Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Inquest into the death of Daniel Cox

Yesterday the inquest took place into the death of Daniel Cox, the promising young artist killed as a consequence of being run down on his bicycle by a left turning lorry at Dalston Junction on 02.02.11.  Ross Lydall of the Evening Standard was there and reports the verdict of 'accidental death'.  Apparently the concern of the Coroner was directed not so much at lorries with avoidable blind spots running down cyclists, or the totally unenforced contravention of red traffic lights when motorised vehicles cross the line into space before the Advanced Stop Line reserved for cycles, but instead on the paradoxical situation that ASLs might be placing cyclists in danger.
So, there we have it, the inquest into the 'accidental' death of Daniel Cox reveals as the most disturbing feature of his death that the ASL might have placed him in danger.  Since it was the ASL apparently that killed Daniel, we can now see why the CPS dropped all charges against the driver.
I very much hope that the Coroner appropriately grilled that driver over his decision to encroach into the advanced stop area in order (so he apparently claimed) to get a better view of the junction and over the fact that he did not apparently have the benefit of a legal nearside mirror.
I ought to stress that I was not there and do not have access to the evidence but what I have read suggests that the lorry driver goes through the first stop line (contravening the red light) indicating right and eventually stops at the Advance Stop Line.  A cyclist coming from behind (in all probability knowing the lights had just turned to red), would not see either a left indication or that the lorry had blocked the ASL.  Cyclist perfectly sensibly moves ahead to the second line where he ought to be well ahead of the lorry but, as he finds when he gets there, is alongside (or maybe only slightly ahead of the lorry - I cannot know) because the lorry is further ahead than it should be.  Lorry driver sees nothing of the cyclist either because of the inadequacy of his observation or the inadequacy of his mirrors (or both).  Cyclist cannot go further forward without jumping a red light.  Lorry driver indicates left and runs down cyclist.
So how is it that it is ASLs, rather than (say) defective lorries or bad driving that is putting us in danger?  I can only imagine it is that the very existence of ASLs lulls us into a false sense of security that there will be a space for us ahead of the traffic that we should use.  Whereas in reality of course there is no such space because so many motorists, and all those paid to enforce the law,  do not give the slightest attention to an ASL, to the extent that it is quite unremarkable for a lorry driver to say that he encroached onto a space reserved for cyclists to get a better view.
To that extent perhaps the Coroner has some sort of perverse point: either enforce ASLs or do away with them.  However the blind eye being turned to planks whilst identifying this mote is astounding.

Subsequent thought: the CPS do seem to be a lot more willing to prosecute in cases involving the death of a pedestrian than cases involving the death of a cyclist.


  1. As I was cycling home last night, I tried to get into an ASL, only to find it blocked - by a police van.

    I tend to agree that, if ASLs are not enforced, they cause more danger than if they weren't there at all. I've certainly had some nasty incidents - including an assault by a bus driver about whose intrusion into an ASL I complained - over them.

    It would be useful, nonetheless, to have a means of getting safely ahead of the traffic - and enforced ASLs would be a good one.

  2. At the nearest junction on my road there are no ASLs, however the stop line has been pulled back from the junction, particularly the right turn lanes, so that buses can turn. Yesterday there was a car that was beyond the stop line and was oblivious to the bus that was trying to turn who was honking his horn at him to move so that the bus could turn. So it's not just ASLs that drivers flout and cause issues for other vehicles out there.

  3. ASL's were a lazy and waste of money way of trying to deal with the problem. Not until "all" traffic lights have an earlier filter for cycles can they say that they really are taking the safety of cyclist seriously.

    The more I cycle and the more I read of blogs such as this the more angry I get at the penny pinching and lackadaisical attitude of the government towards cycling in this country.

    Until people's safety is put before the convenience of the motor vehicle thousands more people are going to die. Our kids, pedestrians and the cyclist safety are all put behind keeping the motorist happy.

    It's an absolute disgrace.

  4. Drivers are now getting so arrogant with cyclists that even those working on Cycle Race routes are disregarding safety .
    Driving on the route of the Tour de Suisse today , i saw a large group of spectators at the top of an incline in the 50kph zone so i slowed and put on my hazard lights to warn the fast approaching " Sponsor Vehicle " !
    He zoomed past , then slammed on the brakes so as to get to the kurb to distribute some of the " emmantal cheese " samples .

