Death of French student struck by lorry while riding Boris Bike "accidental"

TfL once again under the spotlight in week's second inquest into death of cyclist in London

by Simon_MacMichael   October 17, 2013  

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

A verdict of accidental death has been recorded in relation to a French student who was killed by a lorry while riding a Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme bike at Aldgate on 7 July this year.

The verdict followed an inquest yesterday in which Philippine de Gerin-Ricard’s family watched harrowing footage of the moment she sustained the injuries that led to her death.

The 20-year-old, in London for a year on a work placement as part of her French university course, was the first person to be killed while riding one of the capital’s hire bikes in the three years since it was launched in July 2010.

The fatal incident took place on Barclays Cycle Superhighway 2 (CS2), which runs from Aldgate to Bow.

The inquest, at Poplar Coroner’s Court, was presided over by the same coroner who 24 hours earlier had said that she was delivering a narrative verdict in the case of Brian Dorling, killed at the Bow end of CS2 in October 2011.

As in that inquest, Transport for London (TfL) came under heavy criticism from the Metropolitan Police regarding the layout of the junction and the inadequacy of cycle safety provisions of CS2 itself, reports the London Evening Standard.

The newspaper reported that a redesign of the Aldgate gyratory system by TfL had resulted in a near-side lane that was 3 metres wide.

According to the Metropolitan Police, the lorry involved in the incident was 2.4 metres wide, while the handlebars of the Barclays Cycle Hire bike that Ms De Gerin-Ricard was riding extended 67 centimetres.

Police also said that Ms De Gerin-Ricard had mostly been in the lorry’s mirrors’ blind spot and would only have been visible for 3.72 seconds.

Proceedings were briefly suspended by Coroner Mary Hassell after the victim’s mother, Anne, left the room after twice watching CCTV footage of the moment her daughter was dragged underneath the lorry.

She died an hour later with medical staff from the Royal London Hospital unable to save her life.

TfL’s lawyer suggested to Mrs De Gerin-Ricard that it had been the lack of high-visibility clothing that had led to her daughter’s death.

In what was described as an angry response, she told the coroner: “The accident Philippine had was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"There is a problem with cycle lanes. If anything had been done, it hadn't been helpful to cyclists.

"I have heard that the clothing cyclists wear, and Philippine was wearing, was discussed here.

"In fact, what needs to be tackled is the provision of proper lanes for cyclists, so that cyclists are protected."

Witness Richard Brown, a bus driver, described how the cyclist “seemed to wobble slightly.”

He added: “At one point she fell backwards and came over more to her right side, into the road.”

The coroner asked him what he believed the cause of the collision was. He replied: “I really feel there was not sufficient space for Philippine to attempt to pass the lorry.

“If there is going to be a cycle route it needs to be kerbed off or some kind of similar arrangement, particularly at busy junctions like Aldgate.”

Giving evidence, lorry driver Richard James, who said he was aware of cyclists and regularly checked for them, maintained he had not seen Ms De Gerin-Ricard before his vehicle struck her.

He said: “I became aware of a tinkling sound, a rattling, which I thought was my mirrors catching on the scaffolding.

“Then I see what had happened. I see in the mirror that a young lady was tumbling back off her bike.”

Following the inquest, the victim’s father shook hands with the lorry driver.

He was reported on Twitter by BBC London transport correspondent Tom Edwards to have “looked him straight in the eye while doing it,” in what appears to be an acknowledgment that the family does not hold him Mr James to blame.
 

23 user comments

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Had the HGV driver or TfL bus driver conducted any scientific testing into relative visibility? No? In which case their opinion is immaterial (no pun intended) and the lawyer should be sanctioned.

Now, whether the girl put herself in a dangerous position or not is the actual subject of the inquest. It sounds like in this case she did, which means she paid an awful price for a simple mistake that could have been avoided by training.

So - how do you reach and educate the girls in their twenties/thirties who are the overwhelming statistical 'victims' of such mistakes? Road - as part of 'the media' do you have contacts at girls/women's magazines? Grazia, Cosmo, etc etc (you can tell I don't read them). A series of non-patronising, non-weirdy-beardy-CTC articles with a "Cycling's the new cool thing but be safe and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD DON'T GO UP THE INSIDE OF HGVs" message might help...?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1168 posts]
17th October 2013 - 8:31

24 Likes

Maybe people wouldn't go up the inside of vehicles if the road didn't tell them to. She was doing everything she thought was safe - cycling in the cycle lane. The Highway Cade even says it's safer there.

