Brian Dorling inquest: Coroner to record narrative verdict on Bow roundabout fatality

Cyclist had "a false sense of security" due to blue-painted Barclays Cycle Superhighway road markings

by Simon_MacMichael   October 16, 2013  

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

The coroner hearing the inquest into the death of cyclist Brian Dorling, killed by a lorry on Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 in October 2011 as he rode to work at the Olympic Park, has said she will record a narrative verdict, given the nature of her comments so far her comments are likely to prove uncomfortable for both Transport for London and the mayor, Boris Johnson.

Coroner Mary Hassell said that 58-year-old Mr Dorling may have had “a false sense of security” due to the route, marked out by what a police officer giving evidence on Monday described as “just a piece of blue paint.”

Full details will not be released until after a second inquest, due to be heard today, into the death of French student Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, who died while cycling elsewhere on the same Barclays Cycle Superhighway in July this year.

Introduced in England and Wales in 2004, a narrative verdict allows a coroner to record the circumstances of a fatality without attributing its cause to a specific individual.

The fact the coroner, who is presiding over both inquests this week at Poplar Coroner’s Court, is holding back from delivering her full conclusion into Mr Dorling’s death suggests that she may see certain common factors at play in the two cases.

It may well be that when the verdict into Mr Dorling’s death is delivered, it will be an uncomfortable one for Transport for London (TfL) which launched the first Barclays Cycle Superhighways in July 2010.

On Monday, after reviewing CCTV footage of the fatal incident, the coroner said: “It just seems to me that it’s an accident waiting to happen if cyclists are guided into the space where blue paint is on the left and they’re in the very place where the lorry is going to hit them.”

Accident investigator PC Alex Hewitt said, “It’s almost an impossible situation,” adding that the road markings at the point where Mr Dorling was killed had no legal effect and “It’s just a piece of blue paint.”

The coroner also took counsel acting for TfL to task yesterday for what she saw as unnecessarily adversarial questioning of witnesses.

During yesterday’s second day of the inquest, PC Simon Wickenden from the Metropolitan Police’s traffic management unit told the inquest: “I consider the use of the blue road surface marking to be ambiguous and to lead to confusion.”

Mr Dorling was killed by a left-turning lorry as he sought to go straight across the junction, and PC Wickenden outlined the pros and cons of the blue road markings being extended across the junction.

“The advantage is that it highlights the potential presence of cyclists to drivers. The disadvantage is quite clear,” PC Wickenden, quoted in the London Evening Standard, went on.

“One: it places cyclists in a position in the roundabout where they may come into conflict with traffic when it is leaving the roundabout.

“Two: it may give cyclists a false sense of security.

“In my view, it would be safer not to have the marking at all on the roundabout,” he added.

In a statement, Mr Dorling’s family said: "This was supposed to be a dedicated cycle route offering people a safer way to use their bikes on the capital's congested roads.

"It's only after Brian's death that TfL has seen fit to act to change the junction's layout so that vulnerable road users such as cyclists are given priority over larger vehicles which would otherwise pose them a greater risk."

In July this year, the driver of the tipper truck involved in Mr Dorling’s death was found guilty of causing death by careless driving and sentenced to 24 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for one year.

31 user comments

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Cycle lanes at the side of roads are totally useless, cars can travel in them, they can park in them, what's the point, I guess in theory it gives cyclists a dedicated space, but the reality is it doesn't and I agree it can give a false sense of security.

The only way forward is to change the law to forbid vehicles from entering cycle lanes and to put a rumble strip or some form of separation between the cycle lane and the main road.

posted by mikeprytherch [204 posts]
16th October 2013 - 8:32

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The truck driver killed this cyclist not the road design.

posted by IanW1968 [133 posts]
16th October 2013 - 8:33

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mikeprytherch wrote:
Cycle lanes at the side of roads are totally useless, cars can travel in them, they can park in them, what's the point, I guess in theory it gives cyclists a dedicated space, but the reality is it doesn't and I agree it can give a false sense of security.

The only way forward is to change the law to forbid vehicles from entering cycle lanes and to put a rumble strip or some form of separation between the cycle lane and the main road.

I disagree with one of your points. I do not think "rumble strip or some form of separation" is needed, what happens when the cyclist needs to right turn? What happens when a vehicle is stuck blocking access, do you get off your bike and push around in oncoming traffic?

We need presumed liability and major legal changes on the roads and we need to invest in expert consultants not town planners who have never been on a bike since they where 10.

posted by Leodis [168 posts]
16th October 2013 - 8:45

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Let's face it, the superhighways are nothing more than route markings

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [165 posts]
16th October 2013 - 9:02

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What is needed is high quality integrated segregation, not blue paint. It's all well and good spouting "go Dutch", but to do so there has to be the massive infrastructure investment and additional cyclist-only green light phases at junctions to allow it.

