4 Mar 2015

The tragic consequences of one cyclist running a red light

“Do not take risks – think of your family”. The widow of a cyclist killed by a truck after they had both jumped a red light, tells Channel 4 News about the tragic aftermath for all involved.

Why do cyclists run red lights? It infuriates other road users and, so the conventional wisdom goes, puts them at risk.

Or does it? Many cyclists tell you the only safe place to be on Britain’s roads is as far away as possible from cars, vans, and their number 1 killer – heavy goods vehicles. And, they say, if that means going through traffic signals to keep the traffic well behind, so be it.

Bike use in the UK is soaring, but stats are not the cyclists friend. Campaign group CTC estimate that nationwide, the risk per mile of a cycling injury is now about 14% above the 2005-9 average, while the fatal and serious cycle injury risk is up 22%.

Cyclists just don’t feel safe on British roads.

Every moment spent on a bike is a judgement call. But sometimes the cyclist gets it wrong too – with catastrophic consequences.

Debbie Dorling has a tale that should make any cyclist rethink the way they take risks on the road.

Debbie and Brian Dorling

Her husband Brian was killed three and a half years ago by a tipper truck at one of London’s most notorious intersections – Bow roundabout.

Brian had chanced a red light. So, as it happens, had the tipper truck. But when truck hits cyclist – there will only be one outcome.

And when the case went to court, that split second decision that Brian made at 08.39 on the morning of the 24th oct 2011 to disregard the traffic signals created what his widow Debbie calls a “living hell”.

For Debbie isn’t just grieving the loss of her husband. The loss of her children’s father.

She also had to hear court decide that Brian was partly to blame for his own death.

Debbie had to hear why her fatherless family would get less compensation than they should have – because Brian had wilfully broken the rules of the road.

Debbie doesn’t blame anyone for what happened. She says she could blame lots of people. She could blame Brian. Or the driver. Or the truck designers. Or TFL for creating an unprotected cycle lane which the coroner described as a “comfort blanket”. But blame, she says, gets her nowhere.

After the truck driver received a suspended sentence, Debbie says she and her children sought him out at the court, and forgave him.

“He’s a broken man”, she told me.

“To blame him any more is unfair. He didn’t go out that morning to kill Brian. Collisions happen.”
They do indeed.

But they shouldn’t.

All 19,000 cycle casualties in 2013, mapped (Source: CTC)