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Calls for talks with families of cyclists killed on Islington roads

Daughter of medic wants meeting with transport chiefs

09 August, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

‘Kind and caring’ – Maria Bitner-Glindzicz

CYCLING campaigners have backed a daughter’s call for the council to meet the families of people who have died on the roads after her mother was killed in a street already flagged up as a danger spot.

Great Ormond Street doctor Maria Bitner-Glindzicz was cycling down St John’s Street in Clerkenwell when the driver of a parked van opened his door “without looking”, Poplar Coroner’s Court heard on Wednesday.

Professor Bitner-Glindzicz, who had been cycling in a “safe and steady manner”, fell under a passing taxi and was dragged 18 metres along the road last September.

She died later in hospital, said senior coroner Mary Hassell, who ruled that it was not known whether the van driver had “side-swiped” the mother-of-two or whether she fell off the bike swerving to avoid the door.

Andrea Casalotti, who founded the Vision Zero London campaign after his father died in a collision with a bus, said that “opening a door should not be something that kills people”.

He said online that Ms Bitner-Glindzicz’s death was “avoidable”, and told the Tribune that he had made recommendations to the council in 2015 that it should keep St John’s Street closed after roadworks had re-routed traffic for months.

His suggestions were ignored, he claimed.

Mr Casalotti, who used to live off St John’s Street, added: “Drastic action needs to happen. We have had a long time where the council and TfL have produced drawings and plans. The van driver was exposed in this situation. Opening a door should not be something that kills people.”

The Vision Zero campaign, set up in the UK by Mr Casalotti, aims to achieve a traffic system with no fatalities or serious injuries.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington’s transport and environment chief, said councillors had “long identified St John’s Street as a place requiring ped­estrian transformation”.

She directed Mr Casalotti to the Bunhill Ward Improvement Plan, where proposals to im­prove the area are detailed.

Ms Bitner-Glindzicz’s daughter Helena Miles replied to Cllr Webbe’s tweets, adding: “I would argue a proposal does not effectively exist if it is constantly in planning stages. I think it is time for you, plus relevant people, to sit down with families of road victims on your streets.”

Victoria Lebrec speaking at a cyclists’ ‘die-in’ protest

Ms Miles intends to write a letter to Cllr Webbe and TfL chiefs on the issue.

Victoria Lebrec, who lost her leg in a cycling collision at the junction of St John’s Street and Clerkenwell Road in 2014, said she backed Ms Miles’s call for a meeting.

She added: “I went to meet with the council in 2015. It has taken until now to get plans put in place to improve the stretch where I was hurt. It can be slow-moving but I would support her and change can happen.”

After Ms Bitner-Glindzicz’s death, friends and colleagues paid tribute to her caring nature and thoughtful approach to her work as a geneticist.

Wendy Horrobin, co-founder of the charity Norrie Disease Foun­da­tion, said: “She was the first researcher in the UK to say ‘I’d like to help’. Maria became the driving force and main support behind the creation of the Norrie Disease Founda­tion and was managing the research into exploring gene therapy to treat hearing loss.”

She added: “She went out of her way to meet and speak with families to understand their situation. She was so kind and caring and will be so missed. It was unbelievable that Maria decided to help such a rare small patient group.”

The van driver died before the inquest, but a statement taken by the police after the collision in September last year was read out in court.

Senior coroner Ms Hassell stated that the condition of the road did not contribute to Ms Bitner-Glindzicz’s death.

Cllr Webbe tweeted that she would be happy to meet the family.

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