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But family says rider was "always suspicious" at Bow...

Coroner Mary Hassell yesterday warned of the dangers of ignoring traffic signals after finding that the death last year of Venera Minakhmetova was caused by her riding through a red light at Bow Roundabout.

The Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall reports that a Metropolitan Police crash investigator told the court that it was “most likely” Venera had ridden through the red light before being hit by a left-turning HGV.

Ms Minakhmetova, 24, was the third cyclist to die at Bow Roundabout since the opening of Cycle Superhighway 2 in 2011 and one of six riders killed in a two-week period during November of last year.

But Ms Minakhmetova’s family said they doubted she would have jumped the lights. Her sister Dina told BBC London after the inquest: “She was always suspicious about this roundabout... When Venera went there it wasn’t safe.”

With no CCTV footage to help establish the exact events that led up to the crash, police had to rely on GPS and tachograph data from the tipper truck, and the testimony of the driver.

Recording a verdict of death by road traffic collision at Poplar coroner’s court, Ms Hassell said: “I conclude that the fundamental cause of this collision was Venera going through a red light.”

She said many cyclists went through red lights but did not suffer the same “devastating consequences” by “virtue of luck”.

Ms Hassell said: “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.”

The court heard from Metropolitan Police collision investigator PC Michael Andrews who told the inquest that it was most likely Ms Minakhmetova had ridden in the cycle lane, on the lorry’s left, as she arrived at the roundabout from Stratford.

He said: “Venera must have come down his side at some point to get in front of him. Therefore, and assuming Venera has used the cycle lane, I believe it’s most likely she has contravened the red traffic light.”

After the the deaths of Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko in 2011, the lights at Bow were modified to provide cyclists with an early start. These lights were criticised by safety campaigners for being confusing. It's therefore possible that Ms Minakhmetova rode through what she believed was a green light.

HGV driver Mark Stoker was travelling from picking up rubble at a site in Stratford and turning left at Bow toward the Blackwall Tunnel. Venera is thought to have been riding straight across the roundabout toward central London.

Mr Stoker said: “I was three-quarters of the way round and then I just heard a metal noise and stopped straight away and realised what had happened.”

Data from his vehicle showed he was doing 13mph at the time of the collision. His lorry was fitted with sensors to detect cyclist at its sides and a left-turn audible warning.

Bow Roundabout was remodelled after the deaths of Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko in 2011 and further modified after Ms Hassall issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report after the inquest into Brian Dorling’s death last year.

She said yesterday she had “nothing useful” to say to Transport for London as the roundabout had since “been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

Cyclist and lawyer Martin Porter has represented bereaved families at several inquests and has posted a commentary on his blog explaining the limits of the inquest process. It’s well worth a read.

Among the problems with the system Martin points out are that coroners are no longer allowed to point the finger of blame at specific individuals or organisations.

He writes: “Following a road traffic collision the Coroner will inevitably rely very heavily on the evidence of the police (who have investigated a collision with a view to finding if there is evidence of a criminal offence). A report will be admitted which may well conclude (say) that the collision occurred as a consequence of the deceased running a red light and no fault has been disclosed on the part of any other person. The Coroner then, mindful of [the rules under The Coroners and Criminal Justice Act 2009], will say something like "I find the deceased died as a consequence of running a red traffic light but I must stress that I am not attributing any kind of blame to him". Which is, of course, doublespeak.”

Martin also points out that the inquest may be the only opportunity for the driver’s account to be properly challenged. He writes: “Quite often, if not usually, the Coroner will come to the end of his questioning of the witness without making an effective challenge himself.”

Martin stresses he's talking in general, but you have to wonder whether, in this case, the accounts of the driver and police were challenged at all, given that Venera Minakhmetova's family appears to have had no legal representation at the inquest.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

26 comments

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bashthebox [752 posts] 3 years ago
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Regardless of whether this poor woman ran the red light - would the lorry not also have been running the red to have hit her? Or is it a left hand filter at that junction?

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vbvb [619 posts] 3 years ago
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I don't follow the logic of the police fellow at all.

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don simon [993 posts] 3 years ago
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Doublespeak indeed and not at all helpful for the cycling community.
May Verena rest in peace and may her family get closure.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 3 years ago
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This lack of video evidence in this tragic case just emphasises the need for all commercial vehicles to be fitted with cameras linked to a tamper proof "black box".

