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.
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