Senior Coroner concludes Henry Lang’s death ‘accidental’
A coroner has concluded that the death of Henry Lang, the IT specialist killed while riding along a cycle path in Richmond last year, was accidental.
West London Coroner’s Court heard on Monday, April 20 that Henry was riding along the cycle path on the A316 towards Richmond Circus and cycled across the give way lines of the cycle path at the junction with St John’s Grove. The driver of a dustcart did not give way as it turned into St John’s Grove and Mr Lang was run over by the rear wheels of the vehicle. The driver of the dustcart stopped at the scene and Mr Lang was airlifted to the Royal London Hospital, but doctors were unable to save him and he died a day later in hospital.
A report by the serious collision investigation unit “found no evidence to suggest the driver of the dustcart should be prosecuted in relation to Mr Lang’s death”.
Henry's death highlights massive confusion in the design of safe road infrastructure and in the enforcement of laws requiring careful driving. Despite the confusion over priorities at this junction many cyclists will be disappointed in the failure of the police to consider there was a duty of care on the driver to look out for cyclists on the well used track which is plainly visible to drivers turning off the main road.
Highway Code rule 183 says "When turning, give way to any vehicles using a bus lane, cycle lane or tramway from either direction". However at this junction and at thousands like it formal priority has been removed from the cycle track with give way lines painted across the track.
Unfortunately that layout was seen as a safe design without realizing that it requires cyclists to give way to faster traffic overtaking them from behind. The latest advice from the London Cycle Design Standards (section 5.3.4) says the priority at this sort of junction should be reversed to reduce danger and "to offer the highest level of service for cyclists".
Such a change would make cyclists journeys safer and make them feel safer. The current design gives a false sense of safety which actually increases the risk of collision.
The most dangerous cycle lane in Richmond
London Cycling Campaign's local group has described the cycle track alongside the A316 as "the most dangerous cycle lane in Richmond" for the repeated use of this junction design.
In the UK, cyclists crossing the give way line at a cycle path have no legal protection. The advisory Highway Code rule 170, regarded as the rule most often disregarded in the Highway Code, says “You should watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way.” This advisory wording means that motorists do not give way to pedestrians, and as cyclists are not referenced they are forgotten altogether.
The normal rule in continental countries is that vehicles making any turning movement should give way to pedestrians or cyclists going straight ahead across their path, unless there are signs or signals saying otherwise.
LCC and others have pushed for cycle and pedestrian priority over turning traffic, but to date national government has refused to legally reinforce this. A legal change would make it much easier to introduce segregated cycle tracks, and it would make walking and cycling feel much safer, like it does in the Netherlands. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill says that the government doesn’t encourage cycle priority because of the low levels of cycling, and they will only reconsider this position if we see an increase in cycling. Yet there are barriers that need to be overcome before cycling becomes a realistic option for most: and road danger is the most significant barrier.
As reported in the Evening Standard Henry, aged 40, had announced his engagement to his partner Hanna shortly before the fatal crash on 21st July 2014.