What can be done to stop this and other incidents? Proper cycling infrastructure with integrated segregation. Lanes need to be wide (like we saw with the Olympic lanes). Traffic lights need a cycles-only phase to allow people to avoid vehicles at junctions. HGVs need to be off our roads when it's busiest.

posted by teaboy [275 posts]
17th October 2013 - 8:58

24 Likes

And in a parallel case we have a cyclist fighting a FPN for crossing the stop line when the ASL was blocked by a car. Maybe the point is that the young women are more likely to obey the letter of the law without realising the risk to life they are placing themselves in.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1803 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:29

16 Likes

Its worth reading Tom Edwards feed mentioned in the article

https://twitter.com/BBCTomEdwards

"Pedestrian witness: cyclist was 6in ahead of lorry when I saw her wasn't enough room for her on kerb side"

"HGV driver #aldgate cyclist inquest: maybe if they gave out reflective clothes with hire bikes & helmets. coroner: but it was daylight"

posted by ribena [168 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:49

20 Likes

mrmo wrote:
And in a parallel case we have a cyclist fighting a FPN for crossing the stop line when the ASL was blocked by a car. Maybe the point is that the young women are more likely to obey the letter of the law without realising the risk to life they are placing themselves in.

The only link between the 2 cases is the inadequacies of the infrastructure in how it helps cyclists. With high-quality integrated cycle infrastructure there's no need for ASLs as a cycles-only phase at lights does a similar job but allowing safer right turns from a wide, segregated cycle lane on the left.

posted by teaboy [275 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:52

10 Likes

teaboy wrote:
The only link between the 2 cases is the inadequacies of the infrastructure in how it helps cyclists. With high-quality integrated cycle infrastructure there's no need for ASLs as a cycles-only phase at lights does a similar job but allowing safer right turns from a wide, segregated cycle lane on the left.

Problem is, we only have the infrastructure we have. So whilst it does show that what we have is crap, that doesn't help us now. We have seem to be seeing a disproportionate number of women cyclists being killed at junctions??? The question is why?

As an aisde, how would a cyclist only traffic light work without an ASL into which the cyclists could position themselves to take advantage of the light? Or are you suggesting building parallel roads next to the existing roads? and how do you fit that into the current urban landscape??? ie between existing buildings???

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1803 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:27

21 Likes

"TfL’s lawyer suggested to Mrs De Gerin-Ricard that it had been the lack of high-visibility clothing that had led to her daughter’s death."

Shocking statement from TfL.

Until we have the next generation of cyclists come through into parliament nothing is going to change, millions wasted on poor "super highways" leaving the main problem, poor road design & maintenance the same.

Leodis's picture

posted by Leodis [349 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:43

13 Likes

mrmo wrote:
teaboy wrote:
The only link between the 2 cases is the inadequacies of the infrastructure in how it helps cyclists. With high-quality integrated cycle infrastructure there's no need for ASLs as a cycles-only phase at lights does a similar job but allowing safer right turns from a wide, segregated cycle lane on the left.

Problem is, we only have the infrastructure we have. So whilst it does show that what we have is crap, that doesn't help us now. We have seem to be seeing a disproportionate number of women cyclists being killed at junctions??? The question is why?

It could well be the case that more women are killed because they don't take the lane, are generally slower, or they obey the letter of the law - I genuinely don't know. However, the infrastructure we have actually encourages dangerous behaviour exactly where it is most dangerous. ASLs have feeder-lanes on the left, just before the junction and exactly the worst place to be. You can't encourage people to be in one place (primary position) whilst showing them and others that they 'should' be in the bike lane.

We only have the infrastructure we have because councils built it with our money. The vast majority of it isn't fit for purpose. We need to stop painting the roads (which is cheap, and allows councils to be seen to be encouraging cycling and making it safer) and ACTUALLY build things that genuinely encourage cycling and make it safer.

mrmo wrote:

As an aisde, how would a cyclist only traffic light work without an ASL into which the cyclists could position themselves to take advantage of the light? Or are you suggesting building parallel roads next to the existing roads? and how do you fit that into the current urban landscape??? ie between existing buildings???

