Widow of cyclist killed at Bow roundabout warned TfL there would be another tragedy there

Widow accusses TfL of negligent design, LCC chief reveals organisation warned TfL about danger junction before Superhighway painted

by Simon_MacMichael   November 12, 2011  

road.cc news

The wife of Brian Dorling, the London cyclist killed by a lorry as he rode to work through the Bow interchange three weeks ago, has revealed that she told police officers and a traffic engineer that another cyclist would die at the same location while watching a reconstruction of the events surrounding her husband’s death.

That prediction, shockingly, came true yesterday evening with the death at the same junction of a 34-year-old female cyclist, also struck by an HGV, the third London cyclist killed following a collision with a lorry in less than six weeks.

Debbie Dorling, commenting on an article about the latest incident in the BBC London website, added that while watching the reconstruction at Bow roundabout, she had seen three cyclists experience near-misses.

The deaths of both father of three Mr Dorling, who worked at the Olympic Park site as a quantity sureyor, and the woman who lost her life yesterday, happened at the location where Barclays Cycle Superhighway 2 comes to an end.

Newham Council has refused to allow the facility, which starts at Aldgate, to continue into its own territory as was originally planned, reportedly due to safety concerns.

That has brought intense scrutiny on one of the Mayor of London’s flagship transport policies, derided by some critics from the outset as nothing more than a lick of paint that if anything lulled cyclists into a false sense of security.

Indeed, in a separate comment to a road.cc article earlier in the day, Mrs Dorling had said: “Whoever designed the superhighway on that roundabout is completely negligent,” a point she reiterated to the BBC.

News of the latest fatality, which happened on the eve of today’s tour by an estimated 300 riders of what, until yesterday at least, were considered London’s ten most dangerous junctions for cyclists, has shocked the cycling community in London and beyond.

It also comes at the end of a week in which Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London Commissioner Peter Hendy were quizzed over cycling safety by Greater London Assembly Members during a transport questions session on Wednesday.

Much of that focused on the mayor and TfL’s insistence, outlined in a press release issued that same morning, that training lorry drivers and encouraging fleet operators to sign up to voluntary regulations is the best way to protect cyclists, rather than redesigning infrastructure such as junctions.

That issue is once again in the spotlight as the result of a cyclist’s life coming to an end prematurely, and it is one that you might hope would become increasingly hard for TfL and Mr Johnson to ignore as clamour mounts for them to take concrete and decisive action action.

Yet the very question of the safety of cyclists at the Bow roundabout is one that was highlighted to TfL even before Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 was put in place, as Ashok Sinha, chief executive of London Cycling Campaign, revealed on its website today.

“During a 2010 inspection ride, prior to the implementation of the Cycle Superhighway that connects with this junction, we warned TfL in the starkest terms of the dangers of left-turning vehicles, high traffic volumes and speeds, and the absence of provision for cyclists,” he explained.

“And when we saw the woefully inadequate design for the Superhighway in February, we wrote to senior Transport for London management to warn them expressly that this roundabout posed a continued and real danger.

“We are appalled at this latest, preventable death and are fearful of what may happen when large numbers of cyclists have to tackle this junction on their way to and from the Olympics.

“We cannot understand how this junction can form part of what is one of the Mayor’s flagship cycling projects,” Mr Sinha concluded. LCC has called for an immediate redesign of the junction.

A junction, moreover, that will be the gateway to the Olympic Park next summer for a large proportion of the visitors to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It’s perhaps reflective of the often piecemeal, ill-thought-out approach to provision for cyclists in this country that one aspect of cycling infrastructure at the Bow roundabout has actually been praised for its design; a £2,4 million floating towpath along the River Lea.

That’s not a TfL project, however, having been commissioned jointly by British Waterways and London Thames Gateway Development Corporation.

Moreover, it runs North-South at a location while most cycle traffic in the area does not – Brian Dorling was heading East on his way to work, while yesterday’s as yet unnamed victim was riding West; had as much thought and planning gone in to addressing the needs of cyclists on the East-West axis, might those tragedies have been avoided?

2 user comments

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There are two measures which seem to have eluded the thinking of many safety specialists that have gone a long way to my avoidance of crashes and near misses as a cyclist and a driver.

First as a driver (and as a cyclist) I make use of my audible warning of approach in the way it is meant to be used - as a warning. It is not a means to vent your rage or be sounded AFTER the crash is inevitable. It is the light sounding of the horn or the shout when you see the potential of another road user doing something likely to cause a problem, or just to make sure they have noticed you. not a blast and not a toot when you have already committed to a move which relies on the cyclist not changing course.

The warning should be linked to the Highway Code instruction that if you see the hazard of a crash arising you should slow down or stop, and anticipation of the hazards ahead, something many road users need to improve on.

Oh and a reflection - The Traffic Commissioner is charged with the duty to ensure the operators of HGV's and PCV's are of good repute, and also to oversee the issue of professional driving licences. Given that it is not just HGV's but very specifically HGV's in use by the construction industry that feature in most London cycle fatalities, and often these are operated the the same small number of companies with alarmingly the same drivers and trucks involved in several cases, there is a clear case for the Traffic Area Offices to actually prove they are effective in discharging their duty, or showing us how the courts fail them in efforts to prosecute to cut out the dangerous operators. No one as mentioned the Traffic Commissioner to date but I think we need to highlight this potential to regulate the HGV industry - both operators and drivers in respect of wider public safety

These trucks are often operated by small private concerns with a few vehicles contracted 'in livery' to a major client. We need to get that chain of liability tracked right up to the boardroom of the blue-chip developers who can at present manage to distance themselves from the weaknesses underpinning their big picture of a major project. On a site there are clear legal requirements for CDM (Construction design and management) regulations that require a risk assessment of work (for example vehicle movements, in a confined area with personnel moving around on foot) and to deal with the risk a work plan, calling for banksmen and other measures to guide a large vehicle safely. Go out the site gate and this vanishes, unless the contractor or client chooses to apply CDM more widely than currently required.

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 [499 posts]
13th November 2011 - 17:03

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TfL's approach to safety seems to be along the lines of hoping that people complaing will go away.
I've been trying to get a busy junction in S London redesigned for a while. TfL told me it inspected the junction this summer and that there was no problem, shortly before a vehicle lost control and mounted the pavement as I had predicted. This was followed more recently when a pedestrian crossing at green was struck be a vehicle running a red light, again as I had predicted.
Depressingly, I suspect a charge of corporate manslaughter against the head of TfL may be the only way to reverse this approach.
The death of this young woman last week could so easily have been avoided, as could that of Mr Dorling. My sympathies go out to the familes of both and I hope the head of TfL is forced to face the utter lack of action for safety that has led to these deaths and others around London.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2288 posts]
13th November 2011 - 22:53

7 Likes