    Threatened " fisticuffs " when challenged about his behaviour !

    Regardless of the danger created towards the public these " Accredited morons " behave as though there are no rules , when around Cyclists , Vunerable Road Users or any NON Accredited vehicles . The caravan of the TDS is a joke that even the police cannot be bothered to escort !

    Those wanting to ride the route or spectate will find that " Police Control " is quite lenient in that stoppage is only from about 10 mins before the racers arrive as against up to five hours with the Tour de fRance !

  5. I attended the inquest and was amazed that in spite of the fact that the driver, by his own admission, had driven into the ASL area there was no suggestion that he had done anything wrong in so doing. The coroner's only question in relation to this encroachment was to ask why he hadn't gone to the front of the box.

    The driver and indeed an earlier witness stated that the lorry was positioned about half way into the ASL box. I don't know the size of this area at the junction in question but the implication is that the front of the lorry would have been approximately 2 to 2.5 metres from the front of the ASL box. Given that Mr Cox was positioned in front and to the near side of the lorry he would have been, through no fault of his own, in the driver's blind area. Had the lorry been positioned correctly outside this area there would have been between 4 and 5 metres between the driver and Mr Cox. In other words Mr Cox would have been visible to the driver.

    I find it quite extraordinary and deeply unsettling that that this was seemingly ignored by the CPS.

  6. Questions that spring to my mind:
    Why did the police not flag up the mirror and the ASL abuse and take that further as evidence?

    Did the cyclist really approach from behind (info is hard to come by), or were they already established with the vehicle HGV appearing after?

    Why arent defective vehicles being stopped on the road? Mirrors missing, bald tyres and overweight were all flagged up a few years back in some Police stats, where around half failed in their duty to maintain their vehicle.

    Why arent manufacturers being forced to design safer HGVs and lorries? Porthole windows, clear doors.

    Why arent hauliers and logistics firms being pushed more into investing in rail? It makes far more economical sense, and would benefit us all.

    There are just so many questions and the more these events happen the more that are raised. Enquiries and court cases should be made more public so that we can all learn from this, and really enquiries shouldnt happen when infact police investigations SHOULD. It says to me that standards and resources in traffic policing are lacking and that other departments end up having to take the investigation on.

    1. Just your first question is enough to warrant a trial, I feel. Dan should have been safe in the ASL box. Also, if Mr Weatherley works for a company (I don't know, sadly), wouldn't they be liable for not having the correct mirrors on their vehicles? No mirror, incorrectly signalling right, pushes into the ASL (past a red light). I'm at a loss as to what else they think they need to take this case to trial, preferably as Dangerous Driving not just Careless Driving.

      As Anon said (above) it is extraordinarily upsetting that the CPS appear to have dismissed all of these elements. Or just don't see them as significant? Or just don't care?? If I drove through a red light I would be fined and receive points on my license. I don't believe that Mr Weatherley has even been fined for not having the required mirror.

      Disgraceful. And heartbreaking for the people that loved him.

    2. @Georgina - as far as I understand the law on companies (not a great deal unfortunately) there are certain qualifications to be considered before a company can be held liable for some kind of corporate manslaughter.. and if Mr Weatherly is a contractor or independent/small business owner himself it may not get that far.

    3. I hadn't realised that the cyclist was in front of the lorry. I'd previously had the impression he was perhaps to the side. This makes it far, far worse. I'm really angry now.

      In response to the point about rail freight, Downfader, more traffic is gradually shifting to rail, at least partially because of high fuel costs. Rail freight is encouraged with low track access charges to use rail. The problem is it remains expensive to load things on and off trains, so rail works best for long distances. It's also hard to see that lorries are replaceable for jobs like taking bricks to building sites and so on. I have the feeling the lorry in this case was carrying building supplies. I have the general impression that it's lorries serving building sites that are often involved in these accidents. Long-distance lorries carrying stuff for supermarkets, say, tend not to be on the busiest urban roads much and are operated by the better-run companies.

      In short, things are moving a bit to rail and also a little to the waterways (look at how much household waste moves down the Thames in London). But lorries are indispensable for some purposes, which makes it all the more important that they start behaving better.