The police road traffic unit based in Wembley are investigating the fatal accident at the junction of York Way and the Euston Road that I wrote about on Friday. In yesterday's update I said I would find and write to the police investigating the fatality. Thank you for this morning's wave of offers of help. Here is the text of my letter, sent today which draws out issues around TfL's duty of care when designing junctions and acting upon reports of danger.
Traffic Management Officer
Alperton Traffic Garage
Wembley HA0 1EW
Min Joo Lee – cyclist killed 3 October 2011 road traffic accident Kings Cross – TfL duty of care in junction design and corporate manslaughter
Extracts from Transport for London's (TfL's) own documents below suggest that TfL has a prima facie duty of care in junction design. TfL designed and control the junction where this death occurred as part of the Kings Cross gyratory. The junction was condemned in the strongest possible terms in a report commissioned by TfL in 2008 (enclosed). A factor likely to be relevant in the circumstances of this death was TfL's failure to make this junction safe as recommended in the report.
TfL commissioned a report on the street environment in Kings Cross in 2008. The report was carried out by TRL Limited and Living Streets. Residents, including, then, me were involved in the process via a walkabout with the auditors. I obtained the completed report (enclosed) using Freedom of Information Act request in late 2008.
The report is brutally frank in its critique of the quality and safety of the road crossings including junction complex in which Min Joo Lee died, see:
‘road markings are faded and the crossing space is no longer clear’ (p32)‘it is notable just how aggressive vehicles are at this point’ ‘auditors felt that casualties were inevitable…auditors felt that vehicle speeds should be reduced..the carriageway surface was uneven’ ‘the key crossing location at the southern end of York way should be redesigned’ (p100)The report called for ‘proper traffic calming measures’ and ‘enforcing/revising speed limits’ (pages 65-66)..reduce traffic speeds around the junction by installing traffic calming measures (p72)
In the three years since the report was written little action has been taken on the ground. I understand that this is not the first fatality at that crossing in that period. The enclosed TfL report is germane to assessing any liability TfL might have for negligence and I wish to ensure that it was available to you for your inquiries.
Anyone who uses these junctions will know how dangerous they are. TfL should have acted swiftly when in receipt of a strongly worded expert report, but did not.
Duty of care
TfL managers are clear that TfL has a duty of care to all its customers. And in it’s cycling revolution plan that it has a duty of care towards cyclists and road users in general. In describing its ‘Cycling Revolution’ strategy Tfl says that the strategy will:
‘create streets and spaces where everyone respects each other's right to use the road, where they stick to the rules of the road, and where everyone recognises their duty of care to other road users’ http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/transport/cycling-revolution
This unites junction design and TfL’s duty of care.
The Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said in his introduction to the TfL Board Health Safety and Environment Report 2010-2011:‘With record numbers of people using our services, their health and safety remains our priority…We are committed to delivering better, cleaner, greener and safer transport service’ 21 September 2011
The report goes on to say:
‘TfL remains responsible for collating and reporting on RTAs and instigating, where appropriate, action to improve road safety.’ ‘TfL is responsible for operating and improving conditions for all users of the TLR. In 2010/11, TfL set up a road safety engineering programme with 120 schemes at locations on the TLRN with high collision levels’
The report also notes that TfL set themselves targets for reducing the number of pedal cyclist fatalities – Note – they have missed the target of a 50% reduction only achieving an 18% reduction.
This establishes a prima facie case that TfL has a duty of care at the very least towards pedal cyclists using roads that TfL has itself designed and is responsible. TfL is responsible for the road layout and design of the Kings Cross junctions including the spot where this fatal accident occurred.
Your investigation of Min Joo Lee’s death I assume will cover junction design and maintenance that brought a lorry and a cyclist so close together. Despite three years passing, TfL has not implemented the recommendations of a damning report it commissioned. The changes to the junction TfL belatedly suggests in its Kings Cross Junction Improvement plan are trivial and could have been implemented in a few months. I suggest that TfL managers are grossly negligent in their duty of care and general approach to pedal cyclists using the Kings Cross junctions and should be investigated for corporate manslaughter.
Residents have been campaigning to get this junction improved for some years. I run with others a citizen-led local website that helps local people find a voice online and wrote an article on this recently./2011/10/kings-cross-cyclist-deaths-and-injuries-tfl-corporate-manslaughter.html
I am a strong supporter of the police in your work to make communities safer. I was a founder member of the Safer Neighbourhood Panel and use the website to support local police and community action – including hosting a web chat with a local Chief Inspector. I do hope you can help us on this occasion.
I have written to the St Pancras Coroner and in the public interest will publish this letter on the Kings Cross Environment website.
UPDATE – 17 October
Colin Ponsonby has got back to me – he has passed the letter and report to 'Pc Ralph Luker who is the Central Traffic Management Officer dealing with this incident.'