Metropolitan Police told Transport for London that Aldgate Superhighway route was unsafe for cycling


For the third day in a row Poplar Coroner's Court heard evidence about cyclist fatalities on the Mayor's Cycle Superhighway route 2 from Aldgate to Bow.

Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, a 20-year-old student from France, died on 5 July 2013 at Aldgate after being hit by a lorry while riding a Barclays Cycle Hire bike on the Cycle Superhighway. 

Her mother, Ms Anne Boudet de Mouchet, told the inquest about her distress at the poor provision for cycling in London. She said there is nothing clear for cycles at Aldgate: "I went there, I saw it was all confusing".

Coroner Mary Hassell heard representatives from the Metropolitan Police say they had told Transport for London in 2007 that the whole Aldgate junction design was unsafe for cycling due to the narrow lane widths.

In 2011, the Mayor's Cycle Superhighway 2 directed thousands of cyclists through this junction using blue paint, resembling cycle lanes but offering no protection or extra safety.

The design, which is still in place, provides no safe space for cycling on these roads.

The inquest was shown CCTV from the side of the lorry in the moments before the crash. The video showed that Ms Gerin-Ricard had cycled on the pavement as there was not space on the road to follow the Superhighway route marked around a bus stop.

She rejoined the road in a clear area marked with Superhighway blue paint, just as the traffic was moving off.

She appeared to be unaware that two lanes merge into one at this point, and as she passed a 44-tonne articulated lorry, it moved over to the nearside.

The driver had no chance of seeing her as he acclerated away, and the lorry hit her bike from behind, pushing her and the bike against the hoarding of the adjacent building site.

CCTV shows Ms Gerin-Ricard and the bicycle bouncing back towards the lorry and being caught by the trailer wheels.

The trailer on this articulated lorry had no side guards due to UK exemption from EU rules.

Ms Gerin-Ricard had not been visible at all in the CCTV taken from the in cab 'driver's view' camera. Drivers of very large lorries have no sight the first 2 or 3 metres of road space in front of them.

As this situation was described to the inquest, Philippine's mother called out,"This situation where a cyclist cannot be seen in front of a lorry must be addressed."

The road layout with lanes only 3.1 metres wide was again a major focus of the Coroner's Inquiry.

The whole Aldgate East road system was revised in 2007, removing the one-way traffic system. One of the claimed benefits was increased safety for cycling and walking.

PC Simon Wickenden of the Metropolitan Police Traffic Management Unit gave evidence that he wrote to Transport for London in 2007 raising 21 concerns over the planned changes. His first concern was the plan to use 3 metre traffic lanes through most of the junction.

There are huge volumes of traffic throught this part of London's Inner Ring Road and lane widths of 3 metres cannot be safety shared by cycles and heavy motor traffic.

The Transport for London design team noted and discussed PC Wickenden's concerns. They planned to increase the lane width to 3.25 metres where Philippine was killed. Actually it was only increased to 3.1 metres.

Ms Gerin-Ricard's mother described this response to the police letter as "rather light".

An opportunity to provide a high-quality east-west cycling link through this area was lost when all the road space freed by removing the one-way system was given over to property development.

The Mayor's Cycle Superhighway was installed through this junction in May 2011 without changing the layout.

A 'false lane' area of blue paint leads up to the bus stop; then blue patches with cycle logos continue around the bus stop and into the lane where motor traffic is squeezed into the nearside.

London Cycling Campaign advised Transport for London to provide safe space for cycling along the whole CS2 route when we first saw the plans.

We wrote to Transport for London in 2011 suggesting that this cycle facility should not be built as planned, but the money should be spent on improving the existing Superhighways.

Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the London Assembly and the House of Lords, criticised the conflicting policies of encouraging cycling on the same routes and maximising motor traffic throughput, including the Mayor's 'smoothing the flow', which was publicised widely at this time.

The coroner reached her conclusion that Ms Gerin-Ricard died of "multiple injuries by way of an accident". She went on to make a full statement pointing out that she did not think Ms Gerin-Ricard "was cycling recklessly, in spite of the fact that what she did was dangerous".

The coroner also said, "What we would like, of course, is to have cyclists in a separate cycle lane. It would be safer for cyclists, and motorists wouldn’t have the potential in the same way for this appalling experience of perhaps colliding with a cyclist. But we are in a city with too many people, too many vehicles, too little space.

"I’m going to write to TfL to encourage an innovative response to the problems of this junction. When I say innovative, I mean: ‘Try to think of something that hasn’t been thought before.’ This isn’t a situation where I can see an easy answer.

"The other matter about which I’m going to make a report is the education of cyclists. I think we could change our culture. I appreciate that change has already begun. But I want to support that change, so that cyclists know instinctively how dangerous some of these manoeuvres are. I think a great deal more can be done.

"There will be more and more cyclists, and that is what we want. We have to find new ways of trying to keep them safe."

A full report of the verdict is on Ross Lydall's blog.