In many places you can remove a lane of road-space from motor traffic on the left hand side, similar to the Zil lanes during the Olympics, but actually segregated. In some places you divert motor traffic and use the current road for cycling only (Hackney's Mare Street is a good example of this). With wide, light-controlled cycle lanes anyone turning right would wait on the right of the lane (as they do now) and turn across the light-controlled motor traffic when it's stopped (similar to now at many junctions with filter lights).

It would work as an essentially parallel road. The lights can be set to be green for cyclists riding at 15mph (for instance) to provide a green-wave for cyclists whilst holding motor traffic.

posted by teaboy [275 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:54

11 Likes

@teaboy, I do agree where possible it should be done. My experience is that most roads in an urban environment aren't that wide. London is a bit unusual in that it has more wider roads, but imo the drivers are more agressive which doesn't help.

As for blue/red/green paint marking out cycle lanes, all i can say is don't waste the money!!! Either do it properly or don't bother, and certainly don't create situations which make accidents more likely!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1803 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:25

19 Likes

ribena wrote:
Its worth reading Tom Edwards feed mentioned in the article

https://twitter.com/BBCTomEdwards

"Pedestrian witness: cyclist was 6in ahead of lorry when I saw her wasn't enough room for her on kerb side"

"HGV driver #aldgate cyclist inquest: maybe if they gave out reflective clothes with hire bikes & helmets. coroner: but it was daylight"


Well said by the coroner.

As I was saying above; for the purposes of their 'evidence' relating to hi-vis, reflectives, etc, the witnesses are simply unqualified members of the public. The public believe that hi-vis etc are "needed" in order to be safe, even in daylight. This is clearly, demonstrably, incorrect.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [1168 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:45

20 Likes

Don't know if you've kept up with the inquests of this lady and Brian Dorling on twitter, but the Coroner has been awesome, really on the ball with her observations and conclusions re the infrastructure. (She did state that she "is a motorist, a cyclist and a pedestrian" so that explains a lot)

Also sounds like she made life uncomfortable for TFLs lawyers. In addition to the nasty line of questioning around Phillippine's choice of clothing (would they have questioned the victim's choice of skirt if sexual assault was involved?!), she apparently took them to task for 'adversarial' questioning of witnesses.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3691 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:57

13 Likes

Gizmo - "Had the HGV driver or TfL bus driver conducted any scientific testing into relative visibility?"

Probably not, but the piece on road.cc about lorries the other day described the difference in visibility (of a cyclist coming up the inside of an hgv) as "astonishing".

We've really got to progress from arguing that it's up to drivers to see us, however dark our clothing and however fast we're riding, and instead try to focus on how we can assist those drivers by making ourselves more visible.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
17th October 2013 - 14:41

11 Likes

I find this kind of thing, inferring that someone was at fault because they didn't (for example) have a helmet on or they were not wearing high viz very, very callous and intimidating. Shifting responsibility onto the victim is really quite evil and nasty.

The overwhelming majority of people killed by motor vehicles (4000 per year) in London do not die in an impact. They die prematurely because of the horrendous air pollution. If a child with leukaemia succumbs to their illness because air pollution made it hard for them to breathe and recover, is it their fault for not wearing a face mask all day? Or if an old man has a stroke, is it his fault for not, avoiding the most polluted roads for the last 20 years, like a rat in amaze?

We all have collective responsibility here. But the blame needs to be shifted, and put squarely at the feet of those people blocking improvements to active transport in London. There are 7 million of us living here and it is totally unacceptable that some are driving on their own in otherwise empty vehicles in one of the most traffic congested cities in Europe.

I just cycled from Crystal Palace to Shoreditch in a shirt, jumper and low viz coat; I had a meeting so pedalled slowly as though I was walking. I didn’t break a sweat, and must have past 1000 cars sat in traffic during my 2 hour trip. People are suffering, and lives are being blighted, by the fact that some don’t have the intelligence and imagination to give up their cars. These habitual drivers need to be told that their selfishness is really hurting others.

Yes we need better cycle infrastructure, but that will only come when people understand that blocking any improvement to active transport is morally abhorrent. TFL and their lawyers should be ashamed of themselves and so should any politician that drags their feet or obfuscates on this issue.

