Updated: No witnesses to "accidental" death of London cyclist

Lorry driver unaware of collision for six weeks

by Mark Appleton   March 16, 2011  

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

The death of a cyclist who was dragged for nearly 150m under the wheels of a lorry has been ruled accidental by a coroner, in the absence of either witnesses or CCTV footage.

Adrianna Skrzypiec, 31, died on the slip road of A102 at the junction with Woolwich Road in Greenwich in May 2009 reports the News Shopper. The driver of the lorry which was believed to have killed her, John Lashbrook of Sittingbourne in Kent, said he was unaware of Adrianna’s death until six weeks after the incident.

When asked by the coroner if he had been involved in a collision on the day of Adrianna’s death he said: “No. I don’t believe I did.”

Mr Lashbrook was initially charged with causing death by dangerous driving but the case was dismissed before it reached trial.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson told road.cc: “CPS London decided there was sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest to prosecute Mr Lashbrook for [causing] death by dangerous driving.

"Before the trial the defence team argued that Mr Lashbrook could not have seen the cyclist and was not aware of the accident until he was arrested. The trial judge accepted the defence submissions and ruled in their favour.”

A woman who gave evidence at the coroner’s inquest said she heard a loud bang at the traffic lights under the Woolwich flyover on the day of the incident. Kirsty Black, also a cyclist, told the inquest: “The lights there are exceptionally dangerous. The phasing of them is very badly managed and they’re badly positioned.”

She said a few weeks prior to the Ms Skrzypiec’s death a car had coming close to knocking her and her daughter over as they used the pedestrian crossing there.

Ms Black added: “I do think something needs to be done about it. Other accidents have already happened. There are going to be more.”

Police accident investigator PC Andrew Smith told the coroner it was possible that Miss Skrzypiec was positioned on the inside of the lorry and could not be seen from the cab.

A ghost bike was left at the scene of the incident by Greenwich Cyclists whose acting coordinator Anthony Austin said motorists largely ignored the junction’s advanced cycle stop and cycle lanes.

He said: “The safest thing to do as a cyclist is to stay behind the traffic and get in lane as if you were a car.”

He said that the removal railings, improved road markings enforcement of rules regarding cycling zones would help improve the situation for riders.

Road.cc contacted Greenwich Council to ask what, if any, measures are being taken to make this junction safer for vulnerable road users. The council issued us with the following statement:

"Greenwich Council would again like to send heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ms Skrzypiec. The Council recognsises the importance of having safe routes for cyclists across the borough - an important part of the Council's policy to encourage cycling in Greenwich.

"The Council has been working on plans to devise a new scheme for cyclists at this junction which are being finalised before being put to councillors"

 

 

15 user comments

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Surely if she went under the wheels he'd have felt going over her?

These tipper driver are for the most so moronic it is untrue.

I work very close to where this accident happened and witness every the reckless way these tippers are driven around the area. They have total disregard for the size of vehicle they are driving and for other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

There are two large aggregate depots and a waste transfer station so there are a high volume of these tippers in the area.

posted by gazzaputt [185 posts]
15th March 2011 - 9:45

9 Likes

Poor woman. Please correct your spelling of her surname, it should be Skrzypiec. (Polish, pronounced "Sk-ship-ee-ets").

Landy

posted by rallen [5 posts]
15th March 2011 - 9:45

11 Likes

It would be interesting to see a statistical breakdown of HGV categories against the numbers registered on UK roads and against the number involved in accidents. I saw a breakdown of this sort some years ago and the accident statistics surrounding waste rehandling vehicles in particular were horrific - since then I've tried to keep my distance from vehicles such as skip lorries - remember it was a waste rehandling vehicle that nearly took out London mayor Boris Johnstone and some other cyclists last year (the video clip was on this website).

From what I've seen on the roads, I would expect tipper trucks also to figure highly in accident statistics. Vehicle condition is a factor in road accidents and tipper trucks and waste vehicles seem to figure poorly in this regard. It is partly due to the operating environment as the on-off highway application means they suffer high wear and tear rates with tyres showing the most obvious damage. I work in Kent and regularly see tipper trucks hammering along the roads at excessive speeds (40 in a 30 limit) then being flung into corners, with the drivers happily talking away on cellphones.

It is possible that the driver of the truck in this case felt a bump but did not know he had killed a cyclist. I know that junction and it is a bad one.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th March 2011 - 12:26

12 Likes

hile i have no knowledge of this junction i do often wonder about the timings on traffic lights. Do the people who set the lights factor in cyclists or other slower moving traffic into the timing scheme? from my experience it would seem not, occasionally you find yourself going through just as it turns yellow and before your halfway across the other lanes are zooming out at you!

I think lights with ACL's in particular (as they obviuosly expect cyclists on that junction) should be investigated to see if they timings are safe for cyclists.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [423 posts]
15th March 2011 - 13:01

10 Likes

Slightly off topic but related to the comments on traffic light timing. In both my motorcycle test (1980) and car test (1988) I was critised by the examiner for being overly cautious at road junctions which could "reduce the speed of other traffic". Bear in mind that we are talking 20 to 30 years ago and the main concern was maintaining traffic speed over my concern for road safety. Traffic conditions were a lot "better" than today and where there is plenty of talk of safety I feel the biggest concern is still keeping traffic speed "up".

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [399 posts]
15th March 2011 - 13:56

9 Likes

bikeandy - the car and motorcycle tests now have a greater focus on maintaining traffic flow I'm told. Drivers previoulsy were told to stop at key junctions but are now encouraged to slow down but not halt instead.

