Sensors of Crossrail lorry involved in cyclist's death not working

Company behind massive civil engineering project promised in 2012 to ban dangerous lorries from its sites

by Simon_MacMichael   May 29, 2014  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

Two of three sensors fitted to a lorry operated by a contractor working on the Crossrail project in London were broken at the time the vehicle struck and killed a nursing assistant in Adlgate as she cycled to work in September 2013.

The sensors, designed to detect cyclists and warn the driver of their presence, are required to be fitted to all contractors’ vehicles involved in the project under safety requirements announced by Crossrail in 2012 aimed at improving the safety of people on bikes.

The London Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall says that the fact the vehicle was working on Crossrail only came to light after the newspaper conducted several weeks’ research into the death of Maria Karsa, who lived in Islington.

The 21-year-old normally worked at Barts Hospital, but was on her way to do a shift at the Royal London, part of the same foundation, when the incident happened on the morning of 15 September. She died from her injuries in the Royal London a week later.

According to the newspaper, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) studied video evidence but decided against bringing charges against the 41-year-old driver of the lorry since it did not believe that he had failed to reach the standard of a “competent motorist.”

The Standard adds that the lorry had deviated from its approved route and that the driver was believed to have been using a hands-free mobile phone – not in itself illegal, but it can be used as evidence of driver distraction in a careless or dangerous driving charge – immediately prior to the collision.

It also points out that the sensors being faulty is not an offence, since operators fit them voluntarily to vehicles.
A spokesman for CPS London told the Standard: “After a very careful review of the evidence ... the driving was found not to have been below the standard required for a competent motorist.

“We have communicated this decision to the family and offer our sympathies to them and friends of Maria Karsa. This was a tragic collision for which no one can be held criminally liable.”

In March, City of London coroner Paul Matthews recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying that it could not be proved that the driver was speaking on the phone at the time of the collision.

A spokesman for Crossrail added: “We remain deeply saddened by the accident that caused the death of Maria Karsa. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

“Tragic incidents such as this demonstrate the importance of continuing to focus on safety standards. We are continually looking for ways to improve HGV safety and have recently introduced tougher measures.”

Speaking about the incident that resulted in Ms Karsa’s death, Donnachadh McCarthy, co-founder of the direct action group Stop Killing Cyclists, told the Standard: “This alarming news about faulty sensors on a truck working for the Mayor’s own Crossrail project highlights the wider failure of the Mayor to crack down on the shocking estimated 30 per cent of London’s trucks that are believed to be faulty.”

In February 2012, Crossrail, the largest current transport infrastructure project in Europe, said it would require vehicles operated by contractors and sub-contractors to be fitted with side proximity sensors, Fresnel lenses and side under-run guards.

It also said that it was working with Transport for London to fit Trixi mirrors at all junctions leading in to sites where works are being carried out, with Crossrail stations being built at locations including Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and Liverpool Street in Central London.

At the time, Andy Mitchell, Crossrail Programme Director, said: “Crossrail sets high standards for lorries operating on the project and views the safety of all road users, including cyclists, as a significant priority.

“Crossrail requires all lorries working on the Crossrail project to be fitted with additional safety features to protect cyclists.

“HGVs that do not comply with our increased requirements will be refused entry to Crossrail worksites and turned away incurring financial cost to individual contractors.

“As our contractors often work on multiple construction projects, these new safety measures will help improve lorry safety across the construction industry, delivering benefits for cyclists across London.”

It is not known whether Crossrail performs physical checks on lorries to ensure that safety features such as sensors, where fitted, are actually working.

Crossrail is scheduled to be fully operational by 2018 and will run from Reading and Heathrow Terminal 4 in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Involving 21.5km of railway tunnels under Central London, the size of the project, and the challenges involved, are much greater than those seen in other recent civil engineering projects in the capital such as the construction of the Shard or the Olympic Park.

Crossrail also said that it was training providing drivers with cyclist awareness training, with 2,000 undergoing it at the time of the announcement in February 2012.

27 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

One hopes, at least, that the contractor involved in this tragic death will be refused entry to Crossrail sites, and may also have his/her contract reviewed - possibly even terminated. After all, if Crossrail require contractors to have these devices, then they should be proactive in enforcing that requirement. Otherwise, it's just lip service, isn't it?

I'd like to know more about the accident. For all we know, the young girl who died may have made a mistake that led to her death. But the use of a hands-free phone in such a large vehicle, in a busy and confined area like London, is worrying.

