Professor killed after van driver opened door without looking for cyclists, inquest hears

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz was thrown into the path of a taxi as she cycled in central London

A coroner’s inquest has heard how a professor of genetics was killed as she cycled in central London when a van driver opened his door without looking, forcing her to swerve into the path of a taxi that was overtaking her.

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz, aged 55, died on 20 September last year from injuries sustained in the incident which happened at around 11.30am the previous day on St John Street, Clerkenwell.

The inquest heard that the van was parked "a considerable distance from the kerb," reports the Islington Gazette.

Recording a narrative verdict, senior coroner Mary Hassell said: "Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died in a road traffic collision that occurred at approximately 11.30am on September 19 in St John Street, 70 metres south of the junction with Clerkenwell Road.

"She was cycling in a safe and steady manner wearing a helmet and fluorescent strap. Her bike was in good condition.

"A van driver had parked his vehicle far from the kerb. This created a hazard and meant less space in the road.

"The van driver didn't look before opening the driver's door sharply. The result was either that Professor Bitner-Glindzicz has to swerve suddenly, or that she was sideswiped.

"In either event, the opening of the door caused her to fall under the wheels of a black cab overtaking," she added.

In April this year, the van driver involved, a 43-year-old man, was charged with opening a car door, or causing or permitting it to be opened, so as to cause injury, an offence punishable with a maximum fine of £1,000.

He had been due to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court later that month but died in his sleep two days before his scheduled appearance.

The taxi driver involved was interviewed by police last October on suspicion of causing death by careless driving. The file was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service, but now charges resulted.

Professor Bitner-Glindzicz specialised in molecular genetics and was a clinical geneticist at University College London, as well as working at Great Ormond Street Hospital where she focused on child deafness, including carrying out cutting-edge research on Norrie Disease.

She was married with two grown-up children and ahead of the hearing at Poplar Coroner’s Court her husband, David Miles, told the London Evening Standard: “We very much hope that the inquest will help us to better understand the circumstances that led to Maria’s death and sincerely hope it generates the urgent improvements in road safety vital to end such devastating and preventable loss in the future.”

The charity Cycling UK has led calls for stricter penalties, including the option of imprisonment, in cases where a cyclist has been killed as a result of a driver or passenger opening a door, and for a new offence of causing death or serious injury through opening a vehicle’s door.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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