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Janina Gehlau's mother says people should "think twice before cycling in London"...

The mother of a cyclist killed in a collision with a skip lorry at Ludgate Circus in the City of London say her family are “devastated” after a jury today cleared the driver of the vehicle from causing her death by careless driving. She added that she hoped her daughter’s death would make people “think twice before cycling in London.”

Janina Gehlau, aged 26, a postgraduate student from Germany on a three-month unpaid internship in London, died in hospital in October 2014 three days after she was hit by the left-turning truck at the junction of Ludgate Circus and Farringdon Road.

Her husband Marcel Gehlau said after her death that she had bought a bicycle second hand so she could visit art galleries and museums since she was unable to afford the fares to use public transport.

He broke down and cried at the Old Bailey today after lorry driver Vincent Doyle, 45, who had been charged with causing Mrs Gehlau’s death by careless driving, was acquitted by the jury, reports the Guardian.

Judge Gerald Gordon said: “I would like it to be made absolutely clear to the family that the verdict of the jury does not imply any form of criticism of [Mrs] Gehlau.”

But he added that “a factor” in her death may have been a difference in traffic laws between UK and Germany, where – as the prosecution noted during the three-day trial – a cyclist in similar circumstances would have right of way.

According to an Evening Standard report, the prosecution had said Mr Doyle should have seen the cyclist, who was using the cycle lane to the left of the carriageway as she approached the bike box at the junction, in his vehicle’s mirrors for between 3 and 5 seconds.

The traffic light at the junction also had a Trixie mirror, designed to help drivers of large vehicles see what is happening in their blind spots. The vehicle had an audible warning that it was going to turn left.

The driver had initially told police that he had not stopped at the junction, but after being shown CCTV footage agreed that he had been stationary there for 23 seconds.

The court was told that Mr Doyle’s first reaction on getting out of the cab according to witnesses was to say, “Oh my God, You stupid girl, didn't you hear I was turning left?"

Explaining why he had used those words, he said: "At first I was angry. I thought: 'What is that stupid person doing?'

"Then, as I got close and I got down beside the girl, I realised how serious her injuries were. 

"I was trying to keep her alive until the ambulance got there. I was holding her hand. I was feeling her pulse. I was shouting 'hang on, hang on'. I was pleading with her."

Allison Hunter, prosecuting, told the defendant that he was "telling one lie after another" in is account of the crash.

"If you were not aware of that Trixie mirror, it's a symptom of your carelessness,” she insisted. “That is an example of how careless and inattentive you were on October 17."

But Mr Doyle, whom the court heard spent eight weeks in a psychiatric hospital last year following a nervous breakdown, maintained: "There was no carelessness. I'm a careful driver and she was not in my mirrors."

After he was cleared today, Mrs Gehlau’s mother Andrea Tasic issued a statement on behalf of her family, reported by the Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall, in which she said: “We are devastated by the verdict and do not feel that we have got justice for Janina.

“We would like to thank the emergency services who tried so hard to save her and everyone who has supported us since her death.

“I miss her so much. She had a great future ahead of her and it was erased in a moment.”

A number of cyclists who have lost their lives in the capital in recent years have been foreign nationals, some of whom had only been in the city for a short time.

In part, the number of foreign victims may reflect London’s status as a world city that attracts young people from around the world to work or study there.

But Mrs Gehlau’s mother said that her impression of the city was that it was not safe to ride a bike on its streets.

She said: “I told her I thought the roads were too dangerous when I visited her, but she was an experienced cyclist and told me not to worry, she said it would be fine.

“My only hope is that this makes people think twice before cycling in London,” she continued.

“Too many families are losing loved ones in these circumstances and action needs to be taken to improve safety before there are any more tragedies.”

Solicitors Slater & Gordon are representing the family in a civil action.

Matthew Claxson, a lawyer at the firm, said: "When cyclists and heavy goods vehicles have to share the roads in such close proximity, all too often there are tragic consequences.