Perhaps hands-free devices should be banned in HGVs?

posted by Peowpeowpeowlasers [58 posts]
29th May 2014 - 19:00

like this
Like (15)

Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
One hopes, at least, that the contractor involved in this tragic death will be refused entry to Crossrail sites, and may also have his/her contract reviewed - possibly even terminated. After all, if Crossrail require contractors to have these devices, then they should be proactive in enforcing that requirement. Otherwise, it's just lip service, isn't it?

I'd like to know more about the accident. For all we know, the young girl who died may have made a mistake that led to her death. But the use of a hands-free phone in such a large vehicle, in a busy and confined area like London, is worrying.

Perhaps hands-free devices should be banned in HGVs?

There's is actually an issue with using tech to enhance safety. On planes etc this stuff uses very expensive protocols for testing DO 178B. That's way too expensive for vehicles to live up to. Ipso facto some tech might not be working. Drivers however may become used to relying on it.

It's good to have but it's not foolproof. No magic bullet.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
29th May 2014 - 19:12

like this
Like (13)

It's all well and good having them fitted but what is the testing regime for these sensors and where is the proof that they were tested...???

Personally if these sensors are fitted (even if they are voluntarily fitted) there should be both a stringent method of proving that they are working and a robust process to record this and then an embargo of the vehicle if any are found to be non functional...!!

posted by Furry Mommy [32 posts]
29th May 2014 - 19:22

like this
Like (13)

Safety equipment should 'fail safe'.

If a sensor isn't working the alarm should sound until the sensor is fixed.

However, sensors on HGV's are like putting padding on the horns of the bull in the china shop. We should be dealing with the root cause of the problem not trying to mitigate against it.

posted by tarquin_foxglove [77 posts]
29th May 2014 - 19:47

like this
Like (15)

Depends if it is a proper safety system governed by EN/ISO standards, or it's just something people have stuck on as an idea that seemed good (meaning it's not subject to anything).

Furry Mommy wrote:
It's all well and good having them fitted but what is the testing regime for these sensors and where is the proof that they were tested...???

Personally if these sensors are fitted (even if they are voluntarily fitted) there should be both a stringent method of proving that they are working and a robust process to record this and then an embargo of the vehicle if any are found to be non functional...!!

Testing is all well and good, but testing only proves a system is good at the point of testing. You could test and 2 mins after the test the system has failed, it's not going to negate this.

tarquin_foxglove wrote:
Safety equipment should 'fail safe'.

If a sensor isn't working the alarm should sound until the sensor is fixed.

You could have a catastrophic one in a million failure that bypasses that, and what's to stop the driver ignoring it, or the alarm sounder failing? You can't just put blame on the driver for these, it's down to system design in the first place to take away human option/error.

I imagine (I don't know how these systems on lorries are governed or if they are, something that isn't compulsory isn't usually) that in fact no such EN/ISO standard exists for them, meaning it relies on people to do work to a good standard. Machine safety makes you RA and then design to a certain level based on the outcome of that, and actually the good design replaces the need for an active testing regime as the system self checks.

glynr36's picture

posted by glynr36 [259 posts]
29th May 2014 - 20:21

like this
Like (15)

Safety improved massively in the construction industry when there were incentives and penalties for "lost hours" to personnel through injuries and deaths. Put the same conditions in the contracts for any contractor and legislate for all commericial vehicles as industrial place of work and they'll soon start paying some attention - this is within the gift of all public contracts and make sure the condition gets flowed down to sub-contractors. If the big contractors were penalised for the slip-shod attitude to safety of some vehicle operators, the whole industry would smarten-up.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
29th May 2014 - 21:47

like this
Like (15)

The solution is very simple. Health & Safety legislation has had a big impact on attitudes and safety on site (eg no hat, no job). Just extend the remit of that legislation to on and off site. After all, shouldn't the life of the general public carry the same value as an employee ?

posted by arfa [445 posts]
29th May 2014 - 22:15

like this
Like (12)

"The Standard adds that the lorry had deviated from its approved route and that the driver was believed to have been using a hands-free mobile phone – not in itself illegal"

safety is as much about culture as rules - a lorry with defective safety devices being driven on a non approved route with a driver not 100% concentrating says to me that the culture is not one of safety first - I recall that some sort of clampdown in London after the sad number of cyclist deaths in November last year yielded a lot of lorries with minor (but illegal) defects - again that says the culture is "it doesn't matter"

so what does matter? would really like someone who works in the trucking/construction industry to explain if there are pressures on drivers to get to time specific delivery slots and how common subcontract/sole operator payment by load is?

