Veronika Pete, a 30 year-old marketing executive from central London was left seriously injured after she was run over by a lorry turning left at the Marble Arch gyratory. On May 24, the courts found the driver guilty of careless driving.
District Judge Bennett said at the end of his judgement “As part of his promise the Mayor, Boris Johnson, pledged to improve road safety for cyclists. I don’t know if this area is in his radar but I am going to write personally requesting an urgent consideration of this particular road layout and the tragic consequences. This accident took place in 2010 and it is inevitable that further accidents of a similar kind will undoubtedly occur unless changes are made. I hope that I will get a proper response.”
In December 2010, Veronika was cycling along her regular route to work. She travelling around the Marble Arch gyratory, heading toward Oxford Street near the exit to Edgware Road. In evidence the driver of the heavy bullion vehicle stated that he had seen the cyclist but then lost sight of her. He assumed that she had turned left, taking the exit to Edgware Road. In fact Veronika was at the front of the bullion vehicle. The driver’s vehicle was not fitted with the mirrors now recommended for all new HGVs. The driver turned left, dragging Veronika under the lorry’s wheels.
She was rushed to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington where she received emergency life saving treatment. Her leg had to be amputated above the knee and her other leg was severely damaged amongst many other soft tissue and orthopaedic injuries. She was transferred to Charing Cross Hospital where she spent several months suffering multiple operations and recovering from the accident impact.
Veronika now uses a wheelchair and is learning to walk using a prosthetic limb. She is receiving intensive rehabilitation and requires help from her partner, James, carers, family and friends. This will be a long process.
Her partner, James Middleton, was prompted to write to the Mayor of London protesting about the dangers of cycling around this gyratory as well as the fatalities of two cyclists in the month of November at Bow roundabout.
In his reply in January 2012, Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I am passionate about cycling and cycle safety. There has been an unprecedented level of investment in cycling and cycle safety with £100m being invested. We also implemented the first ever cycle safety action plan by TFL and its partners in March 2010, which covers nine themes for action including the trialing of blind spot safety mirrors for heavy goods vehicle and driver training courses to specifically address the safety of vulnerable road users, which have never been tried before.
“With regards to Marble Arch, the junction of the gyratory area forms part of the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) cycling review. This review is starting now and covers all junctions of that gyratory. As you will be aware, Marble Arch is a key junction where a number of strategic important routes meet and the level and composition of traffic as well as the level of turning movements make for a challenging environment to provide improved conditions for cyclists. However in recent years, improvements have been implemented.
“In 2009 TFL completed a £1m scheme to improve cycle safety at Marble Arch gyratory. This scheme provided a total of 131 metres of two way shared tracks for pedestrians and cyclists adjacent to the gyratory. However I am very aware cyclists still have to complete complicated manoeuvres across multiple traffic lanes and a key issue is the fact the cyclists are not permitted to access the large central areas split by Tyburn Way. Both Westminster City Council and English Heritage are responsible for the central area.
“I understand Westminster has plans for improving the area and TFL will discuss the potential of enhanced cycle connections as part of this plan. I am determined to maintain and build upon the cycling revolution that is happening in London and while overall road safety in London is improving, recent fatal recent fatal collisions have made clear the need for all organisations involved, including TFL, the boroughs, the freight industry, and the police, to redouble efforts to further improve cycle safety.”
Veronika Pete said:
“I used to cycle to work every day and was an experienced cyclist. Since my accident I have realised there are so many areas across London that are extremely dangerous for cyclists, including the Marble Arch junction where I was injured. Unfortunately it seems calls to improve cycle safety have been met with resistance and bureaucracy from the local authorities involved. It was only after months of concerted pressure by the London Cycling Campaign that Mayor Boris Johnson was convinced that Bow roundabout, where two cyclists were tragically killed last year, must be redesigned, despite LCC’s own proposal for the roundabout being rejected by TFL. I hope that accidents like mine will lead the authorities to take steps to ensure that London’s roads are made safer for cyclists.”
Jill Greenfield, partner in the Personal Injury Group at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse is representing Veronika in a civil claim against the driver’s company, Brinks Security Ltd.
Jill Greenfield said: “I was pleased to see that through the determined police efforts and the criminal prosecution that Veronika has been able to see justice being done. But how terribly sad that she has had to go through the criminal process at all and is now left with lifelong injuries. Boris Johnson’s team really must act to make Marble Arch a safer place for vulnerable road users.”