“This terrible incident again highlights the need for action to be taken to reduce the risks faced by vulnerable road users on our city’s streets.”

Mrs Gehlau’s death happened six months after another cyclist, Spanish national Victor Rodriguez, was killed at the same crossroads, which is on the route of the North-South Cycle Superhighway currently being built from King’s Cross to Elephant & Castle.

> Lorry driver who killed cyclist at Ludgate Circus given community service and driving ban

In December last year, lorry driver John Green was convicted of causing Mr Rodriguez’s death through careless driving. He was given a 12-month driving ban and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

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

30 comments

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brooksby [2235 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

According to the Standard: "... Mrs Gehlau, who was wearing bright clothing and a white cycle helmet, would have been visible in the lorry's three mirrors and a Trixie mirror attached to the traffic lights for between three to five seconds as she approached the lights on a cycle lane on the inside of the vehicle."

According to the Guardian: "Jurors at the Old Bailey were told that he should have been aware she was catching up as he waited for 23 seconds at the red light, having overtaken her just 200 metres before the junction. "

I wouldn't have approached the lights on a cycle lane up the inside of a (presumably) left-indicating lorry, but both stories draw attention to the fact that in Germany the cyclist would have priority if the lorry had been planning to turn across her path, and suggest that she may not have realised that this wasn't the case in the UK.  Nevertheless: it doesn't matter what you wear or what you do, if the driver isn't looking or paying proper attention (allegedly: after all, the jury has found him not guilty).

Terrible incident, and I'm not convinced justice has really been done (it certainly hasn't been seen to be done, IMO).

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embattle [39 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

It is sad when a cyclist is killed in such a manor but in all my years I don't go down the side of lorries at traffic lights, you are just hoping they've actually seen you and it isn't a good gamble at 100kg vs up to 44000kg.

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arfa [847 posts] 1 year ago
17 likes

The judge went as far as stating that the verdict does not imply criticism of Ms Gehlau. The jury finds the defendant not guilty. All this tells us is that in the UK if you get on a bike and get wiped out, then it's just your hard luck.
I am absolutely disgusted.

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gazza_d [469 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Some wonderful soul called Neurocyc on Twitter dug this up. It appears that despite how careful a driver can claim to be, lightening can strike twice

Quote:

"Danny" Reidar Farr, killed October 1, 1999, junction of Westbourne Grove and Hereford Road, by a left turning skip lorry, driven by Vincent Doyle, operated by PowerDay. Despite witness evidence that driver failed to signal, court acquitted driver.

http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2004/oct04/oct11news2

 

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oldstrath [758 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
arfa wrote:

The judge went as far as stating that the verdict does not imply criticism of Ms Gehlau. The jury finds the defendant not guilty. All this tells us is that in the UK if you get on a bike and get wiped out, then it's just your hard luck. I am absolutely disgusted.

I think what this specific case tells us is that the crap infrastructure we have in this country is dangerous. Combine that with a cyclist not necessarily familiar with the rules, a lorry driver who probably wasn't  looking any too carefully, and poorly designed vehicles.  The results are often  distressingly predictable. 

Sure, it's  tempting to blame the driver, but much more useful to identify  and try to fix the system failures.

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fennesz [150 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

He's got form - wow!  & just what was he doing for the 23 seconds? (watching stuff on phone/laptop etc?)

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jasecd [438 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

I cannot understand how he has been cleared of careless driving when the evidence (quoted above by Brooksby) points to the fact that he should have seen her. If he hasn't seen her then he can't have looked properly despite his assurances that he did. He also claimed he didn't stop but this was proven to be untrue. How can a jury possible acquit in this case? 

And then we find out he's killed another cyclist 17 years ago. In a lorry. Turning left.

 

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jasecd [438 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
oldstrath wrote:

Sure, it's  tempting to blame the driver, but much more useful to identify  and try to fix the system failures.

It seems to me that a big part of the system failure is that drivers have generally poor standards and few take proper responsibility for the safety of other more vulnerable road users.