"After all, shouldn't the life of the general public carry the same value as an employee ?" - H&S legislation covers this there is a duty of care to the general public

posted by antigee [144 posts]
29th May 2014 - 23:15

like this
Like (9)

[[[[[ I don't have much faith in all these bells'n'whistles on lorries....I just assume the following, at all times: "Driver hasn't seen me, doesn't know I'm there, might be texting, checking emails, unwrapping sandwiches, scoffing a bowl of muesli, swigging from a bottle while scratchin' his knackers, or ogling someone's butt on the opposite side of the road just prior to turning left across my front wheel, or simply doesn't give a fying fluck about cyclists"....which might all be outrageous prejudice on my part, seeing as 9 out of 10 drivers are good'uns. But I'm still standing, or rather cycling, and maybe too many cyclists put too much blind trust in human nature, and call me a cynical git if you like but is it simply dumb luck that so many of these tragic collisions involve women riders, at a ratio of 2 to 1, compared with chaps? We're given to understand that it's male cyclists who take more risks, and there are still many more of them around than females. Just wondering, and I'm not referring specifically to the September 2013, about which I know nothing.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [268 posts]
30th May 2014 - 1:51

like this
Like (12)

Doesn't matter how many, what type sensors are fitted or whether working or not, the ultimate responsibility of the vehicles actions lies firmly with the driver. Sensors are an aid and nothing more.

Chadders x

chadders's picture

posted by chadders [71 posts]
30th May 2014 - 8:25

like this
Like (10)

oozaveared wrote:
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
One hopes, at least, that the contractor involved in this tragic death will be refused entry to Crossrail sites, and may also have his/her contract reviewed - possibly even terminated. After all, if Crossrail require contractors to have these devices, then they should be proactive in enforcing that requirement. Otherwise, it's just lip service, isn't it?

I'd like to know more about the accident. For all we know, the young girl who died may have made a mistake that led to her death. But the use of a hands-free phone in such a large vehicle, in a busy and confined area like London, is worrying.

Perhaps hands-free devices should be banned in HGVs?

There's is actually an issue with using tech to enhance safety. On planes etc this stuff uses very expensive protocols for testing DO 178B. That's way too expensive for vehicles to live up to. Ipso facto some tech might not be working. Drivers however may become used to relying on it.

It's good to have but it's not foolproof. No magic bullet.

DO 178B/C is not a testing technique, it's a methodology for developing of the entire system (requirements-design-test & documents ) with traceability. Is it more expensive that cowboy techniques? Yeah but the motor industry has it's own standards that should dictate safety in the same way that safety critical systems utlise SIL.

For new products utilisation of DO178B/C wouldnt prove prohibative cost wise but it that is still no silver bullet.

posted by SB76 [80 posts]
30th May 2014 - 9:07

like this
Like (9)

“HGVs that do not comply with our increased requirements will be refused entry to Crossrail worksites and turned away incurring financial cost to individual contractors."

I am sure that this vehicle will be inspected to determine the last time its sensors were known to be working and that the contractor will be facing a fine from crossrail back dated. /sarcasm

But what is the point in making such great bold statements if you do not follow through with them. If that vehicle had been checked when it arrived on site and the sensors found defective it would have been sent away. That means that this resultant tragedy could have been potentially avoided. Just by doing what they said that they were going to do.

posted by Wolfshade [90 posts]
30th May 2014 - 9:10

like this
Like (6)

chadders wrote:
Doesn't matter how many, what type sensors are fitted or whether working or not, the ultimate responsibility of the vehicles actions lies firmly with the driver. Sensors are an aid and nothing more.

Ever seen a driver parking a car with parking sensors and still hit something? Drivers rely on sensors far too much if they're fitted. The driver was found not to be below the standard of a competent driver, sensors or not.

posted by AyBee [58 posts]
30th May 2014 - 9:48

like this
Like (9)

It's an aid, the clue is in the word aid. As in to provide assistance. Failed sensors are no excuse

posted by SB76 [80 posts]
30th May 2014 - 10:03

like this
Like (8)

SB76 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
One hopes, at least, that the contractor involved in this tragic death will be refused entry to Crossrail sites, and may also have his/her contract reviewed - possibly even terminated. After all, if Crossrail require contractors to have these devices, then they should be proactive in enforcing that requirement. Otherwise, it's just lip service, isn't it?

