Female cyclist killed by cement lorry in Oxford

Police bail 74-year-old driver on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving

by Tony Farrelly   October 31, 2011  

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

Oxford Police have bailed the 74-year-old driver of a cement lorry on suspicion of causing death dangerous driving following a collision in the north of the city on Friday that resulted in the death of a 34-year-old female cyclist.

The fatal incident happened on Friday morning at the junctions of Woodstock Road and Polstead Road, according to a report in the Oxford Mail the street was closed for four hours. The driver of the lorry has been bailed to appear in court to answer the charge on December 6 pending further police enquries. The woman victim has not yet been named.

The Oxford fatality means that last week began and ended with cycling fatalities involving construction lorries, on Monday a male cyclist was killed by a tipper lorry in London at the junction of one of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways and the Bow Flyover Roundabout, becoming the first fatality on London's Cycle Superhighways.

The driver of the tipper lorry involved in the London fatality has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving. In a grim irony the victim of that incident, Brian Dorling was on his way to work at the nearby Olympic Park. His death came in the same week that the London Olympic organisers unveiled their walking and cycling routes to the Olympics. Mr Dorling died in a spot on Barclays Superhighway CS2 that was singled out as being particularly hazardous for cyclists making their way to the Olympic Park on the organisers recommended routes in a blog by the Telegraph's Olympics editor Jacqueline  Magnay.

Also last week it was revealed that the Metropolitan Police have questioned 54-year-old Joao Lopes, the tipper truck driver who killed London cyclist Eilidh Cairns in 2009 and who was subsequently found to have defective vision over the death of an elderly pedestrian in an incident involving another tipper truck driven by him.

While the full details of the London and Oxford fatalities are not yet known their proximity to junctions suggests the classic scenario for an urban cycling fatality of a left turning HGV cutting across the cyclist's path.

Lorries account for a disproportionate number of cycling fatalities given the proportion of traffic that they make up, construction vehicles - tipper trucks and cement lorries account for a disproportionate number of the cycling deaths caused by HGVs and are by far the most dangerous vehicles to cyclists on Britain's roads.

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Another point you might note is the age of the driver in the Oxford crash. We are coming up to a cliff - edge in the age profile of professional drivers - bus/coach and HGV, just as we also have a trend in manufacturing. 'Snow of the roof' is a widespread phenomenum, with many companies reporting they cannot recruit suitable candidates to train-up.

There are a few exceptions - Brompton bicycle is one refreshing factory, where a good balance of ages can be seen, with an healthy abundance of young faces. But here (naturally I suspect) the lack of a driving licence or the ability to afford a car does not seriously inhibit the ability of the workforce to get to work, nor their ability to drive inhibiting their ability to do work which involves travelling. Yet when I asked the CPT (the bus industry representative body) they did not have an immediate figure on the age profile of the industry workforce or a prediction of any recruitment shortfalls.

When you look at the fact that the mumber of 17-25 year olds holding a driving licence has halved over the past decade and now only a quarter of those in this age group can officially drive a car, and even fewer can afford to do so, the pool of experienced young blood to fill the shoes of retiring HGV and PSV drivers is shrinking, and many companies are hanging on to their older drivers for longer, or switching to the use of agency drivers, who will have to 'learn' the vehicles they are tasked to drive, and where the driver history can be clouded by the fragmented arrangements of having a vehicle operator, who is not the direct employer of the driver and a driver supply agent who equally may be employing self-employed drivers who are on their books for spot work.

The haulage industry is more fragmented than many suspect, with most vehicles operating in livery not actually operated or driven by employees of the big brand names on the trucks themselves. Most of the big stores for example have one or more of the big logistics operators signed up, and some degree of control of standards, but the construction industry has a myriad of small operators contracted to supply trucks in livery, with drivers. Unlike buses there is no requirement to have a clear standard place and format to put the registered details for the owner of the vehicle for any person requiring these to record them, or report a vehicle defect.

We also have a vast divergence - on a site the operation of trucks requires a risk assessment of the operations being carried out, and a work plan describing the provision of staff to manage the safe movement of the truck in a confined space with a lot of pedestrian activity from other workers on the site. Go out of the site gates and onto streets where trucks operate in confined space with a lot of pedestrian and cycle activity, and you don't have to provide any such detail - although some responsible clients and through them their contractors have taken this on board.

To see how other transport industries deliver you might consider reading a few of the Rail and Air Industry Investigations into both crashes AND near miss incidents. Sadly delivery of similar thoroughness for road traffic would demand a vastly greater resource than the rail and air industry to cover just fatalities, let alone learn from the near misses.

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 [428 posts]
31st October 2011 - 9:17

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Yes AV his age did make me think about the shifting age profile of the population in the UK when I was writing the piece, it's interesting to note that the drivers involved in some of the most high profile cases we've reported on have been at least middle aged.

As we reported last week too, the numbers of drivers having their licences revoked because of poor eyesight has doubled in the last five years and that too must in part be attributable to an aging population.

Seems to me you've hit the nail on the head when you point to the caualised work practices of that part of the haulage industry as being a big (probably the biggest) factor too though.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4111 posts]
31st October 2011 - 10:55

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They should make it an employer liability to assess driver's suitability e.g. eye and mobility tests for HGV and PSV. If employers, including agencies were given this level of responsibility, with the threat of corporate manslaughter prosecution, I'd expect we'd at least reduce some of the risk.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [343 posts]
31st October 2011 - 12:13

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Just saw this comment in the London Evening Standard in the story about the death of Brian Dorling - fair makes your blood boil!

Quote:
My deepest condolences to the family of Brian Dorling on the loss of their loved one. However, I am inclined to agree with Terry that cycling on the main roads in London is tantamount to madness. Whenever I am travelling on a bus in Central London, which is frequently, and I see the cyclists weaving in and out of the traffic, I fear for them. I know there are both considerate and inconsiderate cyclists, but when one deliberately (and in my opinion arrogantly) stopped right in front of a Victoria bound no. 73 bus at a red light, positioning himself right in the middle of the front of the bus so that the bus driver had to wait for him to move before he could move the bus, I thought what a nuisance that a busload of people trying to get home from work were being inconvenienced by one person who thought the road belonged to him. I don't know how the bus driver kept his cool.

- Pam, London, UK, 31/10/2011 12:50

Clearly not an IAM member

posted by mad_scot_rider [514 posts]
31st October 2011 - 14:07

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m_s_r, that's the kind of comment that really gets on my nerves and an attitude that's all too prevalent. In making safe manoeuvres, we probably only delay traffic by a matter of seconds yet people take umbrage. I despair when the need to get home 5 minutes quicker takes precedence over the safety of all road users.

posted by paulfg42 [350 posts]
31st October 2011 - 23:48

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I checked back on the Evening Standard site later - was going to register so I could reply - but other commentors had already ripped poor Pam to shreds, so I left it alone

But @pualfg42, I can only agree - the attitude where 30 seconds of a drivers time is worth more than the safety of anyone else is very worrying

posted by mad_scot_rider [514 posts]
1st November 2011 - 11:06

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My initial reaction to a future dearth of new professional drivers is 'so what'. Perhaps that will force more companies to move cargo by rail. The ones that don't may be forced to invest properly in recruiting and training drivers into a career that they can be proud of. Perhaps driving standards might increase as a result.

I see the reduction in young people taking up driving as a wholly positive thing. We'll be relying on them to start speaking up for proper public transport and cycling/walking infrastructure.

posted by don_don [149 posts]
3rd November 2011 - 14:18

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