Yes, traffic light timings are a major cause of concern. I'm trying to have some changed near where I live as there have already been a number of close calls and a fatality will occur unless further safety measures are taken, it is only a matter of time.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th March 2011 - 14:32

11 Likes

My condolences to Ms.Skrzypiec's family.
I live near this junction and use it most days, althugh rarely on my bike, as there are better alternative routes. Two narrow traffic lanes feed into a tight roundabout, with many large vehicles turning left for access to the motorway. A metre-wide nearside cycle lane deposits the unwary between left-turning vehicles and a high kerb backed with railings. A perfect example of a cycling facility we'd be better off without. Any cyclist who passes here will have a pretty good idea what happened. Was the lorry indicating? Did he check his nearside mirrors as he moved off? Did he really not notice the coming together?
Cyclists should be able to get about without fear of dying at the hands of careless lorry drivers. Until then, don't ride up the nearside of large vehicles, whatever colour they paint the road.

Sven Ellis's picture

posted by Sven Ellis [31 posts]
15th March 2011 - 14:46

8 Likes

I used to cycle thru that junction some mornings on my way to work. It has been 'improved' since then with the new cycle lane, which makes it worse.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th March 2011 - 15:02

10 Likes

I used to live locally, it really was a badly thought-out junction and especially for anyone not in a motor vehicle.

To get to the local Sainsbury's, built as part of the Millennium regeneration of the peninsula, you could either follow the crossings etc which take you miles out of your way, or do what pedestrians tend to do and go round the railings and dodge the traffic.

We're not talking about being a matter of yards here and wanting to save a few seconds, we're talking minutes.

Pretty scary to negotiate on a bike too.

Welcome to Greenwich, birthplace of Henry VIII - where the car is now king.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8487 posts]
15th March 2011 - 16:41

10 Likes

I also know this junction well and have cycled it many times. It is a complete nightmare for a cyclist.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
15th March 2011 - 17:51

9 Likes

I soon learned to take a different route to the place I worked at. To be honest, that junction isn't that great in a car or on a motorbike either and I take a different route when I'm using engine powered wheels as well.

The UK road network has many bad spots that have been poorly designed and which cause unnecessary risk to all road users.

A good example of extremely bad road design is the junction between the A21 and the M25. If you've driven through it, you'll know what I mean.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th March 2011 - 21:14

13 Likes

Bit of info from the DfT - in 2008 accidents involving HGVs accounted for 15% of fatalities on UK roads.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
17th March 2011 - 14:35

5 Likes

Old Ridgeback - cyclist fatalities in London (and I suspect many other cities) stubbornly static for HGV's per year, whilst other vehicles total continues to fall. Has now risen to over 50% of deaths in London linked to vehicles which make up less than 5% of the vehicle count.

This sound like the most common sequence - truck driver enters roundabout looking right completely oblivious to the fact they are overhauling a slower moving cyclist heading straight on, and drives 'through' the path of the cyclist.

London Wall 2000, Bethnal Green 2010 et seq

Factor in deaths like Eilidh (Driver unfit through defective eyesight), and Catriona (Driver unfit through drink and using mobile phone) and no forest of mirrors of calls for cyclists not to ride up the nearside (very few are killed by doing this) will reduce the toll. Only some really serious follow throughs to the standards of Rail and Air 'Accident' Inquiries are going to put the weight of culpability on the drivers and operators who fall so far below a safe standard - and get away with it.

When did the driver discover that he had hit something - did he do a walk round inspection when he next used the truck or was it necessary to track the vehicle down by other means?

What does also stand out is the disportionate level of female cyclists being killed. One possible link is in the findings of a 5000 cyclist survey (OxCam) where female rider reported a problem in looking back to observe vehicles coming up behind them, and this detail aligning with reported incidents involving female cyclists where rearward observation was a factor. Is it likely that male riders possibly riding more on the limit and continually checking traffic coming from all directions are more aware of a truck bearing down on them and more assertive in blocking those fatal left turn moves by moving out and eyeballing the driver before the fatal sequence can even start to roll?

What is clear is that there is a blind spot in promoting road safety, and using 4 pieces of road safety equipment that almost everyone has effectively - 2 eyes (primary) and 2 ears (back-up system). It isn't just looking but using your eyes to make sure the other road user has seen you, with your ears that vital safeguard for the fact you do not have 360 degree vision, and may sometime need a prompt to check your 'blind spot'

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 [503 posts]
17th March 2011 - 18:56

10 Likes

AV - yes I know that. I've posted various items on HGVs and their associated risks for cyclists before, including the disproportionate number of female riders being killed by them. I'm not sure any researcher has yet sufficiently explained why female riders have a higher rate of fatalities in relation to HGVs, although the suggestions is that it is ebcause they tend to be more cautious and less on the limit, as you say. Electronic sensors with audible warnings for HGV drivers may provide an answer. But cyclists need to be very very aware of HGVs and their risks. Certain categories of HGVs seem to have a particularly high risk for vulnerable road users, as I mentioned earlier. I've been commuting in London for over 20 years by bicycle, so I reckon that means I'm an experienced cyclist by now.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
18th March 2011 - 9:46

12 Likes

Give it a few more years Ridgeback I started riding up to London and around SE in 1965, when you rarely saw a bus with a dent in the bodywork, such was the standard for bus driving.

Goodness that's around 46 years of riding bikes around London, not far to the half century.....

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 [503 posts]
21st March 2011 - 19:54

12 Likes