I'd like to know more about the accident. For all we know, the young girl who died may have made a mistake that led to her death. But the use of a hands-free phone in such a large vehicle, in a busy and confined area like London, is worrying.

Perhaps hands-free devices should be banned in HGVs?

There's is actually an issue with using tech to enhance safety. On planes etc this stuff uses very expensive protocols for testing DO 178B. That's way too expensive for vehicles to live up to. Ipso facto some tech might not be working. Drivers however may become used to relying on it.

It's good to have but it's not foolproof. No magic bullet.

DO 178B/C is not a testing technique, it's a methodology for developing of the entire system (requirements-design-test & documents ) with traceability. Is it more expensive that cowboy techniques? Yeah but the motor industry has it's own standards that should dictate safety in the same way that safety critical systems utlise SIL.

For new products utilisation of DO178B/C wouldnt prove prohibative cost wise but it that is still no silver bullet.

Agreed and the elephant in the room is that we are still generally talking about improving the better lorries generally owned by the bigger companies and driven by the more responsible and qualified driver. Yes occasionally not so well driven. The 20 year old badly maintained skip and tipper lorries owned by small dodgy companies trying to squeeze the last drop of asset value from a truck and driven by pikeys on piecework are the real menace.

Of course there's a point in improving the new vehicles but actually the main effort needs to go into really scrutinising the really dangerous operators.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
30th May 2014 - 12:27

like this
Like (10)

What annoys me is the cycle aware signs popping up on buses, vans and lorries. Yes, i know it there for our awareness to stop us doing something silly like going into their blindspot but it doesnt stop these drvivers behaving appauling to cyclists on the road.
Exactly a week ago, i was cycling up a majorish 40mph road and i had two of these big lorries go flying past me at over 50 and within a foot of me, seconds later by a van trying to beat me to a pinch point, all with these cyclists aware stickers.
Sensors are fine BUT it's as an aid not as the definitive info.

posted by SB76 [80 posts]
30th May 2014 - 12:40

like this
Like (14)

SB76 wrote:
What annoys me is the cycle aware signs popping up on buses, vans and lorries. Yes, i know it there for our awareness to stop us doing something silly like going into their blindspot but it doesnt stop these drvivers behaving appauling to cyclists on the road.
Exactly a week ago, i was cycling up a majorish 40mph road and i had two of these big lorries go flying past me at over 50 and within a foot of me, seconds later by a van trying to beat me to a pinch point, all with these cyclists aware stickers.
Sensors are fine BUT it's as an aid not as the definitive info.

Last Saturday I was in the car with Mrs Oozeaveared at a red light behind a small (escort sized) van with one on each side of the back of the van instructing cyclist not to overtake. I didn't say anything at all about it because we were chatting about something else. When the lights changed Said van went off like a drag racer.

That's when Mrs Oozaveared piped up. "If he's that worried about cyclist safety you'd think he wouldn't drive like he just stole that van."

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
30th May 2014 - 13:57

like this
Like (16)

I know those signs are designed to remind us but seriously if you're worried about hitting me when you're unsighted, why shouldn't you give a toss when you're fully sighted.

posted by SB76 [80 posts]
30th May 2014 - 15:35

like this
Like (6)

SB76 wrote:
I know those signs are designed to remind us but seriously if you're worried about hitting me when you're unsighted, why shouldn't you give a toss when you're fully sighted.

I don't think they are all there there to remind us. I think its a combination of factors. Sometimes it'll be some numpy H&S officer at HQ doing a bit of defensive disclaimering who thinks that if they put a sign up they're off the hook if their driver left hooks a cyclist. On occasions they'll be there as a way to say the driver doesn't like cyclists.

There is a point on some long vehicles and to warn the inexperienced cyclist that may be tempted up the inside of an HGV or a coach. But on vans?

I try not to let it wind me up because it's just as meaningless as those "Baby on Board" stickers. Like as if someone would have rammed your car but then they realised you had a baby on board and decided not to.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
30th May 2014 - 16:01

like this
Like (12)

Ah well, those baby onboard signs were born out of the states when laws were more relaxed about seat belts and safety. A number of occurrences when babies/ young children went under the seat after an accident and the emergency didn't know.

They then took off but in a silly way, as a kind of give me more room due to child!

I do agree they are silly on vans and it's probably to attempt to remove any blame in the event of accident

posted by SB76 [80 posts]
30th May 2014 - 16:23

like this
Like (5)

The way I see it there are three options:

1. The driver failed to maintain the standard required for a competent motorist.
2. Maria failed to maintain the standard required for a competent cyclist.
3. Both maintained acceptable standards yet our standards are not high enough.

