Bow roundabout: "Nobody is to blame" for death of cyclist Svitlana Tereschenko says coroner

No action to be taken against tipper lorry driver who failed to signal while talking on hands free mobile phone

by Tony Farrelly   May 3, 2012  

Bow Roundabout lorry and flowers (credit- London Cycling Campaign under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Police investigating the death of Svitlana Tereschenko killed last year at Bow Roundabout while cycling home from work decided as early as February this year that the driver of the tipper truck which killed her, Gurpreet Shergill, would face no charges over the matter despite his failure to indicate that he was turning left and talking on a handsfree mobile phone at the time of the incident. That decision was afterwards condemned by Ms Tereschenko's family.

Svitlana Tereschenko died on her way home from work at around 4.45pm on a Friday evening last November. She had pushed her bike to the head of a queue of stationary traffic as she tried to get to the start of the  Barclays Cycle Superhighway heading at Bow Roundabout. As the traffic moved off she was struck and killed by the Olympic park tipper truck as it turned left across her heading for the Blackwall Tunnel.

Police accident investigator PC Christopher Thorne said that although the driver, Mr Shergill had been in breach of the Highway Code for using his phone and failing to indicate  he was not breaking the law. The police investigation concluded that Ms Tereschenko had placed her bike in the lorry's blindspot and that as the lorry turned she moved further in to the blindspot.

“There is every likelihood he didn’t see her,” PC Thorne told the inquest. “That is the crux of the matter.

“As he turned, she would have been progressively deeper and deeper into his area of restricted vision.”

CCTV footage viewed at the inquest showed Ms Tereschenko positioning her bike in front of the lorry seemingly unaware of the danger of the situation; witnesses to the incident, passengers in a car behind the lorry, also said that they could see the danger that Ms Tereschenko had placed herself in and that it had seemed to them clear that the driver of the tipper lorry intended to turn left.

Accepting the police findings in a narrative verdict Deputy coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe ruled that Ms Tereschenko's died "as a result of traumatic road death". While acknowledging that if the lorry had been indicating it might have given Ms Tereschenko some warning and the chance to consider her movement and position on the road Dr Radcliffe went on to conclude "that nobody is to blame".

In her verdict Dr Radcliffe also stressed the importance of constantly reminding cyclists of the dangers posed by such lorries and "the positions where they are very vulnerable and which they should avoid at all costs."

Speaking afterwards to the Evening Standard's Ross Lydall, Ms Tereschenko's mother Mariia Vorobei who had travelled from the Ukraine along her elder daughter Oksana to attend the inquest compared the approach taken to the incident in this country with what would have happened in her native Ukraine:

“My daughter was in love with this country. We respect the conditions of this country.

“But in the Ukraine, a driver would be prosecuted always if there is a victim. This is a criminal case. We are shocked.

“How is it possible that everybody else could see the cyclist but not him? What if it was a little child? He was not concentrating on the road. That is why he didn’t see her.”

We are absolutely shocked that he failed to offer any sort of apology.”

Mrs Vorobei said she was also upset to see that a ghost bike left by the side of the roundabout in her daughter's memory had been vandalised and appealed for help in replacing it.

Svitlana Tereschenko's was killed at the Bow roundabout less than three weeks after Brian Dorling died while cycling in the opposite direction to his job at the Olympic Park - the lorry driver who killed him is currently on bail on a charge of causing death by careless driving.

As a result of the deaths of Mr Dorling and Ms Tereschenko Transport for London has been forced to re-design the junction at Bow Roundabout while both TfL and the Mayor's office have both been heavily criticised for failing to act on a report commissioned by TfL warning of the potential dangers posed by the design of the roundabout and the start of Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS7. The Green Party London mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones has called for TfL and the Mayor's office to be investigated on a charge of corporate manslaughter over the issue.

The deaths at Bow coming soon after the death of 24-year-old student Deep Lee who died under the wheels of a lorry at another notorious London junction at Kings Cross has pushed the issue of cyclists' safety in London high up the political agenda in the run up to the Mayoral election and gave further impetus to campaigns by the LCC and others focusing dangerous junctions and the threat posed to cyclists by lorries.

His crtics view what happened at Bow as emblematic of Boris Johnson's approach to cycling. They accuse him of encouraging large numbers of Londoners to start cycling on London's roads during his mayoralty while at the same time failing to take adequate measures to ensure their safety because of a desire to maintain the smooth flow of traffic. Bow, they argue, was the inevitable consequence of Mayor Johnson's cycling revolution.

9 user comments

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Oh FFS!

This is heart-breaking, demoralising and infuriating all at once.

Quote:
... if the lorry had been indicating it might have given Ms Tereschenko some warning ...

Really?!?!? I wondered what those blinking lights were for - AND WHY THEIR USE IS REQUIRED BY LAW!

