Published: December 8th, 2011
EXCLUSIVE by TOM FOOT
THE heartbroken boyfriend of a young fashion designer who was killed on her bicycle in King’s Cross has given his first full interview on the tragedy, calling for urgent safety changes to the junction where she was hit.
Kenji Hirasawa told the New Journal that authorities in charge of traffic in London should feel “ashamed” that a cycling blackspot still existed in “one of the most advanced cities in the world”. His soulmate Deep Lee, 24, was “the most beautiful existence in the world,” the 29-year-old said.
The New Journal has revealed how clear safety recommendations made in 2008 for the junction where Ms Lee was hit by a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) in October were not acted upon. A white “ghost bike” now marks the spot.
Transport for London bosses told a special meeting at the Town Hall on Monday that introducing a cycle lane would simply “cause considerable queues”.
Photographer: ‘So shameful’ for such an advanced city to have the kind of blackspot junction where student cyclist was killed
SHE chose the name Deep Lee herself – literally deep lake or ocean in her native Korean – because it represented the natural philosophy which inspired her designs.
The death of the promising 24-year-old Central St Martins student has plunged boyfriend Kenji Hirasawa into a whirlpool of despair.
In his first full interview since she was killed while cycling in King’s Cross, he described this week how the couple met on an English language course in 2008 and had become inseparable.
Deep, whose real name was Min Joo Lee, was killed by a lorry at the start of October.
“As a person, I deeply respected her,” Kenji, 29, told the New Journal. “She was always smiling and kind and generous to people. She took care about my family and friends more than I could do for them when my people have visited London.
She was an ideal person for me and I wanted to be like her.
“She was the most strong person I ever met. She was perfect for me and the most beautiful existence in the world.”
He added: “The fashion industry is a very competitive world. Riding a bicycle and going swimming was part of her ideal lifestyle as Deep Lee, a designer of men’s fashion in London.”
Kenji – a Japanese photographer specialising in infra-red images which bring a subject’s life-force to the fore – said he was struggling to reconcile his art with her death.
But more than anything he is stunned that nothing has been done to improve safety at the junction where Deep Lee died, just in front of the Lighthouse building close to King’s Cross station.
He called for an “immediate solution”, suggesting that police should be there to marshal traffic as they do at busy points in Japan. He said there wasn’t a junction like King’s Cross in the whole of Tokyo, adding that Transport for London (TfL) and Camden Council should feel “ashamed” that a cyclists’ “blackspot” existed in “one of the most developed and advanced cities in the world”.
On Monday night, Kenji listened patiently in the Town Hall chamber – a perfect picture of dignity in his blue suit with top shirt button done up – as council officials argued they were mostly meeting cycle safety targets in a presentation of endless graphs and pie charts.
A TfL representative insisted that introducing a cycle lane at the junction would “cause considerable queues”, stressing that there was “limited time” to conduct a review of the proposed changes for the junction because of a “commitment” to make them in time for the Olympic Games.
“We have taken the comments on board from day one – it is more about whether it is workable,” said Nigel Hardy, TfL’s head of capital development.
Speaking on Tuesday to the New Journal, Kenji said: “I grew up in Shinjuku, the busiest area in Tokyo. I never heard that such a dangerous junction existed in that city. The council had given a presentation about how the Town Hall was generally meeting its targets and complying with standards. It is just their normal job and duty – it is nothing special to show off like that. For me, because of their laziness, my girlfriend is killed at the junction.”
He said TfL had asked him about removing the white, flower-strewn ghost bike fixed to the spot where Deep died. “I told them they should sort out the junction first,” he said.
The meeting heard that the cyclist was struck by a HGV from behind as she set off on her bike as the lights changed in Gray’s Inn Road to cross Euston Road onto York Way. The accident happened on October 3, her first day back at Central St Martins following the university’s move over the summer from Covent Garden to new premises in Goods Yard, King’s Cross.
Kenji said the council and the college should have “informed their people about the danger of the junction as a minimum role”, adding: “If Deep knew about the junction, she would not use the junction and she would not be killed that day. She started cycling in the spring. I had a lot of arguments with her to stop her riding the bicycle because it is dangerous. But I could not do it finally.”
He added: “But that is not the problem. It is more a problem that if we do not have much skill in cycling, we can die easily on the road in London.” The New Journal revealed in October that work due to be carried out in September on making the junction safe had been delayed.
A safety report commissioned by TfL, which is responsible for the junction, was not acted on.
Kenji said: “Deep’s death was not necessary if the construction had started. They accept HGVs driving through the most crowded area of central London without having any settlement of the junction. And Deep Lee was killed. What is their priority?”
Last week, Labour’s Ken Livingstone and on Tuesday Lib Dem Brian Paddick visited the junction as part of their campaign to oust Boris Johnson in next year’s Mayoral election. Both promised urgent safety improvements.
The Camden Cycling Campaign, which also gave evidence at Monday’s Town Hall scrutiny meeting on road safety, says TfL’s proposed changes do not go far enough. It wants a cycle lane included in the plans. TfL has admitted the planned changes are “predominantly for pedestrians”.
Mr Hirasawa said: “I will be so ashamed that Deep Lee was killed at this junction if I am a member of Camden Council or TfL. This area is known as a blackspot for cyclists. It is so shameful that there exists such a name of a place in Camden and in London, one of the most developed and advanced cities in the world.”
Councillors and officials offered condolences to Mr Hirasawa at the meeting.
Central St Martins is working with Mr Hirasawa to find ways of setting up an annual award in memory of Deep Lee.
BRIAN Paddick came to the danger junction where Deep Lee was killed on Tuesday night and called on Transport for London (TfL) to tear up its current plan and introduce a cycle lane at the blackspot.
Wearing a wide-brimmed fedora hat and trenchcoat, the Lib Dem candidate in the London Mayoral race toured King’s Cross at rush hour.
He said: “How many more people are going to die before it gets sorted out? The problem with King’s Cross is that two lanes gets squeezed into a single lane at the traffic lights. There is not enough space for cyclists. It has got to be dangerous.
“It needs a single lane of traffic and a cycle lane.”
TfL argues that introducing a cycle lane at the junction would create huge tailbacks along connecting main roads.
Mr Paddick said: “It is better that we have to wait for five minutes in a car than have someone killed.”