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northstar [1107 posts] 3 years ago
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What a load of rubbish, everyone knows this "junction" has deliberately been made worse for anyone not driving.

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sfichele [140 posts] 3 years ago
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I've spoke to the police about the procedure they used to analyse the tachograph.

https://twitter.com/geckobike/status/453940138234871808

Personally I'm not convinced by the methodology.

The tachograph gives speed/position/time information of the HGV. If you know the last location of the HGV, which they did, then you can reconstruct it's movements.

*However* In order to compare it to the traffic light (TL) signals you need to have a time reference between the tachograph timeline and the TL timeline. They dont have that, instead it was inferred from the stop & start movements of the HGV.

Inferred, based on some assumptions! Assumptions that the HGV started on green, which was then used to prove he went through green. Anyone not see a problem with that? Assumptions about the traffic stop-start conditions from the tachograph. And the massive assumption that if the HGV went through on green then Verena must have gone through on Red.

That's is an assumption, built on a layer of other assumptions...

"Not sure if this was mentioned in inquest but I spoke to a witness who said bus & HGV were in advanced start box when lights red"
https://twitter.com/doctorrah/status/454170660814999552

The above contradicts the police analysis of the tachograph. That the HGV started behind the first line on green and went through the second on green!

HOWEVER, it is now "proved" that the cyclist went through red and has therefore completely deflected the argument away from the fact that the design of the Bow roundabout is DANGEROUS and needs fixing. Instead it will now be spun as it's safe unless cyclists choose to jump reds...

Nothing to see here:
“[Bow roundabout has] been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

#BULLSHIT

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farrell [1946 posts] 3 years ago
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vbvb wrote:

I don't follow the logic of the police fellow at all.

Its very, very, simple.

He works for the Met.

Anything other than putting the cyclist at fault makes them and TfL look bad.

Anything that suggests a large motor vehicle could have been at fault causes them grief from the various motoring and hauliers groups.

Suggest, with no conclusive evidence, that you think it was caused by the cyclist jumping a red light and bingo! Everyone can slap themselves on the back and celebrate a job really well done.

Everyone except Venera's family and friends of course, but hey 'she shouldn't have jumped that red light, eh, lads, nudge nudge, wink wink...'

Pathetic and disgusting.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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vbvb wrote:

I don't follow the logic of the police fellow at all.

Yep as an advanced driver with a professional driving career behind me and who has worked extensively with the police on road safety issues, I can't follow it either.

Maybe the report is just bad. But if the unfortunate lady was crushed by a left turning lorry then either they were both running the red or neither was.

I'm not sure I'd give any credibility to the driver's testimony at all. He might be telling the truth but ipso facto he has a vested interest in the outcome so his testimony should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Looks to me like a dose of Alice on Wonderland has had an effect.

"No, no!" said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

Not sure what actually happened so the cyclist must have run a red light.

Another reason to have a bike/helmet cam.

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oozaveared [934 posts] 3 years ago
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farrell wrote:
vbvb wrote:

I don't follow the logic of the police fellow at all.

Its very, very, simple.

He works for the Met.

Anything other than putting the cyclist at fault makes them and TfL look bad.

Anything that suggests a large motor vehicle could have been at fault causes them grief from the various motoring and hauliers groups.

Suggest, with no conclusive evidence, that you think it was caused by the cyclist jumping a red light and bingo! Everyone can slap themselves on the back and celebrate a job really well done.

Now I don't agree. I think that is taking a conspiracy too far. I agree with the poster above that there is flawed logic in assuming that in comparing the taco time line to the light changes assumes that the driver didn't run the first red. He might have. Massive assumption that then makes it look like the cyclist rand the red.

From what I know of coppers this is much more likely a case of reaching for the easiest arguable conclusion. Laziness not conspiracy. If you propositioned most coppers to join a conspiracy to save TFL or the RHA (anyone other than another copper) they'd be more likely to be bloody mindedly against doing it.
But they are quite inclined to taking the easiest option on offer.

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mrchrispy [488 posts] 3 years ago
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doesnt add up to me.
are they saying she rode though a red up the inside of the left turning truck?

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themartincox [549 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm reading it and incredulous also.

How did she go through the red but he didn't?

and if she did, then surely he would have seen her as he pulled up alongside?

flawed, fatally. very sad.

