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The CTC's Road Justice site has updated their post on the death of Julian Evans, who was killed in October 2012 whilst riding a bike in Suffolk, with details of the sentencing of Deborah Lumley-Holmes, who was found guilty of causing Mr Evans death by careless driving. Lumley-Holmes was found to have to have hit Mr Evans on a straight road in daylight.

Lumley-Holmes received a 6 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, 200 hours community service and was banned from driving for 12 months. As I said at the time when the offence of causing death by careless driving was put on the books, I have no interest in seeing drivers that have caused death in jail. However, I am very concerned that Lumley-Holmes has received only the statutory minimum driving ban allowable under the sentencing guidelines for causing death by careless driving.

And, by the way, without seeing more than the barest details of the incident, I am astonished that Lumley-Holmes' driving was NOT considered far below what would be expected of a careful and competent driver in the view of the prosecutors, and therefore was not charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Failing to see another human being in daylight & inadvertently striking them with enough force to kill them is surely not the action of a careful & competent driver.

The sentence of Lumley-Holmes and comments by the judge in his sentencing, are remarkably similar to the case of Lee Cahill, who caused the death of Rob Jeffries, an outstanding man, coach, community leader and personal friend, who was hit from behind in daylight on a straight road by a car driven by Lee Cahill. Same expressions of remorse, same suggestions that the crash was caused by a momentary lapse and a slightly longer driving ban of 18 months.

Such incredibly, well, incredible to me, short driving bans outrage me, because of the implicit message contained. My interpretation is that not being able to drive is such an impediment that even after having completely failed in the most basic duty, that of respecting the safety of other people that are sharing a public space to the fullest extent possible, i.e. by negligence having caused the death of another person, that the offenders should nontheless continue to be permitted the right to operate heavy machinery in close proximity to other people. The message is that driving a motor vehicle is an absolute right, rather than a privilege available only to those people with enough money to be able to afford it.

 

Memorial to Sebastian Lukomski, painted by London bicycle messengers

On 23rd Feb 2004, London bicycle messenger Sebastian Lukomski was run over at the junction of Lower Thames Street and Queen Street Place by a tipper lorry that was turning left into Queen Street Place from Lower Thames Street.  His death was, in my opinion, a watershed moment in London’s cycling politics.  It was one of the first London cycling fatalities to become a media event, thanks to 2 articles by journalist Graham Bowley, whose interest was sparked by the large crowd of London couriers who painted the road near the spot where Seb was killed.  Graham’s articles, published in the Financial Times weekend magazine and the Evening Standard, highlighted the dangers of construction lorries, and also an apparent lack of action by the Mayor’s office on the problem.

Ever since, cycling fatalities resulting from collisions with lorries have received much higher levels of attention from everyone than previously, when they received no attention whatsoever outside of the coroner’s court and the funeral of the deceased.  This attention has been translated by the London Cycling Campaign’s “space 4 cycling” campaign into political pressure for significant changes to the allocation of road space in London.  It has also led to considerable efforts by TfL, the LCC and others to reduce the specific dangers posed by lorries to people cycling in London.

However, as I have said elsewhere, even though progress has been made, there remains a great deal of potential hazard from lorries to people cycling in London, and nowhere is this more apparent than when examining the junction where Seb was killed.  In my opinion, it is one of the most dangerous junctions in central London because it is more or less a motorway, with very high volumes of through traffic, meeting a major cycling route, one of the Mayor’s Cycling Superhighways. Including Seb, 2 people have been killed by lorries whilst cycling in or near this junction in the last 10 years, and at least 2 more have been seriously injured.

After Seb’s death, an ASL was put in exactly the spot where Seb was run over, an extremely stupid change, in my opinion, given that the driver whose lorry ran over Seb would have seen Seb had he looked in his mirror.  The ASL and associated feeder lane encourages cyclists to come up on the left, and stop slightly in front of traffic, which is exactly where you do NOT want to be.

If you examine the pavement on the south east corner, you can see from the damage done by HGVs to the surface, which indicates the frequency and care with which left turns onto Southwark Bridge are made.  An ASL is not just inadequate in these circumstances, I would suggest that it is actually a hazard.

The junction has been reviewed and more changes have been proposed.  Those changes will do nothing, or very little, to lessen the dangers of the junction.  The ASL that I mentioned above is to be extended, for example.  I would suggest that without a 2 phase signal, which allows cyclists to move away a lot sooner than the rest of the traffic, the ASL, even extended, is overall negative for safety.

Andrew Gilligan said earlier this year that his message to planners was ‘do it adequately or don’t do it all’.  I would suggest that he, or someone from the Mayor’s office, needs to get involved in this review now before it goes any further.

There’s a lot more detail on Cyclist in the City blog, including diagrams, an itemisation and a link to allow responses to the consultation. Please do click through.