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The junction where Emma Foa was killed
1.10.07 by Buffalo Bill

looking south

Out of a somewhat morbid curiousity, I went down to the junction where Emma Foa was killed last year. She was waiting at the junction of Camley Street and Goods Way, southbound, and the concrete lorry turned left across her, into Goods Way.

A lot has been said about the wisdom of her being on the left of the lorry. I haven’t seen any reports that say whether or not she pulled up first, and the lorry after, or the other way round, which is a pretty crucial bit of information when assessing to what extent Emma Foa contributed to the collision. If she was there first, then blame cannot be attached to her. If not, then she can be said to have contributed in some way, especially if the lorry was signalling left (again, I haven’t seen anything that tells me one way or another).

Anyway, as you may or may not know, Camley Street is comparatively heavily trafficked by lorries of one sort or another. There is a light industrial estate at the top of Camley Street, which receives regular deliveries via HGV, and a concrete works behind the old goods yard on York Way.

Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a lorry, if I could possibly avoid it. Of course, with the number of lorries on the road in London, to follow this advice would mean staying off the road altogether. So I take my chances on the road.

I think it is possible to minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of conflict with a lorry. To do this, you need first of all to be aware of where they are, which means keeping an eye, or two if possible, on the road behind you.

Second, having located them on the road, you need avoid crossing their path, or potential path. This means staying behind the rear axle when they are moving, if you are behind them, and keeping an eye on them when they are behind you, to make sure that if they over-take that they are giving you enough room.

The place you definitely don’t want to be is alongside, or slightly in front of, their front wheels at any time but especially at junctions. This is because lorry drivers who have killed cyclists by left-turns (making up more than a quarter of all cyclists killed in London in the last 6 years), even if they signal, often fail to look in their left-hand mirrors to check for cyclists.

However, all this information is stuff that I have picked up in 15 years of reporting on cyclists who have been killed by collisions with lorries in London and other cities. I think I have reported directly on around 20 deaths, and at least another 2 were personally known to me. The average cyclist will trust, as Emma Foa did, in the advice to wear hi-visibility jackets and helmets, and to use the bike lanes.

Which brings us back to the junction where Emma Foa was killed. A bike lane down the left. An Advanced Stop Line. These ASLs put the cyclist in the worst possible spot in relation to a HGV/LGV. Slightly forward and to the left of a raised cab is impossible for a driver to see directly into, without the use of the so-called ‘blind-spot’ or DOBLI mirror. (More details here).

looking north

My question is this: was this paint put down before or after the death by lorry?

I have no sympathy at all for the lorry driver who killed Emma Foa. It was shown in court that she would have been visible in his mirrors, had he bothered to look. I am sure that he had no intention whatsoever of killing a cyclist. However, his inattention (called ‘inadvertence’ by the sentencing magistrate) whilst in charge of dangerous machinery, led directly to the death of a cyclist. Of course he will have to live the knowledge that his negligence killed someone else for the rest of his life, the defense said in mitigation. I find this a ridiculous statement of the obvious. Only an amnesiac would not have to live with that knowledge.

But if we are going to accept that we cannot expect lorry drivers to behave with due care and attention on the road, which it seems to be the case, judging by the sentences handed down, then we ought to think about taking all the paint and green tarmac off the roads at junctions like these. Because to me, they look dangerously like green traps.

According to Camden Cyclists newsletter of Feb 07, the junction has been redesigned to prevent the kind of thing happening again, and the placement of the ASL is part of that. I am pretty stunned by this. All I can think is that I am glad that I cancelled my sub to the LCC when I did.

For more on London cyclists killed by HGVs/lorries click the contents tab at the top of this page.

  1. good report bill.

    — papa44    1 October 2007, 13:47    #
  2. “But if we are going to accept that we cannot expect lorry drivers to behave with due care and attention on the road”

    that’s it really. at some point in the last few years, cars in london stopped signaling and so now i ride as if every car in front, to the side, and behind is going to turn left. it’s the only way i feel safe – by preempting all death attempts. :/

    i too am not big on cycle lanes. cars tend to use the outside markings to instruct them as to how close they may get to you, as opposed to using their own judgment. i read a study (i’m sure you’ve seen it) that cars give cyclists more space without cycle lanes, than with.

    this story is also why i jump red lights whenever i feel it is safe to.

    as a related aside, remember the two women that were killed at russell square last year? do you know where exactly? i go there nearly every day, and i often wonder how and where it happened.

    — lurkette    1 October 2007, 15:59    #
  3. In answer to your question about Russell Square, see here. Junction with Woburn Place

    — Bill    1 October 2007, 17:12    #
  4. Politely disagree in part re ASLs. If one knows how to use them, they are beneficial; by this I mean, plant your self right in front of the vehicle and sufficiently ahead that the driver cannot fail to see you.
    I agree that most people don’t use them this way, especially less confident riders and this leads people to a false sense of security.
    However we should aim to raise standards, not abolish good things because of lack of education.

    Andrea    6 October 2007, 11:38    #
  5. “plant your self right in front of the vehicle and sufficiently ahead that the driver cannot fail to see you”

    yeah, sure, but they have to actually look to see you. The driver in this case was not looking – he was looking in his cab for papers.

    — Bill    23 October 2007, 17:14    #
  Textile help

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