Inquest into death at notorious Camden junction last November finds Space for Cycling could have prevented cycling tragedy

The London Cycling Campaign is calling on supporters in Camden to lobby for a safe cycling boulevard in Clerkenwell, the existence of which would almost certainly have saved the life of Londoner Francis Golding killed in a coach crash last November.

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An inquest held yesterday into the death found that protected cycles lanes and cycling-specific traffic lights would have given Mr Golding potentially life-saving protection from the coach that turned across his path and killed him.

LCC Chief Executive Ashok Sinha said, "If our Space for Cycling plans for Clerkenwell had been in place last November, then it would have been almost impossible for Francis Golding to be killed by a left-turning vehicle.

"We're pleased the coroner has drawn attention to the need for protected lanes and cycling-specific traffic signals at large junctions where thousands of motor vehicles per day present a potentially lethal danger to people on bicycles."

Mr Golding was the second of six cyclists who died on London’s streets in November 2013, when the 69-year-old architectural heritage consultant suffered fatal injuries at the corner of Southampton Row and Theobalds Road.

This junction forms part of one of the busiest routes for cycling in Greater London, with Transport for London figures showing that 64% of all peak-hour traffic on Theobalds Road is people on bicycles.

As part of LCC’s Space for Cycling campaign, local people (led by Camden Cycling Campaign) are calling for this route to be transformed into a ‘cycling boulevard’ to provide safe passage for the hundreds of thousands of cycle trips along this route each year.

The installation of protected Space for Cycling along the proposed 'Clerkenwell boulevard’ would reduce cyclists’ risk of collision with motor traffic, which is curently a major cause of concern in this area.

Creating a safe and attractive route for cycling would also help create a social and community hub, an idea supported by members of the InMidTown Business Improvement District.

At yesterday’s inquest the senior coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell, heard evidence that there have been three cycling deaths at this junction in the last 10 years.

Of the 77 injury collisions at this location, 29 of the victims (38%) have been cyclists; two cyclists have died with another being seriously injured by large vehicles turning left at the exact location where Francis Golding died.

Ms Hassell criticised Camden Council, saying, "I am disappointed that Camden Council and other authorities have not made further progress. I have been told that we [sic] have done a bit but not much has done so far."

The coroner told the court that she would be sending a Prevention of Future Deaths report to Camden Council regarding changing the road layout.

She commented that this would not be of any help to Mr Golding's family, but that it may help prevent further cycling fatalities in the future.

The court heard evidence from the police that there are three narrow traffic lanes squeezed into less than 10 metres road width.

There is no space to allow cyclists to reach the ASL safety area in front of the motor traffic, meaning cyclists are often hemmed in by heavy motor traffic.

There are no protected cycle lanes or cycling-specific traffic lights on this route despite the heavy volumes and fast speeds of motor traffic. 

The coroner talked about the need to protect people on bicycles from motor traffic using protected lanes, and that to make the junction safe there would have to be separate signalling to allow time for cyclists to cross.

The police suggested that it was possible to have separate signals for cyclists to give them more time.

If one of the traffic lanes was removed then there would be Space for Cycling in a protected lane.

While the controversial westbound bus lane could be made wider to accommodate cycling.

All these changes and more would be possible if the Space for Cycling campaign ask for a Clerkenwell cycling boulevard was adopted by Camden Council.

The court saw video evidence that coach driver Joel Hobson had been indicating right, while driving on the extreme right of the road before indicating left and cutting across all three lanes to turn into Southampton Row. 

At the last moment the coach driver had to stop because a taxi was coming up the inside lane.

He looked again but failed to see Mr Golding who was cycling behind the taxi, despite video evidence clearly showing a bright white light on the front of Mr Golding's bicycle.

In evidence to court the police collision investigator, PC Stephen Sayer, said that before making his report he had not seen the video showing the bus in right hand lane with its right indicator on.

Other evidence presented to the court suggested that it was possible to turn left even in a very large coach without going far out into the right-hand lane.

Mr Hobson told the court that he was trying to deliver his elderly passengers to the Shaftesbury Theatre, but had been on the wrong side of the road and was trying to turn around in extremely heavy traffic.

The coroner found that the cause of death was "Road Traffic Collision". She is concerned about the road layout and will be writing a "Prevention of Future Deaths" report to Camden Council suggesting changes, Camden will have eight weeks to reply.

The coroner also said "I find that the cycle hit the coach rather than the coach hitting the cycle. That may seem slightly pedantic but I think it's helpful to understand how the collision occurred".

Quite a few witnesses expressed the view that they couldn't believe how Golding did not see the coach.

In answer to the question "Why didn't the cyclist see the coach" the coroner commented "A moment's inattention. Who's to say that couldn't happen to anyone in this court. . . . I accept the evidence of the collision investigator."

Charlie Lloyd, LCC's road danger reduction campaigner commented, "A slightly different interpretation of the evidence could be that Golding saw the coach, saw that it stopped to let the taxi zip past and assumed the driver had seen him too and would let him pass. By the time he realised that he was mistaken it was too late to avoid the collision.

"My view of the evidence is that "mistake" is a fairer assessment than "inattention".

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