Thursday, 24 December 2009

María Emma García Fernández: ‘accidental death’

At approximately 1845 on Friday 12 June a dustcart travelling eastbound was in collision with a 24 year old female pedal cyclist in Charterhouse Street at the junction with Holborn Circus, EC1.

At the time I wrote:

On the face of it, this sounds very much like yet another left-turning heavy vehicle fatal collision.

My speculation was criticised on a comments thread by someone claiming to be a police officer at the scene.

It now transpires that my speculation was correct:

An inquest heard how Argentinian-born Miss Fernandez, a PR student at the London College of Communication who lived in Stepney Green, was cycling with Mr Rispoli when they rode up beside the lorry.

The vehicle, which was indicating left, had gone past the stop line and was waiting at the front of the five-metre bike box, so the driver's view of Miss Fernandez was obscured.

Mr Grant told the St Pancras coroner's court that he saw only Mr Rispoli as he turned into Charterhouse Street, and had no idea that Miss Fernandez was being dragged under his front wheels until he was alerted by other drivers 130 metres further on.

Deputy coroner Gail Elliman said: “The lorry wasn't stopped in the right place. If Miss Fernandez was five metres ahead in the cycling box Mr Grant would have seen her. But the [lorry's] indicator could have been seen by Miss Fernandez. Caution might have been exercised if she believed it was going to turn left.” She recorded a verdict of accidental death.

This newspaper account fails to resolve the issue of whether the refuse lorry driver deliberately drove into the Advanced Stop Line at red, or whether the driver claimed to be forced to stop there when the lights changed. The law currently provides an agreeable loophole for drivers who stop in the ASL, and the legislation ought to be changed to give ASLs the same status as cross-hatched yellow lines at junctions.

There’s also the ongoing scandal of the bigoted car supremacist Metropolitan Police’s refusal to enforce ASLs and the snail-like progress of the legislation transferring enforcement from the police to local authorities.

Finally, there's the hideous irony that this fatal collision occurred at the kind of site which the London Cycling Campaign regards as cycle-friendly and wants to see more of.

In reality cyclists and lorries don’t mix, and cycle lanes which encourage cyclists to undertake traffic are potentially lethal. What London needs is a segregated cycling infrastructure on the Dutch model. Simply tinkering with the existing on-road infrastructure is never going to result in safe cycling or mass cycling.