Cycling campaigners and influential bloggers have rightly lambasted the organisers of the Olympic Games for not caring enough about the needs of people wanting to cycle to the venues. Especially the closure of the canal footpaths in the proximity of the Olympic Park is outrageous. Getting to the Olympic Park by bike really is a demanding endeavour, as Danny William at Cyclists in the City put it:
“If you want to cycle to the Olympics, you can expect to take a detour, dismount from your bike, cross the motorway, maybe you’ll be able to get back on your bike again after that.”
Despite all the justified criticism, I think cycling to the venues still is a good idea, as I found out yesterday. My wife and I had tickets for the first day of tennis at Wimbledon.
Initially, we planned to take the tube, but then found out that there was supposed to be secure, managed and free cycling parking right next to the venue. Hence, we changed our mind and took the Brommis from Highbury, north London, to Wimbledon, south-west London. Continue reading “Going to the Olympics? Get on your bike!”→
About 10 to 20 cyclists die on the streets of London each year. Almost all of them are killed by motorised vehicles. Quite often, the drivers are charged with dangerous driving and have to face an inquest. The results of these inquests, however, are frequently very depressing.
And guess what? He was recently acquitted. The case against the driver named Carlton Lewars was dropped after it was revealed that Lewars suffers sciatica. According to a report in the Evening Standard, he claimed that he suffered a “sudden pain” immediately before his bus hit Jayne. Allegedly, this pain was the reason why he used the wrong pedal.
I’m not expert in law, generally I do trust the British judicial system and I think the presumption of innocence rightly has to be applied if there are any reasonable doubt left. So let’s assume that the “not guilty” decision by the judge was correct.
Nevertheless the whole case is deeply unsettling. The company employing Carlton Lewars – Metroline – knew about his illness but allowed him to stay behind the wheel anyway. The “Evening Standard” quoted a Metroline spokesman stating that Lewars had been declared fit by his GP and the illness did not revoke his bus driving licence.
To me, there seems to be a significant hole in the system. How is it possible that an illness does not render somebody unfit to do his job, but when he makes a grave mistake due to this illness, he’s not responsible for his behaviour?
Either his GP (hughly unlikely) , Metroline and/or Transport for London has to take responsibility, in my humble opinion. Metroline employed an ill man who was unfit to drive a bus safely and hence killed an innocent cyclist.
But how about putting your money where your mouth is? Because of your hiring decisions and employment policies, you’re indirectly responsible for the death of Jayne Helliwell. You knowingly employed somebody who due to his illness wasn’t able to do his job properly.
Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to blame TfL bus drivers in general. In fact I do have a very high opinion about them and thing the vast majority of bus drivers in London are doing an amazingly good job. My personal experience as a cyclist is that almost all TfL busses are driven in a very considerate and careful manner (of course, as always in life, there are exceptions).
LCC’s “London Cyclist” magazine has recently done an interesting story on the cyclist awareness training for bus drivers. I think this is really paying off.
This compares to a total of 82 cyclists, the big majority killed by lorries and vans. The low numbers of cyclist killed by bus drivers is even more remarkable given the fact that TfL busses probably significantly outnumber lorries on the streets of London, the job is very stressful and the pay isn’t fantastic.
Nevertheless, Jayne’s death and the revelations from the inquest are deeply unsettling. Hence, I urge Metroline and TfL to take responsibility for Jayne’s death. Pay a comspensation to her family and donate some funds to the London Cycling Campaign. However, even more important is a tightening of the employment rules. Otherwise, the message to any driver in London is straightforward: Convince your GP to diagnose you with sciatica. That’s the perfect insurance policy against any possible wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, I’m unable to add a comment to Freewheeler’s blog. Hence I do it here.
The crash happened on 11/11/2009 at 11pm. According to the Evening Standard, the bus was waiting in front of red lights in Theobald’s Road in the middle lane and was bout to turn right into Southampton Row. Dorothy passed the (standing?) bus on the vehicles nearside. When she was in front of the bus, she changed landes, apparently without looking or putting her arm out to indicate.
In court, a road crash expert named Barry Wheeler cleared the driver Leola Burte. He said
there may have been a three-second window for Leola Burte to spot Ms Elder become a hazard
however, the driver would have been focusing on the more immediate traffic dangers to her right
the view of the cyclist may have been obscured by a combination of the cab fittings and windscreen wipers
The prosecution suggested that Miss Elder should have worn more visible clothing and should not have ridden in front of the bus in the first place
There are a number of things that deeply irritate me.
Three seconds is quite a long time. Dorothy was either in front or to the right of the bus. Even according to Mr. Wheeler the driver would have been focusing on the things which were happening to her right. I don’t understand how this can be used an an argument in favour of the driver.
How can windscreen wipers obscure the view of a bus driver? If this is really a valid point, busses should urgently be re-designed. If the view was really obscured, why does Mr. Wheeler stress that Dorothy did not indicate? If the driver really was unable to see the cyclist, this would not have helped anyway.
The verdict really is surprising given the fact that – according to an interview the bus driver gave to the Evening Standard after the verdict, even the bus company was convinced that the accident was the drivers fault. According to the Standard, Leola Burte said:
“I went into the office and they [the bus company Metroline] told me they had seen the CCTV and that I was at fault. I was treated like a murderer. They told me I was sacked and to give back my uniform.”
This is really peculiar. Either Metroline really is an utterly awful employer which does not protect its employees at all or the CCTV recording was very straightforward. Freewheeler makes another good point:
If the collision was captured on CCTV (…) it is far from clear to me why there should be any room for doubt as to how long the cyclist was visible in front of the bus. This would be a matter of record, not speculation.
Freewheeler rightly points to the fact that at the same junction another cyclist was killed one year earlier.
All this is really unsettling. Has the jury really done a proper job? I do have some doubts.