As I said above, I cannot understand how he wasn't convicted and if you ask me he should have had the book thrown at him. Proper staunch convictions may go some of the way to sharpening the focus of those drivers who are too distracted or innatentive to pay proper attention to the road.

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mrchrispy [488 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Simon - any chance of following up this Vincent Doyle 1999 thing?

If this is the same bloke and he's got for the is no freaking way he should be let off.

 

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arfa [847 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

I am fairly sure in reading updates from the trial that the driver asserted an unblemished record. If that's not true then it is material to the case.

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oldstrath [758 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
jasecd wrote:
oldstrath wrote:

Sure, it's  tempting to blame the driver, but much more useful to identify  and try to fix the system failures.

It seems to me that a big part of the system failure is that drivers have generally poor standards and few take proper responsibility for the safety of other more vulnerable road users.

As I said above, I cannot understand how he wasn't convicted and if you ask me he should have had the book thrown at him. Proper staunch convictions may go some of the way to sharpening the focus of those drivers who are too distracted or innatentive to pay proper attention to the road.

Given tbe awesomely poor infrastructure  I agree with you, but I  suspect we can do much better by changing the entire  system.

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Duncann [987 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
jasecd wrote:

I cannot understand how he wasn't convicted and if you ask me he should have had the book thrown at him

Possibly because juries sympathise with drivers (which they are more likely to be themselves) over cyclists. Because they think "it's just one of those things", or that they've done the same thing themselves plenty times before - but just without the tragic consequences.

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Housecathst [587 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

"But he added that “a factor” in her death may have been a difference in traffic laws between UK and Germany"

yeah, the difference being that in the uk holding a driving licence is the same as having a licence to kill.

It would be dreadful if each member of the jury loss somebody close to them in similar circumstance, but it would be interesting to see if there still happy with the "shit happens" defence. 

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Pub bike [211 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Given his record then there must be many fortunate cyclists out there who have managed to avoid being victims of Vincent Doyle.

Interesting that despite not giving a truthful answer about how long he was stationary, other evidence he gave was still believed by the jury.

Presumably in other legal cases our jury system delivers justice to victims?

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ChrisB200SX [359 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Is the judge confused about what "right of way" means?

I was starting to believe the tide was turning after some recent verdicts, but this one stinks.

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Ush [901 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
gazza_d wrote:

Some wonderful soul called Neurocyc on Twitter dug this up. It appears that despite how careful a driver can claim to be, lightening can strike twice

Quote:

"Danny" Reidar Farr, killed October 1, 1999, junction of Westbourne Grove and Hereford Road, by a left turning skip lorry, driven by Vincent Doyle, operated by PowerDay. Despite witness evidence that driver failed to signal, court acquitted driver.

http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2004/oct04/oct11news2

 

Wow. Just wow.

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wycombewheeler [1073 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
mrchrispy wrote:

Simon - any chance of following up this Vincent Doyle 1999 thing?

If this is the same bloke and he's got for the is no freaking way he should be let off.

 

The thing is previous convictions are not made known to yhd jury never mind aquitals.

We also say juries won't convict drivers because they think 'that could be me' clearly not the case here. I wonder if the truth is worse, that there is a general attitude in this country that cyclists have chosen to put themselves in a dangerous situation and therefor no one else is ever responsible.

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Ush [901 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes
oldstrath wrote:

I think what this specific case tells us is that the crap infrastructure we have in this country is dangerous.

Right. Which is why Bikeability, Forester, Allen et al have been talking for years about the danger of creating a parallel road system on which traffic _undertakes_ the dangerous traffic.

oldstrath wrote:

Combine that with a cyclist not necessarily familiar with the rules

I know you're not trying to blame her, but I don't see any suggestion that she did anything except follow the rules. And, not knowing anything other than what I've read here, that law-abiding (helmet and hi-vis wearing, bicycle lane adhering) and rule following may have tricked her into the situation where a rule-breaker could harm her.