Cycle to and camp on British Vineyards

Alexbb's picture

posted by Alexbb [7 posts]
17th October 2013 - 14:42

14 Likes

mrmo wrote:
@teaboy, I do agree where possible it should be done. My experience is that most roads in an urban environment aren't that wide. London is a bit unusual in that it has more wider roads, but imo the drivers are more agressive which doesn't help.

I think if you really look at the average urban junction, there is usually loads of room. Yes, we would need to design our streets a bit different but there is plenty of room for this. We need to make our streets look like they promote cycling and feel like they are safe. Then we don't need to increase motor traffic flow.

mrmo wrote:
As for blue/red/green paint marking out cycle lanes, all i can say is don't waste the money!!! Either do it properly or don't bother, and certainly don't create situations which make accidents more likely!

My local council "improved" cycling infrastructure the other day by painting 4 pictures of bikes in the carrigeway near the end of a path...

posted by P3t3 [158 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:04

18 Likes

Gizmo_ wrote:
Had the HGV driver or TfL bus driver conducted any scientific testing into relative visibility? No? In which case their opinion is immaterial (no pun intended) and the lawyer should be sanctioned.

Now, whether the girl put herself in a dangerous position or not is the actual subject of the inquest. It sounds like in this case she did, which means she paid an awful price for a simple mistake that could have been avoided by training.

So - how do you reach and educate the girls in their twenties/thirties who are the overwhelming statistical 'victims' of such mistakes? Road - as part of 'the media' do you have contacts at girls/women's magazines? Grazia, Cosmo, etc etc (you can tell I don't read them). A series of non-patronising, non-weirdy-beardy-CTC articles with a "Cycling's the new cool thing but be safe and FOR CRYING OUT LOUD DON'T GO UP THE INSIDE OF HGVs" message might help...?

+1 I keep saying that in most of these cases I can see how the cyclist gets themselves into unwelcome positions. It is about road awareness and being confident in knowing that you can be seen, and that your road position is the right one. It leads to better decision making and keeps you safe. Easy if you are aware of the problems facing other road traffic.

In the case of London in particular there are young people who cannot afford a car and do not have space for to park a car where they live. Cycling, on the other hand, is greatly affordable, healthy and poses no particular great time loss in covering any given distance across the capital. As such there are whole swathes of people in the 18-30 year old age group have no understanding of what it is like as a car driver. No where do we teach these people about being on the road with other road users, and so cycling does become a dangerous occupation.

In this case, it is very sad to hear how political box ticking in respect to cycling infrastructure has helped towards the situation which cost this young lady her life. While I agree that infrastructure should be changed, I think that the inherent issues with the price of change means that meaningful adjustments will not take place for a long time (unless the weight of political will can force the change). The main thing is that we don't demonise other road users.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1535 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:26

10 Likes

teaboy wrote:
Maybe people wouldn't go up the inside of vehicles if the road didn't tell them to. She was doing everything she thought was safe - cycling in the cycle lane. The Highway Code even says it's safer there.

I agree. My two sons did their cycling proficiency a few years back. My eldest is a keen cyclist like me. The instructor was moronic for several reasons. First he was told that his saddle was too high when it was perfect. She said it was dangerous if he couldn't put both feet flat on the ground while in the saddle. Bonkers. When my lad came out into the road to pass parked cars by a decent margin to avoid having a door open in his face, she told him it was dangerous to be so far out in the road. There were other bits as well. As far as I was concerned this instructor was worse than useless.

Unfortunately "official" advice isn't always the best advice and some cycle training schemes are flawed because of it. Unfortunately the people that get killed cycling are disproportionately the new or casual cyclists following the official rules.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [873 posts]
17th October 2013 - 16:42

13 Likes

Alexbb wrote:
I find this kind of thing, inferring that someone was at fault because they didn't (for example) have a helmet on or they were not wearing high viz very, very callous and intimidating. Shifting responsibility onto the victim is really quite evil and nasty.

Crikey, I've never thought of myself as "evil". I merely pointed out that wearing hi-vis can help avoid becoming the victim of a SMIDSY. I wasn't specifically referring to this tragedy but, each time an accident occurs, it makes me wonder whether hi-vis clothing may have made a difference in this, and other, cases.

