On profit above safety

As reported here: “Traffic Commissioner Sarah Bell has revoked the HGV operator’s licence for Frys Logistics Limited, saying it put profit before the law with a lack of regard to the rules which contributed to the death of End-to-End cyclists Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace 28 months ago.

Andrew was a clubmate of mine. I wrote about his and Toby’s death here, and the sentence handed down to the driver here. I don’t have much else to say, I just want to keep the link to the CTC article, which concludes:
The suspicion is that too many within the enforcement, regulatory and judicial process await the investigations and decisions of others, the consequences of which are delay, unnecessary distress for families of victims, and with HGVs, ongoing risk from operators whose licences need to be revoked.

On a sentence

I haven’t blogged for ages. My excuse is computer problems (i.e. my old one stopped working…) And this blog post is out of date, but I want do it anyway, for completeness.

So, Robert Palmer, who pleaded guilty to causing the deaths of Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. That is two lots of seven and a half years for two counts of Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, to be served concurrently, and one year for another charge of Dangerous Driving, which happened after he’d killed two people. After he’d killed two people. Do you not make any changes, have any thoughts about your driving style or practice, after you’ve been involved in an accident in which two people have died?

From the BBC report: “Prosecutors said Palmer had not had enough rest periods between shifts at work and had falsified rest records. As a result, the cyclists were “mown down” “. My speculation is that the falsification of records was one of the reasons that Palmer was given what is a big sentence compared with what others have received. There’s some interesting discussion under the road.cc report; someone who at least appears to know what they are talking about said some useful things. There was another case that was in the news recently of a man who killed a cyclist while looking at photos on his mobile phone. He pleaded not guilty, was found guilty and was given a 5 year sentence with a 10 year ban. So Palmer, who pleaded guilty, and was given 7.5 years per death plus a 10 year ban, appears to have been sentenced as harshly as the judge is allowed to, if I’m understanding the person on the road.cc thread correctly (and they are correct in what they are saying).

I feel a bit less angry now. Given some sentences that have been handed out, that actually is not too bad, especially as he pleaded guilty and is entitled to a reduction to his sentence for that (I don’t make the rules, and I may or may not agree with them, but that is the rule). Here‘s “The Cycling Silk” on the subject.

There is one other point and that is, what about his employers? They must have known what he was doing if I have understood the press reports correctly – he was doing day shifts in the yard and then driving overnight. But there have been no reports of any punishment for them. The CTC report says:

The company Palmer worked for – Frys Logistics – had its operating licence revoked in December 2013, six months after the fatal collision on the A30. CTC suspects the decision to withdraw the licence was in large part based on the involvement of the company in the incident in which Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace were killed. In order to continue after the operating licence had been rescinded, the company’s owners set up a new company with a tenuously different name – Frys Transport. It seems all a company has to do to carry on business as usual when it loses its operating licence is to set itself up again under a different name…”

This isn’t the first time that it has taken a death to throw the spotlight on dubious practices within certain parts of the haulage industry – some of the deaths of cyclists in London did, too. But I don’t suppose it will be the last.

On a guilty plea

A year ago my triathlon clubmate Andrew McMenigall and his colleague Toby Wallace were killed on the first day of a cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats for charity. Yesterday the lorry driver who killed them pleaded guilty to two counts of death by dangerous driving, and a further count of dangerous driving on a later occasion. (BBC report, EEN report.) That later occasion astonishes me – you’ve been involved in an incident which has resulted in the deaths of two people and you don’t make any changes to the way you drive? Or even think about what you are doing?

The driver will get his sentece reduced for pleading guilty, of course. That is the way our justice system works. But I really hope they take his licence away for a good long time. Arguing that he needs his licence to do his job is like saying Rolf Harris should continue to have access to children because he’s always worked as a children’s entertainer. Find a different job, Mr Lorry Driver, one where you’re not going to kill people.

A death on the road

Or two deaths, to be accurate.

I was going to blog about the Cycling “Action” Plan for Scotland (which I’m going to rename the Cycling Inaction Plan, because that’s what it is), and I’ve got a few other things that I’d like to write about as well, but recently we heard that one of the members of the triathlon club had been killed on the first day of a cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats. The two cyclists were on the A30, which is a fast and busy road, and the accident involved a large lorry. I followed a link to a local newspaper’s website which had photos of the remains of the bikes. Horrible.

First and foremost, condolences to the family and friends of both cyclists. In a way, when something like this happens to someone you know, it brings it home to you how vulnerable you and all your cycling friends are. Those two men died because one of the hundreds of motorists who passed them on that road failed to deal with their presence there. We don’t know the details of how or why (and if the outcomes of any inquest or trial don’t make the news, we may never find out) but I think it is reasonable to assume that the lorry driver didn’t actually think that cycling on the A30 should be punishable by death. That driver didn’t indend to kill anyone, yet two people died.

There was quite a lot of debate online about whether the two men should have been cycling on that road at all. Indeed, that is the conversation my boyfriend and I had, once we’d got over the initial shock. So why were they there? I don’t know any details of the planning of the route, but I know that part of the challenge my clubmate had set himself was to cover the distance relatively quickly – this wasn’t a tour, but a challenge. So it seems likely that they chose that road because it is the most direct route out of Cornwall.

People might argue that they should have used this route or that route, but the fact is if you don’t know the area then you don’t know what a road is like till you get to it. And a narrow twisty road might be no safer than a straight one, if the locals take it quickly without expecting anything much to be there (I actually make this choice myself on what I call my long commute – there’s a signposted cycle route which takes some back roads but I prefer to use a wider main road because there’s more time for drivers to see me and more space for cars to pass). Also, when you see a signposted cycle route (note that I have no idea if there is one around the A30 or not) you have no idea what you are going to get – it could be anything from some beautiful smooth tarmac on a disused railway line, via a dodgy potholed back road or a narrow pavement full of twigs and stones to a muddy path across a field, impassible unless you have a mountain bike and the skills to use it. Imagine what travelling by car would be like if, when you found a sign pointing you to your destination, you had no idea if the road you were going to follow would be a motorway or a Land Rover track…

In the time it has taken me to finish this blog, there have been four more deaths. By horrible coincidence, a cyclist who was killed by a lorry near Edinburgh was also associated with the triathlon club (I didn’t know him, but he was one of the founding members). And two cyclists have been killed by lorries in London. It is all very well for politicians to say that it would be nice if more people cycled more, and that we should all be nice to one another on the road. So long as the headines about cycling involve cyclists being hit by lorries, people are going to feel that it is not safe, and stay in thier cars.

Which brings us back to the cycling inaction plan. But that’s another blog post.