It seems to me that the systemic failure is that there are too many cars, travelling too fast, driven by people who are at least some of the times un-intelligent, feckless, lazy or distracted. Individual, motorized transport has as its consequence this death and the deaths of many other pedestrians and car drivers.

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Roger Geffen [59 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

Firstly, in response to:

ChrisB200SX wrote:

Is the judge confused about what "right of way" means?

Please note that this verdict was reached by a jury, not a judge.

That doesn't make it right, of course.  I don't yet have a full report of the case or the evidence presented.  However, I have to say I'm very doubtful of it, particularly given reports suggesting that the driver changed his story - claiming initially that he hadn't stopped at the junction, then admitting he had stopped for 23 seconds when the evidence on this became clear.

Legally, the court could not take account of his previous involvement in a cyclist's death [P.S. see my subsequent comment below], particularly given that he was acquitted on that first occasion.  That was presumably why it wasn't mentioned in court until the jury reached its verdict.

However, now that this information has come to light, we will need to try and find out whether the company which employed him was aware of his past record.  In other words, should he have declared it (bearing in mind that he wasn't convicted of the first alleged offence either)? And if he did, was he allowed to drive lorries again despite his past record? Did the Police alert the Traffic Commissioners to this case after it occurred? - note the possible similarities with the Alan Neve case. One way or the other, these questions all appear to warrant further investigation - assuming that this is the same driver [though this has yet to be established, so we shouldn't leap to conclusions - again, see below].

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular verdict though, I do have some sympathy with the viewpoint that the blame in cases like this shouldn't necessarily rest solely with the lorry driver. Another culrit is the lorry itself.  It makes no sense whatsoever to allow such lethally badly designed machines to mix with cyclists and pedestrians.  We should therefore be aiming to minimise their use on busy urban streets as far as possible.

Then, bearing in mind that we're unlikely to achieve the total elimination of lorries from urban streets any time soon, we should at least look to ban lorries with unsafe cab designs.  At present that's the vast majority of them: in other words, any lorry whose cab places the lorry driver high up, where they can't see what's around them without needing mirrors and cameras. Apparently it takes at least 5 seconds to check all of the mirrors that a lorry driver is supposed to check.  That's plenty of time for a cyclist to appear in a mirror that a driver thought they had checked.

Compare this lethal design flaw with buses, whose drivers sit close to ground level and can see cyclists alongside them through their window-filled doors; whereas lorry drivers typically sit high up off the ground, and are surrounded with a lot of metal.  Safer lorry cab designs are now available and it is high time they became the norm, to the point where we can ban unsafe lorry designs completely.  CTC is pressing London's mayoral candidates and others to commit to a road-map for doing this.

As others have said, we also need the protected infrastructure, and the European-style traffic rules which give both cyclists and pedestrians who are going straight ahead at a junction priority over vehicles turning across their path, even at a green light.  I can well believe the comments suggesting that Janina Gehlau may have been assuming that these rules, which apply in Germany, also applied in Britain.  Without them, the left-hook risk will not be elimited by protected cycle lanes, however they are designed - particularly at unsignalised junctions.

In short, this case raises an awful lot of issues for CTC's Road Justice and Space for Cycling campaigns, as well as our Action on Lorry Danger campaign

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Roger Geffen [59 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

P.S. Having referenced his supposed involvement in a previous cyclist's death, I should add a note of caution.  Apparently it hasn't yet been established with certainty that this is the same driver: http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/cyclist-killed-finding-an-old-co...

So, until/unless we have confirmation, I for one should not have been leaping to conclusions.

 

Roger Geffen

CTC, the national cycling charity

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jasecd [438 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes
Duncann wrote:
jasecd wrote:

I cannot understand how he wasn't convicted and if you ask me he should have had the book thrown at him

Possibly because juries sympathise with drivers (which they are more likely to be themselves) over cyclists. Because they think "it's just one of those things", or that they've done the same thing themselves plenty times before - but just without the tragic consequences.