What concerns me is the relentless low level ridiculing of those who wear hi-vis, and the potential this negativity has on people making an informed choice. If cyclists are "bullied" into not wearing hi-viz, (the odd ribald comment here and there, the occasional dorky photo, the thinly disguised quips by journalists), then the uptake of hi-vis is reduced, and the chances of not being seen are increased.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
17th October 2013 - 17:07

21 Likes

@Neil753
I don't intend to mock anyone else with different sartorial choices! There are no absolute standards in such matters! And everyone has the right to do whatever they think will help keep them safe.

But there is an argument that wearing hi-viz actually encourages non-cyclists to see cyclists as a weird out-group and thus makes it harder for them to get respect and makes it more difficult for people to imagine cycling as an ordinary mode of travel rather than a freaky special-interest hobby.

See Kevin McKenna's recent generic anti-cyclist rant in the Guardian about those lycra and high-viz wearing freaks (in a new spin on victim-blaming he claimed that high viz and helmets 'distracted' drivers and so caused accidents!).

As an aside - I doubt many evil people think of themselves as 'evil'! Apart from Dr Evil from Austin Powers, I guess. He probably wore the label with pride!

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [968 posts]
17th October 2013 - 17:30

13 Likes

The other issue with high-viz is that it can only be seen if the driver actually looks properly, which is often not the case.

In my job I come into contact with a number of school groups, some of whom are ALL wearing high-viz. It makes it difficult to pick out individuals within a group. I can imagine how this might transfer to the roads.

posted by teaboy [275 posts]
18th October 2013 - 8:01

9 Likes

I'm not a London rider but perhaps these bike lanes etc give people a false sense of security. They're an 'aid', but ultimately it's you and the other traffic. There are times when I approach a junction and look at what type of vehicles are in the queue, do I think the lights are about to change etc, and just say to myself, "just stick yourself on the back of the queue"....and then someone (the 'occasional cyclist' as I call them - no helmet, high viz) just 'sails' up the inside, or outside, of the traffic completely oblivious to the risk they're under. They usually ignore the red light as well.

Shades

posted by Shades [260 posts]
18th October 2013 - 12:26

10 Likes

Shades wrote:
I'm not a London rider but perhaps these bike lanes etc give people a false sense of security. They're an 'aid', but ultimately it's you and the other traffic. There are times when I approach a junction and look at what type of vehicles are in the queue, do I think the lights are about to change etc, and just say to myself, "just stick yourself on the back of the queue"....and then someone (the 'occasional cyclist' as I call them - no helmet, high viz) just 'sails' up the inside, or outside, of the traffic completely oblivious to the risk they're under. They usually ignore the red light as well.

Don't judge other cyclists on their clothing choice. It has no effect on how they ride, or how experienced they are. I certainly don't become a bad cyclist if I'm just riding to the shop in normal clothes any more than I become a good cyclist when I'm in full lycra. Cycling infrastructure should be for everybody, and if it can't keep an 8 year old safe on their way to school and me safe on my way to work (in lycra mode) then it isn't good enough.

I agree about checking vehicles and sitting in the queue, but when the road tells you otherwise it's not surprising some people don't.

posted by teaboy [275 posts]
18th October 2013 - 12:54

10 Likes

Shades wrote:
I'm not a London rider but perhaps these bike lanes etc give people a false sense of security. They're an 'aid', but ultimately it's you and the other traffic. There are times when I approach a junction and look at what type of vehicles are in the queue, do I think the lights are about to change etc, and just say to myself, "just stick yourself on the back of the queue"....and then someone (the 'occasional cyclist' as I call them - no helmet, high viz) just 'sails' up the inside, or outside, of the traffic completely oblivious to the risk they're under. They usually ignore the red light as well.

There is so much bollocks in this comment that to sit and point it out to you would be a waste of both our time because they are such simple things that if you dont get them now, you never will.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [697 posts]
18th October 2013 - 13:05

9 Likes

Quote:
I agree. My two sons did their cycling proficiency a few years back.

Cycle proficiency has been replaced by Bikeability. Its been updated to include "taking the lane" where appropriate.

As Easy As Riding A Bike gives a bit of background...
http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/the-primary-position...

posted by ribena [168 posts]
18th October 2013 - 14:05

7 Likes