Young cyclist, Paula Jurek, was tragically killed following a collision with an articulated lorry as it turned left on the junction of Camden Road and St Pancras Way in London on 5th April 2011.
Witnesses said they did not see the lorry (driven by experienced HGV driver, Barry Roe) indicate before turning, however CCTV evidence remained unclear.
After the incident, the vehicle was found to have a loose bulb in one of its indicators although Mr Roe maintained that he had not seen Ms Jurek and that he had checked his indicators that same morning.
It emerged at the Inquest that Mr Roe had initially been charged with causing death by careless driving, but that the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case in February 2013. The CPS offered no evidence in light of new witness testimony that emerged about Ms Jurek’s road positioning. Criminal trials require juries to convict to a standard of proof that is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ while the civil justice system requires a lower standard of ‘more likely than not’ to prove culpability. It appears as though the delayed CPS decision was driven by the fact that there was still enough doubt as to who exactly could have been at fault. Unsurprisingly, this has sparked much debate amongst keen cyclists and motorists alike.
Deputy Coroner, Selena Lynch of St Pancras Coroner’s Court recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision on Friday 21st June 2013 stating: “I have come to no conclusion about whether or not the indicators were activated by the driver” adding that “there is a great conflict on London’s roads between users of all kinds.”
The Highway Code provides some advice to cyclists when manoeuvring road junctions:
“Rule 72: When approaching a junction on the left, watch out for vehicles turning in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left.
Rule 73: Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb.”
The Government’s THINK! Cyclist campaign has also attempted to address the same issues encouraging drivers to look out for cyclists when turning, to always use indicators to signal intentions and to give cyclists a wide birth at junctions. Cyclists are in turn encouraged to make eye contact with motorists where possible and to avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses.
Although within this remit the Code and the campaign are merely advisory, they are helpful in demonstrating common problems and dangers faced by cyclists and motorists when they share responsibility for their actions on the road. Heavy goods vehicles and other large lorries were involved in two thirds of cyclist deaths on London's roads last year, according to accident reports released by Transport for London; greater awareness on both sides will improve this position.
Unfortunately, reoccurrence of tragedies like Ms Jurek’s serve as the only real reminder to cyclists to be more careful when navigating roads in busy urban centres. Cyclists as well as lorry drivers have a responsibility to themselves and to all others with whom they share the road.