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sfichele [140 posts] 3 years ago
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They are saying they have done a complex analysis of the HGVs tachograph, based on stop/start *assumptions* of it's movement. And then used that to infer she rode through the Red light, WITHOUT being backed up by witnesses, based on the assumption that the HGV went on green.

Regardless of the trucks movement, it doesnt categorically prove that she rode through red as apposed to being already stuck in nomans land before the truck moved

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Mr Will [91 posts] 3 years ago
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Would this be the confusing red light that only applies to the cycle-lane? Introduced during the last round of "improvements"...

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Mr Will [91 posts] 3 years ago
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Would this be the confusing red light that only applies to the cycle-lane? Introduced during the last round of "improvements"...

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Matt_Z [40 posts] 3 years ago
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Very interesting! no witnesses to give counter evidence, the victim cannot defend herself, and for the met it is easier to blame that who cannot answer. This is wrong and there seems to be no change in the procedure of cyclist accident analysis. What has changed since the deaths of last year to these? Absolutely nothing with the met, and as the ones to report on the accidents there are serious flaws. Regardless of how many junctions get redone there clearly is another issue that needs to be addressed. It is the way that we penalize cyclists for being on the road while giving leeway for bad driver behaviour.

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md6 [181 posts] 3 years ago
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Unless the coronor has ever cycled the coundabout, or more accurately, has cycled it before and after the works, then i doubt the opinion that it is 'safer' for cyclists. This is further cast into doubt by the opinion based on heresay and assumption that the cyclist must have jumped a red light. Given these two points, and the (assumed) lack of experience cycling i don't hold any faith in the opinion expressed by the coronor.
I can't imagine what the family are going through, and hope i (nor my family or friends) never have to find out

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pmanc [209 posts] 3 years ago
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This is hideous.

To suggest, without any real evidence, that the cyclist brought it upon herself is offensively dismissive to the deceased and her family and friends.

For the coroner to then to make the leap, as it seems she has, from "most likely" cycled through a red light, to "she cycled through a red light" beggars belief.

The crash investigator and Hassell both seem to be jumping to conclusions, and someone needs to have a word with both of them about these kind of loose unverified (unverifiable?) comments.

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RedfishUK [150 posts] 3 years ago
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mrchrispy wrote:

doesnt add up to me.
are they saying she rode though a red up the inside of the left turning truck?

Exactly my thoughts.

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johnnytoobad [8 posts] 3 years ago
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RedfishUK wrote:
mrchrispy wrote:

doesnt add up to me.
are they saying she rode though a red up the inside of the left turning truck?

Exactly my thoughts.

Essentially yes. Bow roundabout has a special head-start facility for cyclists. There is a separate set of cyclist only lights that controls entry to the head-start area (essentially at 17m ASL). When the motor traffic lights are green the head-start are red and vice versa. You can see how it works (or not) here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpdniurubuQ

I think the coroner is suggesting that the cyclist skipped the head-start lights. From speaking to people who were at the inquest this indeed sounds like the most likely version of events. However its important to note that this hasn't be proven with solid evidence. I also believe there was some question of where the lorry was indicating at all/for long enough.

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northstar [1107 posts] 3 years ago
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It's not a head start at all and it doesn't work, all it does is put riders in just as much if not more danger than they were before.

It's called tfl's failed "smoothing the (motor) traffic" project which has never worked from the moment they first tried it.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1607 posts] 3 years ago
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I've had cause to go through Bow roundabout precisely once, ever, long before the current set-up, and I think got off and walked!

So I have struggled to understand, theoretically, how the odd-ball system they now have works. Apparently it has multiple sets of lights in a row?

I note this description was written some time before the tragic event involving Ms Minakhmetova.

http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/bow-roundabout/

The following paragraph particularly leaps out:

"A cyclist ignores the initial ‘ASL’ red light, joining the flow of vehicles, and is promptly in a ‘left hook’ conflict with a van turning left.

Similarly, these cyclists have passed through ‘their’ red light (two of them evidently want to turn right at the roundabout, and give up, heading across the pavement). The consequences are again dangerous, and I have to say it’s surely only a matter of time before there’s another serious, and all-too-familiar, accident here."

If its true that the victim jumped the red, does that mean its demonstrating that the system is indeed dangerously confusing?