The worrying part of the report is:
“The advantage is that it highlights the potential presence of cyclists to drivers. The disadvantage is quite clear.

“One: it places cyclists in a position in the roundabout where they may come into conflict with traffic when it is leaving the roundabout.

“Two: it may give cyclists a false sense of security.

“In my view, it would be safer not to have the marking at all on the roundabout,”

The last sentence seems to suggest a return to the old style of cycle lane that vanishes just when it's most needed, rather than improvements to actually make it safer and easier for cyclists.

posted by teaboy [148 posts]
16th October 2013 - 9:25

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The blue paint is only about making it more obvious that there might be more cyclists in the vicinity, the trouble is that many cyclists seem to think that the paint gives them not only extra legal protection as well as some super power of physical protection.

“In my view, it would be safer not to have the marking at all on the roundabout,” he added.

Which is the problem with many blue routes and other cycle lanes. It's all very well having a nice wide cycle lane when the road is wide and straight, but as soon as the situation gets tricky - traffic lights, roundabouts, roads narrowing - the lane markings have a nasty habit of just disappearing.

On these major junctions, like Aldgate, Bow, Vauxhall, there needs to be both physical separation of the lanes and temporal separation using different traffic light phasing.

Mixing bikes and HGVs is just asking for - and repeatedly receiving - trouble.

posted by unsliced [14 posts]
16th October 2013 - 9:35

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I'm not from London, but I rode along CS2 on the way back to the car after RideLondon and it's awful - there are cars parked all the way along it and buses stopping then going again - you're constantly having to steer in and out of the blue markings.

In my opinion it would be safer to just stay in the main carriageway.

posted by sporran [39 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:05

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IanW1968 wrote:
The truck driver killed this cyclist not the road design.

Good infrastructure prevents carelessness turning into accidents and then deaths. The police witness has suggested this is not good infrastructure (which was blindingly obvious before somebody died here).

The "we need to send bad drivers to prison for years and years" brigade are barking up the wrong tree. Drivers are humans, and human nature is what it is, only road design can achieve the levels of safety that are needed.

What we need is better infrastructure, and that means unraveling cycling and motoring routes. A bike can't get run over by a truck if you are not in the same place at the same time as a truck.

posted by P3t3 [40 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:08

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The problem is that common sense isn't at all common, especially on the road. Cyclists, drivers and pedestrians simply aren't focused on their own safety or that of others.

Crossing a roundabout safely on a bike isn't rocket science.

posted by nod [60 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:20

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sporran wrote:
I'm not from London, but I rode along CS2 on the way back to the car after RideLondon and it's awful - there are cars parked all the way along it and buses stopping then going again - you're constantly having to steer in and out of the blue markings.

In my opinion it would be safer to just stay in the main carriageway.

My old commute was from Islington to Docklands - fot the Aldgate to Docklands section I could have quite easily picked up CS3 (Tower Hill to Barking) but chose not to as it was completely inadequate, not to mention the blue paint is slippery in wet weather.

Running parallel to it is Commercial Road (A13) which has nice big fat bus lanes and hardly any buses. Adapting the A13 for bikes would have been far more useful than its current route

CS3 runs along Cable Street, Narrow St and Poplar High St on this link:
https://www.google.co.uk/maps?q=Commercial+Road,+London&hl=en&ll=51.5123...

posted by VeloPeo [211 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:23

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The problem with cycle lanes is that in general, cars do tend to avoid them, moving out towards the centre of the road as a result. This means that if you don't trust the cycle lane (and many have parked cars and other obstructions in them), or want to overtake traffic rather than ride along the inside, then there is less space at the road centre.

Personally, I'd like to see either properly segregated infrastructure, which then makes every junction point where side roads cross the cycle path a nightmare (see, for example, the approach to Richmond Park) or no kerbside markings at all and an expectation that cyclists will overtake in slow moving traffic, as do motorcyclists and scooters.

posted by alexb [41 posts]
16th October 2013 - 10:23

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Tragic that time and time again it seems to come down to the following question:

Is it better to have rubbish facilities for cycling or no facilities?

Given the numbers of cyclists, and more importantly the people who would potentially cycle if it didn't feel so suicidal, this is the wrong question - the only solution is continuous high-quality safe convenient facilities for cycling.

The lessons are there if only we will learn them.

posted by pmanc [113 posts]
16th October 2013 - 11:41

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Example here...

