A heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver - who was found to be uninsured and unlicensed - has been told he faces prison after his lorry crushed a 54 year-old cyclist to death in July 2013.
CCTV footage from the scene seconds before the accident shows the man stopping in a yellow box before driving straight through a red light near the junction of High Holborn and Kingsway in central London.
The driver was told he had shown a “cavalier lack of respect” for the law by jumping the light and driving straight over the married father-of-one, dragging him along the road in front of horrified commuters, causing “massive head injuries”.
After denying his guilt for two years and pleading not guilty to charges of causing death by careless driving, and causing death while driving with no insurance or a licence, the man was bailed to face trial at Blackfriars Crown Court last week. Minutes before his trial was due to start, he changed his plea to guilty.
The court heard how the HGV driver had been disqualified from driving a total of five times and had two drink-driving convictions as well as convictions for driving a lorry with a dangerous load, assault and criminal damage.
Repeat offenders such as this should not be allowed to drive HGVs for a living. For someone with such a shocking driving history to even be allowed to continue working behind the wheel of a large lorry simply beggars belief.
The court also heard that at the time of the crash, the driver’s view of the road was blocked by items on his dashboard including a roll of toilet paper, a tub of sugar and a mobile phone holder.
Details of the man’s past emerged within hours of a 55-year-old woman being pronounced dead following a cycling accident with a HGV at the junction of Millbank and Lambeth Bridge in Westminster last Thursday.
The woman, who was a major figure in the London arts world, was on her way to work when she tragically became the fifth cyclist to die under the wheels of an HGV in the capital this year.
The roundabout where the accident occurred is a notorious accident blackspot and was subject to a Transport for London (TfL) safety consultation about its redesign in 2012. The improvement proposals were rejected by Westminster city council however on the grounds that they would have made the junction unsafe for motorcyclists and pedestrians.
TfL has since announced that Millbank roundabout is one of a number of junctions it plans to improve as part of its Better Junctions programme and that a new redesign will be put forward for public consultation later in the year.
Sadly that will be too late for London’s latest cycling fatality whose death only highlights the urgent need for the Government to do everything it can to make junctions safer for all road users especially pedestrians and cyclists.
Time and again we see just how devastating it is to have HGVs sharing limited road space with groups of tightly packed cyclists particularly at junctions and around tight corners.
It’s no secret that HGVs pose a significant danger to cyclists in the capital. Out of the 50-plus cyclists to die since 2010, more than 30 have involved a collision with an HGV.
Five of the 13 cyclist deaths in London last year involved an HGV while in 2013, HGVs were responsible for nine out of the 14 cycling deaths that year. These figures are totally unacceptable especially when considering such vehicles only make up for around 4% of London’s traffic.
The fact that all five London cyclist deaths so far this year have involved HGVs speaks volumes. Along with redesigning our streets we need to do more to provide safer road space for cyclists by looking at vehicle visibility measures and restricting the largest lorries from entering the city during rush hour when most cyclists are on the road.
For further information regarding cycling safety and the threat from HGVS please see: Fatal Road Accidents are Five Times More Likely to Involve HGVs.
Paul Kitson is Slater and Gordon’s Principal Lawyer for the CTC, the UK’s national cycling charity.
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