And if this _is_ the issue being referred to, is it not decidedly disingenuous of the coroner to say "cyclists need to understand what dangerous behaviour contravening a red light is", when in this case the light in question is not actually a traditional one and if it was 'jumped' it was more likely a mistake due to the non-traditional arrangement rather than a 'typical' cyclist RLJ (would anyone really _choose_ to jump a red at that notoriously scary location?)

(Oh, and I note the video on that site also shows motorists getting confused by the arrangement and jumping reds unwittingly - is it not 'dangerous behaviour' when they do it?)

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levermonkey [681 posts] 3 years ago
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Victim riding cycle. No evidence to exonerate victim (No evidence to blame them either). Victim must be at fault.

Anything I may have missed?

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kie7077 [905 posts] 3 years ago
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Mr Stoker said: “I was three-quarters of the way round and then I just heard a metal noise and stopped straight away and realised what had happened.”

What he didn't say is "I heard a noise and stopped to see what is was"

Why is that? Sounds like a potential admission of guilt to me. If he knew there was a risk of running a cyclist over then perhaps he should have waited.

It seems to me that the police are completely incompetent at questioning drivers after an accident. The drivers come up with stories with massive holes in and yet they don't seem to get pressed on those unlikely tales.

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ChairRDRF [356 posts] 3 years ago
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I am glad you have quoted Martin Porters' blog post. There are due to be a rash of Coroner's court judgements in the next few weeks with regard to the six cyclists killed in London in a two week period last year, of which this is the first. So be warned about what to expect in terms of anything genuinely helpful.

Re- the specific case of Bow roundabout: Most cyclists go straight over the flyover. As with other big gyratories (such as Staples Corner) there is an issue about being left hooked as yu go across the slip road. To my knowledge nothing has been planned to remedy this issue.

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teaboy [307 posts] 3 years ago
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It's just horrible. And one of the worst things about it is just how easy it is to reduce the confusion and prevent this happening again (here and at many other junctions). We have the answers already.

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A V Lowe [608 posts] 3 years ago
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The Police suggestion that Venera ran the red light and cycled up the nearside of Mr Stoker's truck does not stack up by virtue of the Police's other evidence and some basic dynamics.

1) Venera's bike was hit from the read by the front nearside valance of the truck, so in order to get there she would have had to come up the nearside at speed and get in front of the truck. Typically a fast cyclist will be doing 15-20mph so why ...

2) The fully loaded truck was very slow in accelerating and according to the Tachograph and GPS beacon, was travelling at 13mph some 40 metres after it had started moving from a position 12 metres behind the stop-line. A fast moving cyclist would not have been hit in the rear by a slower moving truck. The Tachograph and GPS I understand were cross checked with the recorded times for the traffic signals

3) The Police tested and found both the nearside proximity alarm and the left turn annunciator were working in perfect order - so it seems very odd that a cyclist well concerned about the dangers cycled past a truck announcing 'Turning left' and her presence in the area covered by the side sensors not triggering the alarm in the driving cab.

It does not stack up.

Venera's family protested that she would ave been held back by traffic on the roundabout preventing her from moving off, but the Police dismissed this suggesting that any STATIONARY traffic stopping her would have also stopped the motor vehicles from moving off. Wtch many of the videos posted and you can clearly see the it is MOVING traffic - vehicles running the red lights on the roundabout which typically stop the cyclists from moving off for 3 seconds, effectively wiping out the 2 second advance green light but leaving the road clear fro the motor traffic now practically alongside the cyclists.

There was at least one other vehicle in front of Mr Stoker's truck which would have moved off substantially faster, and the lack of any Police explanation about what interaction that vehicle might have had with Venera provides a clue as to the true sequence of events. Some clues may be seen from study of other videos when a) vehicles trapped in the 'box' with cycles b) vehicles moving off from the rear stop line and overtaking cyclists who have not been able to set off from the advanced stop line.

Tony knows where to find me if you want to post any video links.

The flawed design will deliver further fatalities, of that I am certain.

The solution is to send cycle traffic over the flyover. It would be possible to build a temporary arrangement to test this out in the same way that New York has very successfully delivered its first bike lanes. I'm thinking out some possible ways (petitions, private TRO etc) to press this forward even if TfL sits on its hands, claiming the current system is fit for purpose.