Cycle lane on the left goes straight on, road on the right turns left:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZCS3FLgYWM

posted by ribena [132 posts]
16th October 2013 - 11:47

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pique wrote:
There is a similar situation at Vauxhall Bridge, where cyclists on the Superhighway are more or less directed to go up the inside of the coaches and lorries which are told they can use the same lane to turn left.

If you make it across the bridge, you then have to face the challenge of the gyratory.

Death awaits you at every turn!

I live near by and point blank refuse to cycle around there. I go the extra distance to avoid it completely.

posted by zanf [420 posts]
16th October 2013 - 12:18

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Goldfever4 wrote:
Let's face it, the superhighways are nothing more than route markings

They certainly do not perform at "pollution catchers" either, which is why Boris spent a few million quid on it.

I bet he purchased it from the same guy who was selling golf ball finders as bomb detectors.

posted by zanf [420 posts]
16th October 2013 - 12:19

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I'd forgotten about that video. Makes me feel sick every time I see it.

posted by hanuman [12 posts]
16th October 2013 - 12:27

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mikeprytherch wrote:
Cycle lanes at the side of roads are totally useless, cars can travel in them, they can park in them, what's the point, I guess in theory it gives cyclists a dedicated space, but the reality is it doesn't and I agree it can give a false sense of security.

I agree completely (except possibly on rumble strips which don't always effectively segregate).

Painted cycle lanes (and even segregated ones) also have the disadvantage that they encourage drivers of motor vehicles to beleive that the cyclists should, or must, always ride on that space and that they don't need to share the carriageway.

Unless it is a mandatory cycle-only facility with enforcement to ensure motor vehicles don't use it then any cycle lane painted on a road is a waste of time and money as well as creating risks of which the planners (and consultants) seem to be blissfully unaware)

Shay

posted by shay cycles [210 posts]
16th October 2013 - 12:33

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shay cycles wrote:

Unless it is a mandatory cycle-only facility with enforcement to ensure motor vehicles don't use it then any cycle lane painted on a road is a waste of time and money as well as creating risks of which the planners (and consultants) seem to be blissfully unaware)

Well, if any good comes out of this there's absolutely NO way planners and consultants can be unaware of the failings of painted lanes now.

posted by teaboy [148 posts]
16th October 2013 - 12:38

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Just a reminder about the short film Laura Dorner made, in which she speaks with Debbie Dorling about Brians death:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWaod-i69Js

posted by zanf [420 posts]
16th October 2013 - 13:02

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The junction of the A3 and A23 at Kennington is another dangerous section of Cycle Super Highway. It is particularly bad heading into town where the blue painted line jumps without warning from one lane to another. Any driver unfamiliar with the junction may well find cyclists moving over from one lane to another to follow the blue paint. but there are no warnings that this will happen. Any cyclist moving over to follow the blue paint has to be very watchful indeed that an unsuspecting motorists may suddenly find a bicycle in his or her path. But not all cyclists are aware that motorists have no warning and follow the paint. It is only a matter of time before there is a fatality there if you ask me. Whoever conceived the Cycle Superhighways at TfL simply drew lines on a map of the most direct routes. Anyone who has been cycling in London traffic for some years will tell you that while using quiet backstreets may involve slightly longer distances, they're generally quicker as there is far less traffic and they're also a lot safer. The Cycle Superhighways were not designed by a cyclist, and that's the real flaw with them.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
16th October 2013 - 13:33

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Trust no one and nothing except your own judgement! It pays to assume every motorist has not seen you, or doesn't care, and will pull out or cut you up.

That way it comes as no surpise when they do.

It takes guts and experience to ride in rush hour traffic, but you have to guard against complacency because you just never know when something unexpected is going to happen.

I think a rumble strip would be a good idea, I think they have introduced something similar in Spain. Also priority lights and making it illegal for traffic to enter the "cycle lane" would help; so long as it's enforced.

Ultimately you have to look after yourself because nobody else will.

Sad state of affairs itsn't it? Sad

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [183 posts]
16th October 2013 - 13:41

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The tragic thing about this is that London put in Olympic Lanes very quickly and they were actually very good.
What's needed in London now is the same thing for bikes. Not a 1m wide strip of blue paint. A whole dedicated lane policed by cameras and with the same penalties for infringement as bus lanes.

The volume of bike traffic in London now demands more space and a dedicated cycle-planning department. No junction should be re-worked, no roadworks permitted, no re-design authorised unless it can be proved that pedestrians and cyclists are given absolute total priority over the motor vehicle. It's do-able. It won't be overnight but it will be a gradual creep - one junction here, one bit of road there put in to the highest qualities - not just a box-ticking exercise to say "oh yes, here's our concession to bikes".

