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More on Emma Foa
23.09.07 by Buffalo Bill

The sentencing of the driver who killed Emma Foa has attracted a lot of interest and comment in the virtual world of cycling forums.

Most contributors have expressed outrage at the sentence. However, a significant minority have criticised the cyclist for positioning herself in the ‘wrong’ place, and also sought to absolve the driver by suggesting that Ms Foa was hidden in the vehicle’s ‘blind-spot’.

I want to correct this impression. The prosecutor was reported as making the statement:

She was alongside for 37 seconds and would have been visible.

This is a remarkably precise statement. How can the prosecution have been so certain of the length of time that she was along-side the truck, and that she would have been visible?

The answer is that the junction was over-looked by CCTV cameras, and that the police examined the vehicle and its mirrors to determine what would have been visible. It is this evidence that allowed the prosecution to state so unequivocally that the driver would have seen the cyclist in his mirrors, had he been paying attention to the road, instead of looking at page 3 or whatever it was.

As to whether the truck was signalling, whether Ms Foa arrived at the junction before or after the truck, I can’t say, based on the reports that I have read. It is true to say that the left-hand side of a truck is no place for a cyclist, given the number of London cyclists that have been killed by lorries.

However, given that nearly all on-road cycle lanes are on the left, and that TfL published a series of posters showing cyclists in exactly the wrong position, I find it difficult to criticise a cyclist, particularly a dead cyclist, for following the intuitive line, and keeping to the left. I also find it regrettable that, despite the unequivocal statements at the trial, cyclists are rushing to the defence of the driver, using the perennial blind-spot defence. I hope that I have dismissed this red-herring.

More forum nonsense here and here.

  1. I think the whole ‘don’t get on the left’ campaign is spectacularly misguided. I’ve had people cut across me when I’m on their left or right and whether they’re turning in either direction, surely the problem is that people driving hugely dangerous vehicles aren’t looking where they’re fucking going.

    — 8ace    23 September 2007, 12:20    #
  2. Actually, from reading Bill’s articles and from my own experience (rear wheel pulled under a lorry that indicated right and then turned left) I’ve found the best practice when it comes to HGV’s is to stay the f**k away. Slows me down but just not worth the risk.

    — iifbm    23 September 2007, 16:20    #
  3. I totally agree with ifbm. After having reported on so many lorry/cyclist deaths, I would never trust a lorry driver to look in his mirrors.

    — Bill    23 September 2007, 17:17    #
  4. “here, here” to bill and ifbm.

    — lurkette    23 September 2007, 22:10    #
  5. It was another cement mixer. Together with the aggregates lorries, these are the worst. I’ve been told there are some lorries on the streets of London that have killed not once but twice, and that there are more than a handful of lorry drivers out there working without licenses, insurance, and – it goes without saying – training.

    I agree with Bill and iifbm, the message has got to be, ride very very defensively, even if it feels frustrating.

    And there can be nothing wrong with breaking the law if that is going to put you in a safer position, for instance by getting out in front of a line of vehicles at a red light.

    jack    24 September 2007, 00:57    #
  6. do you not ever wonder what would happen if a vigilant type response happened to one of these lorry drivers? I can’t help but feel that some real justice would prevent these ‘accidents’ happening if there was more of a deterent.

    — calvin    24 September 2007, 17:55    #
  7. Calvin, you mean this ?

    Jack    25 September 2007, 00:38    #
  8. Oh, that’s not very nice.

    Personally, I don’t see the point in putting someone in jail.

    However, I do think that a driver who has killed through negligence ought to be banned from driving for at least a year, and should have to pass the test again.

    — Bill    25 September 2007, 09:46    #
  9. Agreed. Vigilante necklacing bad. Jail also bad.

    Ban is good. Also some kind of ‘sin bin’ for the vehicle involved, so the company can’t just hand the keys over to another muppet who isn’t properly trained.

    While I know it passes the responsibility to the cyclist and other road users, I really think a f*ck off big sign on the back of lorries alerting people to ‘steer clear’ would be good. Reminding them that this is a 10 tonne death machine and not to get too close. Like the ads on cigarette packs.

    jack    25 September 2007, 13:32    #
  10. I pass the holland park ave turn off from the shepherds bush roundabout 5 mornings a week. Its in view for about 20 seconds . I’ve seen 3 cyclists taken out by left-turning vehicles over the years. I vote the short stretch of cycle track at the bottom of Holland Park Ave the most dangerous in London . You won’t catch me on the left there, even when I was chased up the hill by an indignant old lady in full fluorescent kit one morning , berating me for not using what was provided for my benefit.

    — jon j    4 October 2007, 21:46    #
  11. How many professions are there that encourage the more feeble minded to operate the more lethal equipment? Not all HGV drivers are thick gits, but in my experience most of them are. Personally I’d drive the truck over his legs if he killed my child. This would act as a good reminder of my loss. Do the courts and police care? Nope. That is what the CTC defence fund is set up to deal with. I think it is only a matter of time before a cyclist totally loses it and climbs up into an HGV cab to punch the message home….

    — Matt P    23 October 2007, 16:23    #
  12. very sad, no more than that, tragic for the people that knew her….but the solution is in the hands of cyclists, don’t go anywhere near the left hand side of a big vehicle.

    — paul wood    26 October 2007, 17:14    #
  13. Had a driver been so negligent as to cause the loss of life then such a penalty will not do. However, the penalty was; this allows speculation as to the reasons for the seemingly inconsistent sentencing.

    A prosecutor will seek to test all manner of claims, even if they are knowingly exaggerated: a claimed statement isn’t necessarily true; a court must never accept a claim just because they are “told” it. An obvious relevance is the reference to the prosecutor’s claim of visibility. Another is the claim of the driver distracting himself with his paperwork. These possibly were true but given the penalty I would be inclined to not accept them until I know what the defence’s rebuttal was for those issues.

    In short, I don’t believe we have all the necessary facts; hence I don’t believe Mr Bill and co. are in a position to pass judgement on the driver or his sentence. The posters in this thread who implied the driver should be subjected to ‘street justice’ should hang their heads in shame.

    — smeggy    7 January 2009, 21:31    #
  14. The magistrate obviously accepted the prosecution’s case, which is why he referred to the driver’s inadvertence. And so did the driver – he pleaded guilty after seeing the CCTV footage.

    — Bill    8 January 2009, 06:44    #
  15. Excuse me! Where did our last few posts go? It is your policy to delete posts which you aren’t able to give a response without showing how short-sighted some of these other opinions were?

    I’ve already explained how your last comment is invalid, but there’s no point in repeating myself because you’ll just delete it again! If the posts were fallacious then why not leave the post there for all to see and laugh at? OR was it because I had mentioned the site that ‘must not be named’? (in response to your comment, also deleted, I might add)

    Is this typical of those who moderate cycling-type forums?

    — smeggy    11 January 2009, 01:28    #
  16. Hey! If you looked in the right place, you would see that they are still there.

    — Bill    12 January 2009, 06:44    #
  17. Oops, sorry. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I don’t know how I did that, you are entirely blameless.

    — smeggy    12 January 2009, 09:11    #
  18. Speedfast smells a brompton riding lawyer fakenger type. Zack fires a cruise missile from the safety of Perth swallowing up Smeggy and his tapestry collection, boom…

    — zack speedfast    12 January 2009, 13:04    #
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