Amazing cyclist survival story highlights danger on Clerkenwell Road

Victoria Lebrec was cycling to work on 8th December, on Clerkenwell Road. At the St.John street junction she was in a crash with a left turning skip lorry. She was knocked down and run over by the lorry resulting in severe injuries to her legs and pelvis.

The picture above shows Victoria surrounded by her smiling family after several weeks in the the Intensive Care unit at the Royal London Hospital.

Life-saving operation performed in street

Victoria was saved by a dramatic on-street operation by doctors from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service based at the London hospital. Using REBOA a procedure developed for battlefield injuries Dr. Samy Sadek opened an artery to insert a balloon to block the loss of blood and protect the blood supply to the heart and brain.

This is a high risk procedure only used in the most desperate situations. As reported in the Evening Standard surgeon Tom Konig said "Had she suffered her injuries two years ago, she wouldn’t have made it to hospital, which is a testament to the pre-hospital team that went to her."

Safer Space for Cycling

Tom continued "For me, the debate about cycle segregation has found a voice in her. She is testament to how flesh and bone and lorries cannot share the same road space."

Clerkenwell Road and Theobald's Road are part of the most popular cycling route to Central London. In the morning peak hour 64% of the traffic is people on bikes. There is a plan to create a "Cycling Boulevard" along this route, London Cycling Campaign has included this route in its plan for a Central London Bike Grid.

Transport for London and local boroughs have plans to develop some sections of this grid but it is not clear what is planned for Clerkenwell road. The Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, has expressed doubts about the delivery of safe routes across the Grid.

Speaking to the Standard Victoria commented on the Mayor's cycling programme "I think he [Boris Johnson] hasn’t really delivered on what he said he would do," she said. "I think at the moment, it’s not safe to cycle.

"I have always been really cautious when cycling. You have got buses overtaking you, and taxis, but I have never felt that this would happen to me."

Dangerous junction on Clerkenwell Road

The junction at St.John street has a very poor casualty record. In June 2008 a woman cyclist recieved life changing injuries in a crash here. In November 2005 Harriet Tory was killed in crash with a left turning tipper lorry.

Harriet's death highlighted the problems with large lorries, which are involved in over half the cyclist fatalities in London.  The combination of poorly designed lorries which restrict driver vision and unprotected junctions which encourage rapid turns create unacceptable danger for London's cyclists and pedestrians.

Victoria's recovery

Despite the life-saving intervention by the emergency doctors Victoria has had a really difficult time. While at the Intensive Care Unit at the London Hospital she endured six operations in five days. Sadly the doctors were not able to save her leg which had to be amputated above the knee.

Victoria is now facing a long, difficult recovering coming to terms with the severe damage as a result of what should have been an avoidable injury. Her fater Yves is writing an ongoing blog about her recovery and issues around building safer roads and provding proper coverage by the specialist emergency medical teams.

Victoria's sister Marie is planning to run the Madrid marathon on 15th March, fundraising to help the London Air Ambulance which saved her sister's life. Her fundraising page is here.