This is a guest post by Andrea Casalotti, who attended the inquest on the death of cyclist Deep Lee, who was killed by a lorry at King’s Cross in Oktober 2011. For a full report of the Inquest, read Paul Foot’s article. These are Andrea’s personal points on some aspects of the Inquest.
The Coroner’s conclusion was “Death caused by road traffic collision”. She considered but decided not to issue a “Prevention of Future Death” (PFD) Report.
The Coroner (who also heard the Inquests of Brian Dorling and Philippine de Gerin-Ricard) conducted the inquest fairly, asking the right type of questions and at one point castigating TfL for waiting for corpses before implementing change. She also concluded that if the Transport Authorities continue to plan roads that put cyclists and HGVs sharing the same space, tragedies like the death of Deep Lee are inevitable.
The Coroner said she is very keen to use PFDs whenever she sees road conditions being a potential cause of future deaths, but she explained that she was not going to issue one in this case because TfL had presented new plans for the junction, which are now under consultation.
In my view that was an error, because TfL’s new plans are a joke and do not remove the main factor that caused the collision, namely the lack of a lane for cyclists to reach safely the ASL. In other words, anyone coming from Gray’s Inn Road (as Deep Lee did) would find herself in the same situation and risk her life.
This failure to issue a PDF is very unfortunate: a key moment in the Inquest was when the driver made it very clear what he would do: “There should be only one lane on Gray’s Inn Road”! It is difficult to understand why the Coroner did not see that TfL’s new plans do not solve the problem.
Watching the CCTV and the Police reconstruction it is clear that Deep Lee did nothing wrong, nor dangerous. She was riding from Pentonville Road, went around the King’s Road Bridge gyratory, and once in Gray’s Inn Road, she was unable to reach the ASL, because there was no feeder lane.
The two lanes are too narrow and she became bottled in. Even if she had been able to reach the ASL, it was occupied by two vehicles. She waited on the right side of a bus. The lorry was behind the bus. When the lights changed, Deep Lee maintained her line; the lorry veered right to enter the narrow gap at the other end of the junction and crashed into Lee.
It is therefore clear that the driver was careless (not dangerous), and the CPS should have prosecuted him; a careful driver would have had the chance of seeing Deep Lee, as she cycled past his right side and when the lights changed (when the lights were red, she was probably obscured by the bus).
But the main culprit was the road layout namely:
- there should only be one lane on Gray’s Inn Road leading to York Way and a feeder lane for cyclists;
- - the ridiculously narrow gap at the entrance of York Way. This has now been enlarged, but is still one lane. The consequence is a jostling for space by all road users
I cannot help feeling that one of the reasons for the failure to issue a PFD was the lack of legal representation by the family and friends of Deep Lee. Kenji Hirasawa, Deep Lee’s boyfriend, did his homework and had prepared some important points (See also his open letter from two years ago). However, his impact could have been maximised by a professional lawyer.
On this point Martin Porter QC has subsequently tweeted: “If any family lacking representation at Inquest into cyclist contact me, I will do what I can to help…”
Finally, something that was not mentioned at the Inquest, but should have is that Deep Lee was on her way to her first day to the new St. Martin’s campus in King’s Cross. The University should have alerted all students about the treacherous road conditions and advised on safe routes to the campus.
I would like to conclude with my sympathies for the family of Deep Lee and for everyone who knew and loved her.