 

Well juries might well sympathise but they are supposed to make decisions based on evidence and within the letter of the law, not on personal sympathies or conjecture.

Obviously we don't have a court transcript but from what has been reported there was a period of over twenty seconds where Doyle should have been aware of her prescence and another five seconds where he failed to use either his trucks mirrors or the trixie mirrors at the junction - clearly it is careless (if not downright dangerous) driving not to be aware of another road user you have overtaken or to check your mirrors before making a manouvere. 

I'm sick of this lazy dogma that "it's just one of those things" - the fact that this is seemingly accepted as a legal verdict is disgusting.

 

 

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brooksby [2235 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
fennesz wrote:

He's got form - wow!  & just what was he doing for the 23 seconds? (watching stuff on phone/laptop etc?)

23 seconds doesn't sound like a long time, but I counted it out on my way home last night, and it is a VERY long time if you're just sitting there.

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alotronic [510 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Having sat on a jury in a sexual assualt case where a lot of the people present basically said 'it was her fault' I can tell you that I have zero faith in the ability of a jury to overcome its members prejudices.

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rliu [91 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
alotronic wrote:

Having sat on a jury in a sexual assualt case where a lot of the people present basically said 'it was her fault' I can tell you that I have zero faith in the ability of a jury to overcome its members prejudices.

It's really time trial by jury was abolished, the law has nearly a thousand years of case law, primary and secondary legislation, regulations and legal academia, and we expect this to be understood and applied by a random collection of laymen. Trial by jury is not democratic, it's lunatic.

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Argos74 [434 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Quote:

“Oh my God, You stupid girl, didn't you hear I was turning left?"

 

This needs to be tattooed on his forehead in mirror writing.

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exilegareth [88 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
wycombewheeler wrote:
mrchrispy wrote:

Simon - any chance of following up this Vincent Doyle 1999 thing?

If this is the same bloke and he's got for the is no freaking way he should be let off.

 

The thing is previous convictions are not made known to yhd jury never mind aquitals. We also say juries won't convict drivers because they think 'that could be me' clearly not the case here. I wonder if the truth is worse, that there is a general attitude in this country that cyclists have chosen to put themselves in a dangerous situation and therefor no one else is ever responsible.

Not quite true re previous convictions. If as part of your defence you assert that you are of good character, the prosecution may introduce evidence to rebut that.

 

That depends, however, on the prosecution knowing about it - is this the same Vincent Doyle?

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Mark By [49 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

My understanding is that the severity of the charge is often reduced to increase the chances of of a conviction, based on an assumed bias in the jury in such cases.

I've observed a defending barrister asking for members of the jury to step down if they didn't fulfil certain criteria,  namely the proximity of where they lived with respect to the collision and whether they were regular drivers on a particular road. I assume that the prosecuting counsel can do the same.

As it is the judge's responsibility to ensure that a trial is fair, that surely also means reducing the bias or prejudice that might affect a jury's decision.

So why in these types of cases don't the prosecution request that jurors who fulfil the following criteria are omitted from the panel

1) Have a conviction related to driving (unless someone can show that is already the case in law)

2) Have received a penalty from the police,  i.e. points on their licence or the alternative of a trip to a "driving awareness course" (within the recent past, say 5 years)

3) a) If an HGV is involved - have an HGC licence

    b) If a Public Service vehicle, e.g. a bus, is involved - have a PSV licence

    c) if a taxi is involved, have the appropriate registration

4) Are a member of an organisation which has been openly hostile to cyclists or promotes and/or supports breaking the law in such a way that more vulnerable road users like cyclists are put at risk

 

 

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plymouthrock [2 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

(surprising)

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plymouthrock [2 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I think the facts will emerge soon.

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brooksby [2235 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
plymouthrock wrote:

I think the facts will emerge soon.

Wait, you mean: "The truth is out there "?