Published: 14 April 2011
By JOSIE HINTON
CYCLING campaigners have accused Transport for London (TfL) of giving quick bus journeys priority over safety on a “death mile” stretch of road where a student was killed when she was dragged under a lorry.
Paula Jurek, a 20-year-old travel and tourism student at London Metropolitan University, died in the accident in Camden Road at the junction of St Pancras Way last Tuesday. It is thought she was caught on the inside of the truck turning left.
The busy four-way junction is recognised in TfL reports as one of the worst hot-spots in Camden for collisions.
Ten cyclists have been involved in accidents at the blackspot in the past three years.
There have also been a series of other accidents at the road leading from Camden Town past Camden School for Girls towards Holloway Prison. It was closed again on Monday morning following an accident.
Camden’s council-appointed cycling champion, Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Braithwaite, revealed at Monday’s full council meeting that TfL, which is responsible for safety on the road, had been warned about possible dangers.
He said: “We’ve had the most appalling series of accidents on Camden Road, between Sainsbury’s all the way up to Brecknock Road, with fatalities.” Urging Camden’s Labour environment chief Councillor Sue Vincent to press for changes, he added: “You know and I know that TfL have been pressed to change two of these junctions and have dragged their feet because they don’t want to slow their buses.
“TfL must sort out what is known as death mile.”
Cllr Vincent said TfL, which answers directly to London Mayor Boris Johnson, had unresolved work on the road.
“In 2004, TfL did a study of Camden Road and all of its junctions and they found several hot-spots that do need attention,” she said. “Since then they’ve done a feasibility study to prevent accidents. It’s too late in coming. I’ve written today asking: Where is it? Where is this report? I will be following it up.”
Ms Jurek’s family were too upset to speak about her death this week, but close friend Paul Dean, 31, who met her at an evening French class, paid tribute to a “kind and open” person who loved travelling and different cultures.
He has written to Boris Johnson demanding action at the dangerous junction.
“Unless changes are made we are going to be faced with the same situation again very soon,” he said. “Everyone who knew Paula has reacted with shock and disbelief at what happened. Everyone who met her liked her because she was genuinely interested in other people. When you’d bump into her it was never just ‘Oh, hi’, she’d remember exactly what was going on in your life and ask you about it. She was enormously kind and a good listener.”
Mr Dean, who also cycles in London, said his dream was for a London-wide cycle network, but his expectations are more realistic. In his letter to Mr Johnson, he calls for more “trixie” safety mirrors at junctions to give lorry drivers a better view of their “blind spot”. He also demands to know why cycle lanes exist at only “a relative handful” of crossroads.
“Let’s not forget that one of Boris’s main pledges was that he was a keen cyclist,” he added. “If you think of a cycle city like Amsterdam, they have their own lanes and are very separate from other traffic.
“It is great to get more people cycling but you have to have both sides of the coin. If you are going to encourage people to cycle they have to feel safe. I think this issue has fallen by the wayside. It is his chance to make a difference – this could be his legacy.”
Ambulance crews battled in vain to resuscitate Ms Jurek, who had been learning French and was planning a trip to Paris over the Easter break. She had been living in Haringey.
An inquest was opened and adjourned at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Tuesday.
The 65-year-old driver of the truck involved was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and bailed pending further inquiries. Police have renewed their appeal for witnesses.
Figures show women are more likely to die in cycling accidents involving lorries in London. In Camden alone there have been five female deaths on the roads since 2005, with not a single male death in the same period.
Newsreader Jon Snow, the Primrose Hill broadcaster who is a keen cyclist, said he thought in general the high death toll was because women cyclists were not as bold on the road.
“All the statistics show that cyclists get killed, in the main, by trucks turning left and the vast majority are women between the ages of 20 and 40,” he said. “In America they have a system that filters bikes turning left to precede the traffic, but I just don’t see it happening here. Unfortunately, the motoring lobby is much more powerful than the bike lobby.”
Friends of Ms Jurek met at the spot where she died on Tuesday to share their memories of the student. Floral tributes have been left over the past week.
A TfL spokesman categorically denied Cllr Braithwaite’s claims about priority being given to buses.
He said a “pedestrian improvement plan” was already being developed for the junction. “TfL will incorporate any guidance from the investigation into this incident into our plans, and will also be reviewing what safety measures are currently in place along Camden Road to see whether any further improvements could be made,” he said.
Anyone with any information about the accident is urged to call the Road Death Investigation Unit on 020 8998 9319.
CYCLIST Paula Jurek’s friend Paul Dean has written to London Mayor Boris Johnson:
“On Tuesday, April 5, in Camden, a friend who I studied with at university with was knocked down by a lorry on St Pancras Way. Paula Jurek, a bright and enormously kind girl, was struck so severely that she had no chance of recovery and died at the scene. She was twenty years old.
“We studied together at London Metropolitan University, an institution I’m sure you’re very familiar with as friends of mine have seen you cycling down Holloway Road on many occasions. As an avid and regular cyclist, I know you will be as aware as anybody of the realities of cycling in our capital, including how Holloway Road itself is busy and sometimes dangerous for cyclists, and I’m also well aware that you have had your own near-misses on our roads. I, too, have experienced a few and now no longer cycle here myself.
“Although I do not agree with all your policies and positions, I have always appreciated your attempts to promote cycling in London, particularly its practicality and its safety. However, I feel that more could and must be done to promote both the rights and the protection of cyclists in our capital. At the end of last year, you declared that 24 miles of cycle lanes had been constructed and improved, and some 200 junctions made safer. Mr Johnson, we both know that this is but a tiny fraction of the length of London’s streets, a relative handful of the maze of crossroads the city possesses.
“I applaud the introduction of “trixie” safety mirrors that allow lorry drivers to better see cyclists on their blind sides, but at the very busy junction where Paula died there are none of these mirrors, so terribly rare they still are. Nor are there any cycle boxes there, despite many cyclists passing through, while eye-witnesses also imply that the lights at this junction have not been functioning reliably recently and that there are frequent near-misses at this location, all of which is of concern. Even a casual visit to the spot where Paula died makes it abundantly clear that the intersection could be safer.
“I would ask that, if nothing else, you immediately exercise the powers of your office to address these specific issues before any similar incidents are allowed to occur.
“During my time at London Metropolitan University, it’s my understanding that Paula was not the only student there killed cycling on our roads and this kind of accident typically happens once a month in London. Until this is addressed, there can only be further tragedies, particularly as more students, keen to save money on travel, take to two wheels.
“Please, Mr Johnson, I implore you to invest more of your office’s time, energy and money in further improving London’s provision for cyclists and helping to prevent such tragic deaths.”