An inquest has heard that the most significant factor contributing to the death of cyclist Federica Baldassa was ‘a moment’s lapse of concentration’ reports the London Evening Standard. The Italian was crushed to death by a lorry in Holborn in February.
Senior coroner Mary Hassell said: “I’m a cyclist myself and it only takes a moment’s lapse of concentration and I think that’s what happened here.”
Baldassa, who had worked with Vivienne Westwood in Milan, had been celebrating with a friend after learning that her internship at fashion supplier TNT Showroom had been turned into a permanent job.
Her friend Anna Udall told the inquest:
“She was excited and on top of the world and she was hoping to go to Moscow for a fashion trip. She was planning on starting the next stage of her life by handing in her notice at the Riding House Cafe where she was waitressing.”
Baldassa was below the legal alcohol blood limit to drive a car, but as she turned off Vernon Place into Bloomsbury Square, she was pulled under the wheels of a lorry which was also turning left and killed instantly.
CCTV shown to the court showed Baldassa cycle towards the delivery lorry before moving up its left-hand side as it began to turn.
Coroner Mary Hassell told the court: “It was surprising to me that Federica carried on cycling when the lorry was indicating and started to turn. I’m afraid I think that is the most significant contributory factor.”
Collision investigator, Paul De Neys, said Baldassa would have been visible in two of lorry driver Marek Sewilo’s mirrors for no more than a second and a half, but pointed out that at that moment, Sewilo should have been looking in front of him.
Hassell agreed, saying: “I can’t identify anything to do with the driving of the lorry that was a contributory factor in the collision.”
Simon Wickenden, a Traffic Management Officer with the Met Police, told the court there had been 33 injuries at the junction in the past 10 years – 11 involving pedestrians and 11 involving cyclists. However, he said that there was no distinct pattern to indicate a particular design problem or lighting issue.
Wickenden said that banning left-turning vehicles would merely increase the risk on the alternative route and with the incident having taken place shortly after 9pm, banning heavy goods vehicles during peak hours would not have prevented it either.
A vigil and die-in was held in memory of Baldassa by campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists in February. She is one of eight cyclists killed on London’s roads so far this year.