10 Likes

AyBee wrote:
No matter how many roads you redesign, if people don't pay attention to their safety, you're always going to get accidents. Be safe out there! RIP Mr Golding.

I would think it's not the case he was drifting along admiring the surroundings more he was trying to keep an eye on other areas of the junction that he thought were dangerous.

The fact there have been so many collisions indicates this is probably happening often. You can only keep an eye on 2 or 3 hotspots at any time if an additional danger presents itself then what are you to do? You probably won't see it.

posted by kitkat [221 posts]
8th April 2014 - 14:29

18 Likes

alexb wrote:
It's worth pointing out that the coach turned left from the third lane (i.e. as far over to the right as it's possible to get).
How many of us truly pay attention to traffic two lanes over?

You notice it once it appeared in the lane next to you though with the indicator on and still pulling left!

posted by AyBee [85 posts]
8th April 2014 - 14:39

8 Likes

My worry is that instead of these fixes happening, Ms Hassell will soon no longer be asked to give her opinion in any inquests as she's challenging the transport planners.

Easiest way to avoid negative publicity, and fits perfectly into the bureaucratic mindset.

posted by jacknorell [516 posts]
8th April 2014 - 14:48

19 Likes

AyBee wrote:
alexb wrote:
It's worth pointing out that the coach turned left from the third lane (i.e. as far over to the right as it's possible to get).
How many of us truly pay attention to traffic two lanes over?

You notice it once it appeared in the lane next to you though with the indicator on and still pulling left!

Bit too late at that point, as amply illustrated in this case.

The point is, junctions can be designed in a way that these maneuvers are either eliminated or minimised. If that's done each time a junction is maintained, we soon have (couple of decades or so, which is quick in the greater scheme of things) overhauled all major sections of road infrastructure.

posted by jacknorell [516 posts]
8th April 2014 - 14:50

17 Likes

If you have to move out to lane 3 to turn left due to the sharp corner and the large turning circle of your vehicle, shouldn't you be going so slowly that this just can't happen? Even if someone just rides clean through your path without looking, unless they're *right* in front of the windscreen at the time, they shouldn't be getting run over. Not suggesting it was the drivers' fault, but it's just that if I was doing it, I'd know it was a risky manouver.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3424 posts]
8th April 2014 - 15:32

7 Likes

P3t3 wrote:
AyBee wrote:

Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

You don't ever stop. Just as they never stop redesigning junctions everywhere anyway.

Its just that we choose to prioritise making them safe, and we decide to make bike traffic part of the equation. Every re-design makes it safer.

It's a while since I lived in London so just checked the junction on Google...and as I thought, Southampton Row bends at the junction, so the turn onto Theobalds Rd is an acute angle - explaining why the driver pulled out so wide.

Knowing this surely makes this a priority junction for infrastructure change. It would be good if councils could draw up a list of such junctions and at very least put signage up to warn cyclists and pedestrians.

Not everyone will spot the danger.

posted by RedfishUK [61 posts]
8th April 2014 - 15:39

14 Likes

AyBee wrote:
teaboy wrote:
As a cyclist there is always a reliance on other road users to keep you safe, in a way that doesn't exist for anyone inside a vehicle, no matter how careful you are of your own safety.

Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

Completely disagree with the above quote though. You should never be putting your faith in people you don't know the ability of.

Every single time you ride on the road you're doing just that though. You have to trust that the driver behind you isn't going to just drive into you. You have to trust they'll stop at the red light, or trust the driver at the side road isn't going to pull out into you. There is literally nothing you can do to stop someone hitting you with a vehicle if they so wish, or would rather sit at the red light than drive slowly behind you.

As others have said, you don't stop. You continue to improve things when 'best practice' is no longer that - look at the Netherlands: great cycling infrastructure that's constantly being improved - that's exactly why it's great. This country is currently building brand new roads with no cycling infrastructure at all, and new urban developments with no cycle infrastructure at all.

posted by teaboy [186 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:10

9 Likes

It's good to see that we aren't seeing the usual cyclist vs driver argument. I really feel for drivers of these BIG vehicles in central London especially. It's very easy for us cyclists to immediately jump up and down and blame drivers when cyclists are killed or seriously injured in accidents with vehicles.

It's also encouraging to see that Chris Boardman in his advisory role is not going to take any crap from anyone and consult in a way that will hopefully see improvements for ALL road users.

RIP to the cyclist involved. It's so easy to have momentary lapses in concentration (for both cyclists and drivers). The majority of times that happens to us, we can get away with it. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case

posted by only1redders [17 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:44

6 Likes

Excellent point.

My suspicion is that most professional drivers are better than most ordinary car drivers - but then they should be because of the amount of mileage and size of vehicles they are responsible for. A bit more pressure on them - knowing that the law is going to be enforced more, stricter liability for drivers in civil law in collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists - would help a lot.

posted by ChairRDRF [159 posts]
8th April 2014 - 19:27

12 Likes

In the CCTV shown at the Inquest the coach driver approached in the right hand lane indicating right but then moved to the middle lane and began indicating left before turning from the middle lane across the nearside lane. The middle is signed for traffic going straight ahead.

The coach driver admitted that he was 'lost' in trying to get back to the Shaftesbury Theatre to collect a group. THe options should have been to cross Southampton Row and go round via High Holborn or go via Russell Street - the former is better as a wide road with little pedestrian activity the latter goes past the main entrance to the British Museum.

Note that this is the second fatal crash of this type at this location and in over 5 years - no action by the Council?

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [499 posts]
8th April 2014 - 20:07

6 Likes

AyBee wrote:
teaboy wrote:
As a cyclist there is always a reliance on other road users to keep you safe, in a way that doesn't exist for anyone inside a vehicle, no matter how careful you are of your own safety.

Agree that you can design them to be better, but where do you stop? Redesigning every junction and road is not economical, nor going to happen any time soon.

Completely disagree with the above quote though. You should never be putting your faith in people you don't know the ability of.

In turn, I completely disagree with your disagreement!

For starters, "should" doesn't come into it. Everyone has no choice but to put some degree of faith in other people, that they don't personally know, every day of their lives.

Do you really proceed through every day, as a pedestrian or driver, on the assumption that anyone might try and kill you at any time?

Or do you, in fact, have some faith that other people will take some basic care with your safety? Due to the existence of physical infrastructure, social norms, and law enforcement (all of which are problematically weaker when it comes to cycling).

Teaboy's comment is correct. As a cyclist you do indeed have to rely on motorists behaving themselves, because to a greater degree than for other road-users, if they don't there's not much you can do about it. Saying you "should" never do that is tantamount to saying you should never cycle.

Surely you have noticed the cases reported here of cyclists doing nothing wrong, in high-viz in broad daylight, being killed by drivers driving into them from behind?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [733 posts]
9th April 2014 - 8:17

6 Likes