Only if option two applies can we sit back and say this is just one of those things and somehow I feel that option two was not the case.

posted by Mr Will [88 posts]
30th May 2014 - 17:34

like this
Like (4)

Were the sensors working - Irrelevant.
Driver using hands free - Legal but possible relevance.
Driver off approved route - Depending on why route was approved and by whom - Irrelevant.

It must be remembered that these sensors and additional fitted signs and equipment that hauliers, crane hire companies, etc are not required by Law but by Crossrail.

When you arrive at the gate you are asked if you are Crossrail compliant. You are asked if you are carrying a full set of spare bulbs, sensors fitted (notice fitted NOT working), additional signage (Pedestrians and Cyclists Keep Clear or risk being Vaporised) and a rake of other additional fripperies.

Let me tell you, those bloody sensors cannot be turned off. You spend ALL day being randomly bleeped at, sometimes they detect something, sometimes they don't and sometimes the SODDING THINGS GO OFF FOR NO SODDING REASON AT ALL, YOU ARE IRRITATED, FATIGUED, DISTRACTED AND GENERALLY PISSED OFF TO THE MAX BY SOMETHING THAT SOME WANKER IN AN OFFICE THOUGHT "OH! THAT'S A GOOD IDEA, THAT WILL REALLY IMPROVE SAFETY AND MORE IMPORTANTLY EARN ME VERY MANY BROWNIE POINTS" BUT THEY DON'T HAVE TO BLOODY WELL LIVE WITH IT!

I know I've over-ranted for effect but you get the picture. Wink

posted by levermonkey [324 posts]
30th May 2014 - 19:06

like this
Like (5)

PhilRuss wrote:
I just assume the following, at all times: "Driver hasn't seen me, doesn't know I'm there, might be texting, (...snipped...) doesn't give a fying fluck about cyclists"....which might all be outrageous prejudice on my part, seeing as 9 out of 10 drivers are good'uns...

The technique which keeps me alive is an assumption (based on fiction, but which works as if it were true) that everyone else on the road is actively trying to kill me, and everyone on the pavement is actively trying to commit suicide using me as the cause. The natural avoiding action that arises from this staged-paranoia-lookalike causes me to anticipate actions that are preposterously unlikely, but when the unlikely happens then bingo! I am ready.

It doesn't work completely because I have been crashed into, but not as often or as lethally as would otherwise have come to pass.

I use the same technique on a motorcycle too. For reasons that I don't fully understand, people on motorcycles are more visible (or more perceivable?) than people on bicycles, but hitting the ground at 40 or 60+mph hurts more than at 10 or 20, so it is still necessary.

posted by severs1966 [47 posts]
30th May 2014 - 19:10

like this
Like (10)

severs1966 wrote:
PhilRuss wrote:
I just assume the following, at all times: "Driver hasn't seen me, doesn't know I'm there, might be texting, (...snipped...) doesn't give a fying fluck about cyclists"....which might all be outrageous prejudice on my part, seeing as 9 out of 10 drivers are good'uns...

Severs1966 wrote:"The technique which keeps me alive is an assumption (based on fiction, but which works as if it were true) that everyone else on the road is actively trying to kill me....I use the same technique on a motorcycle... For reasons I don't fully understand, people on motorcycles are more visible (or more perceptible) than people on bicycles. /quote}

[[[[[[ severs1966---you don't know why people notice approaching motorbikes more than they notice bicycles? Might it have something to do with the raucous cacophony emanating from your engine, audible from 100 metres in every direction, and even round corners? Or am I missing something?
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [268 posts]
30th May 2014 - 19:58

like this
Like (6)

[[[[[[ Understood!! The post by "Mr Will", that is.
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [268 posts]
31st May 2014 - 2:26

like this
Like (2)

Do HGV/lorry/bus/4x4 drivers have any idea of the draft/ aerodynamics of the vehicle? Countless times have had the feeling of being sucked under the rear wheels as they pass. A bit more room or less speed may not induce a "blown about" wobble.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [275 posts]
31st May 2014 - 8:02

like this
Like (5)

When that HGV arrives at site it is overseen by a banksman. This is to reduce the risks to those working around it, people who know the site and go through an induction process before they can set foot in the place.

Why is it OK for the same HGV to be on city roads without?

posted by Cranky Acid [35 posts]
2nd June 2014 - 9:19

like this
Like (1)