I agree with the comments about cycle lanes giving drivers the excuse to say "get in the ***ing bike lane!" and that's why bad infrastructure is worse than no infrastructure at all. But Boris and TfL need to act NOW.

posted by crazy-legs [484 posts]
16th October 2013 - 15:41

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Quote:
the road markings at the point where Mr Dorling was killed had no legal effect

Is this really true? I assumed that the blue SuperHighway lanes in London had "mandatory cycle lane" status (except where they are shared with busses). Motor vehicles must not drive or park in Mandatory Cycle Lanes (MCLs), or they are committing an offence. Not that we can persuade the police in Cambridge to enforce them.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1329 posts]
16th October 2013 - 16:42

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Unfortunately @cat1commuter it is true. The blue painted lanes are still only cycle lanes with the normal rules; so while a good amount are decorated with solid white lines which are allegedly 'unbreakable' there is a large amount where there's no white border and also significant distances where there's no continuous blue lanes at all, just the occasional blue square (e.g. along Clapham Common, just north of Clapham South tube).

The confusion is exacerbated with some confusing timed signs (e.g. along the embankment between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges) where it seems as though the bike line is only effective between 7am and 7pm, although most car drivers either ignore or haven't read those signs (quelle surprise, non?).

posted by unsliced [14 posts]
16th October 2013 - 17:05

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crazy-legs wrote:
The tragic thing about this is that London put in Olympic Lanes very quickly and they were actually very good.
What's needed in London now is the same thing for bikes. Not a 1m wide strip of blue paint. A whole dedicated lane policed by cameras and with the same penalties for infringement as bus lanes.

The volume of bike traffic in London now demands more space and a dedicated cycle-planning department.

Couldn't agree more - there's enough of us now and almost every aspect of cycling is beneficial to the individual and wider society. Motorised traffic creates far more social cost than is paid for by the driver through fuel duty and VED so let's prioritise cycling along with pedestrians and public transport. London has limited space so allocate it to those whose actions make our society a better place. Dedicated high quality cycle infrastructure along with reduced space for motor traffic will only result in an increase in cycling and all of it's associated benefits.

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [141 posts]
16th October 2013 - 22:44

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An interesting feature of some of the superhighways is that they're only technically operational between certain hours, according to the signs on CS8 I only noticed today after being narrowly overtaken then watching the car plough down the blue lane at the highly busy time of 10pm. But then it does have a picture of the bike lane, then 7am-7pm, so he was probably legal, if unnecessarily dangerous.

chrisl's picture

posted by chrisl [31 posts]
17th October 2013 - 0:36

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A vert important point in this case has been down played, deliberately?. He went through a RED light, that is a traffic light as most cyclists seem to think they only apply to motor vehicles and pedestrians. Before anyone starts complaining yes so did the lorry driver. I live in twickenham and the number of times I have nearly been run over by cyclists going through red lights when the pedestrian lights are green is going into 3 figures now. The police don't seem to take any action or those without lights, another common occurance in the borough. The RTA applies to all road users and perhaps if a few more cyclists got run over then perhaps they and the police will pay more attention. The most common time seems to be rush hour and now the nights are getting darker then so will the inverse increase in pedestrian injuries continue.

posted by lang1952 [2 posts]
17th October 2013 - 13:26

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CS = Car Superparking.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [625 posts]
17th October 2013 - 17:10

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"the number of times I have nearly been run over by cyclists going through red lights when the pedestrian lights are green is going into 3 figures now. "

I strongly disapprove of cyclists RLJing - above all when pedestrians are crossing. But I could point out that I've been nearly run over by motorists going through red lights more often than I have been by cyclists. I can think of three occasions of the former in the last couple of months, and not one such incident with a cyclist.

A particular annoyance would be motorists 'stealing' then entire green-man phase at certain junctions as by the time the last 'its only just gone red' motorist has whizzed across, the pedestrian green light has gone out again.

Interesting that you want cyclists killed for disobeying the highway code. Would it be OK for someone to get a gun and shoot some of the many, many drivers who do the same, then? Or are only cyclists subject to such sanctions?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [625 posts]
17th October 2013 - 17:16

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No I don't want cyclists to be run over, but neither DO I. I think we have all seen the railway incident of YET another cyclist trying to go through a railway crossing and nearly killed, Oh that must be the train drivers fault, according to fluffykitten

posted by lang1952 [2 posts]
1st November 2013 - 2:02

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