Anniversary of Bow death highlights need to improve driving standards and lorry safety

At around 5pm on 11 November 2011, just over one year ago, 34-year-old Svitlana Tereschenko (pictured above) was killed while cycling home from her job as a shop manager at Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford.

Lana, as she was known to her many friends, was popular, hard-working, outgoing, and close to her family even though she was overseas.

She had everything to live for...

Lana loved England, and was determined to contribute her all to society and to succeed despite having arrived penniless from the Ukraine in 2002.

According to the website set up by friends to remember her, she sometimes worked three jobs as well as studying.

Indeed, she'd recently completed an MBA from the University of Gloucestershire, for which she received a distinction.

Yet on that Friday afternoon 12 months ago Lana was tragically killed by a left-turning lorry on the westbound approach to Bow roundabout.

Enough has already been said about the danger at this appalling junction, to which Transport for London agreed to make improvements after strong protests from us and many others in the London cycling community.

Svitlana should be alive

What’s perhaps not so well known is that Svitlana might still be alive if the poor-quality of the junction design at Bow hadn’t been combined with what we consider to be careless driving and a lorry that fell short of the highest safety standards.

This is an opinon shared by many, including her family, and a message in her memorial book says:

“Today is one year from the day you were taken from us by careless driver in an old lorry without proper mirrors.”

The lorry driver who ran over Svitlana is called Gurpreet Shergil, and there's widespread disappointment that the authorities decided not to prosecute him.

At the time of crash, Shergil, while driving his 32-tonne tipper truck, had been talking on his hands-free mobile phone for around seven minutes.

According to his own evidence, while on the phone to his father, Shergil did notice in his side mirror someone walking along the pavement from the back of his lorry towards the front.

The road was blocked with motor traffic and it appears Svitlana had decided to walk around it, perfectly legally, and place herself at the front of the junction.

Driver failed to notice the bicycle

Tragically for Svitlana, Shergil failed to notice this person had a bicycle (even though it reportedly had lights on it), and that the woman rejoined the carriageway to the front and the side of his lorry.

As Svitlana’s Lana’s sister Oksana points out, Svitlana did nothing wrong:

“She was always obeying the rules. She wouldn't cycle on the pavement because she knew it wasn't allowed.”

There’s no evidence that Shergil was using his indicators to show that he was about to left across Svitlana’s path.

LCC’s lorry expert Charlie Lloyd said:

“A skilled driver should have immediately noticed something wrong when a pedestrian that he’d seen in his mirror, then disappeared from view.

"He should have been asking himself where she had gone, and whether it really was safe to pull away and accelerate around the corner?”

As well as the lorry’s mirrors, a Trixi mirror at this junction has been installed by Transport for London to provide extra visibility to lorry drivers... if they noticed it and chose to use it.

The reason this mirror had been installed at this specific location is because it’s the start of Cycle Superhighway 2, taking thousands of cycle commuters in and out of central London.

Shergil had been delivering asphalt to the Olympic Park, a trip he’d done many times before, so must have known about the existence of the Superhighway.

Lorry lacked life-saving safety equipment

Not only did his level of skill fall below that expected from a London lorry driver, but the vehicle he owned and drove lacked a Class 6 mirror, the one on the front of the lorry that provides extra visibility forward and downwards.

These mirrors have been mandatory on all new lorries since 2006, but his was older and he'd not bothered to upgrade it.

His lorry also lacked sensors or cameras to detect cyclists and pedestrians in the high-risk zone.

What’s distressing is that Shergil was working for a company, Conways, which equips its vehicles with the best safety equipment.

However, as a sub-contractor, he was able to drive a lorry that posed a significantly greater risk to cyclists and pedestrians than the best equipped.

We're convinced that Svitlana's death was avoidable if the driver had the best training and was driving the best-equipped lorry.

Londoners should only have to share the roads with drivers and lorries of the highest standards.

Write to your council leader

Our Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling campaign is calling for everyone to only employ the best-trained drivers and safest lorries.

We’ve already had a major success persuading sections of the private sector to accept these higher standards, and we're in discussions with other organisations too.

Now, we’re asking you to write to your council leader to tell your council to accept our Safer Lorries pledge.

Some councils are starting to accept they have a responsibiilty to only spend taxpayers' money on safer lorries, but they need pressure from you to push them into taking firm steps to make lorry safety a priority.

Please take a minute to write to your council leader today, and make avoidable deaths like Lana's a thing of the past...