‘The time now is for action’: Colleagues of doctor killed cycling in Holborn demand safety changes
Exclusive: Colleagues of doctor killed cycling in Holborn demand safety changes
London mayor Sadiq Khan is under intense pressure from colleagues of a paediatrician killed by a HGV while cycling to work to introduce immediate road safety improvements, the Standard can reveal.
Letters have been sent to the Mayor from the chairman and chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust, and from paediatricians at Evelina London children’s hospital, where Dr Marta Krawiec worked as a food allergy expert.
On Thursday, it emerged she had been cycling to work at St Thomas’s hospital at the time. She had started commuting by bike at the start of the pandemic to ensure she could continue to see her patients and to “selflessly” keep space on the Tube and buses free for other NHS workers.
The letters note that Dr Krawiec, 41, was the eighth cyclist to be killed near Holborn station since 2008 – and the fourth at the same junction.
They say the lack of action, despite the award of almost £9.5m for safety improvements two years ago, is “unacceptable”.
They contrast the situation with the erection of safety barriers on Westminster bridge and London bridge “overnight” after terrorist attacks. Had similar measures been introduced at Holborn, Dr Krawiec “may still be alive”, they said.
Dr Helen Brough, head of the paediatric allergy department at Evelina, and Professor Adam Fox, president of the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology, “implored” Mr Khan to introduce temporary safety barriers around Holborn gyratory.
Noting the Mayor’s frequent tweets boasting about more cycle lanes elsewhere in London, they said: “The time now is for action rather than words. You must ensure that she is the last to die here.”
The doctors wrote: “Too many people have died on this road in utterly preventable circumstances.”
‘Loved by her patients and colleagues’
Dr Krawiec was described as an “extremely compassionate, knowledgeable and positive doctor loved by her patients and colleagues” who had a passion for clinical research that was directly improving the lives of hundreds of children with allergies.
The letter said: “Her preventable death leaves a huge hole in the allergy team, the Evelina children’s hospital, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the wider allergy community both in the UK and Europe. Her death will have an incalculable impact on the patients that she looked after.”
A separate letter from trust chairman Sir Hugh Taylor and chief executive Ian Abbs said: “Marta was killed on her morning commute, just one of the countless members of NHS staff across London who cycle to work on any given day, including many who will pass through this very busy area.
“We are aware that there have been proposals in place for a number of years to make improvements to this area, none of which have yet transpired. We would ask that these plans are revisited and acted on as a matter of urgency.
“To avoid any further unnecessary deaths, we would also ask that immediate interim steps are taken to protect cyclists by putting in place temporary safety measures to separate cyclists from the traffic.
“While we cannot change what happened to Marta, the tragic circumstances of her death should act as an impetus to make an urgent and positive impact on the lives of other cyclists, and ensure that she did not die in vain.”
Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib-Dem assembly member, is due to demand a “precise timetable” for action and details of specific interim changes when she questions Mr Khan at City Hall on Thursday.
She is expected to say: “Will you accept that there was a long period – of at least 18 months - from your pledge to the start of the pandemic when nothing actually happened at this dangerous gyratory?”
In a statement to the Standard, Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, said: “My thoughts remain with the family, friends and colleagues of Dr Marta Krawiec after her tragic death last month. I know both the Mayor and TfL are utterly committed to doing everything possible to achieving our Vision Zero goal of eliminating death and serious injuries from London’s streets by 2041.
“Following on from previous safety measures introduced in this area, we had been working with TfL and Camden council on plans to further improve safety– including new walking and cycling facilities to reduce road danger and measures to reduce traffic dominance and pollution.
“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic’s severe impact on TfL’s finances and the lack of a long-term funding agreement for TfL, implementation of these plans has been delayed.
“We are now urgently working to support Camden to deliver short-term measures to reduce road danger in Holborn, as well as investigating longer term proposals to improve cycling safety in the area.”