Seriously - time for a lie down in a darkened room

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [555 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 16:03

0 Likes

Hmm, so two violations of the highway code and the driver isn't to blame at all? Interesting Confused

For people who want more details the linked Evening Standard article has a lot more information.

For what it's worth I believe the design goals of the CS scheme (in a general sense) to be the primary issue in this case. Ms. Tereschenko was (totally understandably) moving herself to the place she felt safest; at the front of traffic and on the blue paint of CS7. In effect, it was the false feeling of security that the CS designs offer to less experienced cyclists that caused Ms. Tereschenko to move from what was actually a safe position (behind the lorry) to one in just to the left rear of the drivers cab. The CS design philosophy creates the image in the cyclists mind of a safe haven, whereas in reality they are nothing but road painted blue.

posted by jackh [105 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 16:40

7 Likes

Another let down by the police and courts. Angry

I'm amazed this hasn't resulted in causing death by careless driving given the driver was on the phone and wasn't indicating.

“There is every likelihood he didn’t see her,” PC Thorne told the inquest. “That is the crux of the matter.

If he hadn't been on the phone, there is every likelyhood he may have looked and seen her.
If he had been indicating, there is everylikelyhood she may have not positioned herself there.

posted by thereverent [304 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 16:57

2 Likes

So breaches of the highway code are not going to be punished, is that what they are saying

Quote:
PC Christopher Thorne said that although the driver, Mr Shergill had been in breach of the Highway Code for using his phone and failing to indicate he was not breaking the law.

But I thought that Road Traffic Act was in place to cover this?

Quote:
A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of the Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the [1981 c. 14.] Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the [1985 c. 67.] Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings

SO although breaching the Highway code is not a criminal offence, using those breaches they should have found that the liability was firmly at the door of the driver, for failing to indicate, whether or not he was on a phone. This STINKS if you ask me.

I've been in a car thats failed to indicate before, the blues and two's were straight on and pulled my friend over to explain that under section 103 of the Highway Code....blah blah blah, I'll quote it below, but he got a stern talking to about his driving and how it could constitute careless driving if anything were to happen by him failing to signal before his manoeuvre. If you cannot be punished for failing to signal, why have indicators on vehicle's in the first place. Why mark it down in a driving test?

Quote:
Signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians (see 'Signals to other road users'), of your intended actions. You should always
give clear signals in plenty of time, having checked it is not misleading to signal at that time
use them to advise other road users before changing course or direction, stopping or moving off
cancel them after use
make sure your signals will not confuse others. If, for instance, you want to stop after a side road, do not signal until you are passing the road. If you signal earlier it may give the impression that you intend to turn into the road. Your brake lights will warn traffic behind you that you are slowing down
use an arm signal to emphasise or reinforce your signal if necessary. Remember that signalling does not give you priority

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070289

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8935 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 17:26

4 Likes

It's quite simple - if the authorities won't blame distracted, highway code breaking drivers for their in-attentative driving causing deaths, then they MUST finance a technological solution to the massive blindspots on the huge trucks. Or ban them from the roads.

They cannot have it both ways. Far be it for me to suggest that if this moron wasn't on his hand free and in a conversation he would have seen the cyclist BEFORE she entered the truck's blindspot. Why is the onus on the cyclist and not the driver who is responsible for a vehicle which poses such a risk in the first place?

Disgusted once again.

posted by moonbucket [55 posts]
3rd May 2012 - 17:58

5 Likes

If a court can rule that by no fault of either party fatal colisions can occur on a stretch of road, surely that means that the road design is at fault. This needs to be fixed before others are killed.

Any cycle infrastructure that leads cyclists through dangerous junctions like these must offer them adequate protection, this stretch of the cycle "superhighway" fails cyclists in this respect.

My experience of the London superhighways has been quite negative, they are well signed and direct (unlike most other cycle infrastructure here in London), but they are (legally!) driven and parked in/used as loading zones by motor vehicles even/especially at peak commuting times, and in many spots they lead cyclists into direct conflict with fast moving motor traffic.

Before any more superhighways are rolled out we need to fix the ones we have to an acceptable standard. All the main parties have signed up to LCC's go dutch campaign, so fingers crossed that even if Boris is re-elected we will get these fixed as a priority...

sparrow_h's picture

posted by sparrow_h [35 posts]
4th May 2012 - 9:44

6 Likes

Simply a mind boggling decision.
The driver is not to blame because he distracted himself with a phone call !>!>!

Gravity - it won't let you down.

bigmel's picture

posted by bigmel [66 posts]
4th May 2012 - 10:52

4 Likes

sparrow_h wrote:
If a court can rule that by no fault of either party fatal colisions can occur on a stretch of road, surely that means that the road design is at fault. This needs to be fixed before others are killed.

Seconded.

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
5th October 2012 - 21:14

5 Likes

About time the police and the CPS were prosecuted for not doing the job they are paid to do

Get out and ride

posted by davidtcycle [62 posts]
17th November 2012 - 12:44

4 Likes