Maria Bitner-Glindzicz cycle death: Professor died after parked van driver opened door without looking, sending her into path of black cab

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz. Picture: Norrie Disease Foundation

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz. Picture: Norrie Disease Foundation - Credit: Archant

A genetics professor died after a van driver opened his door without looking and knocked her “under the wheels of a black cab” as she cycled, an inquest heard today.

And today her husband David Miles accused transport bosses of hypocrisy by promoting cycling as safe and environmentally friendly while "under-spending on the safety budget".

Professor Maria Bitner-Glindzicz was in St John Street on September 19 when a van driver "doored" her, causing her to either swerve and lose balance or be "sideswiped", and she was run over by an overtaking taxi.

The van was parked "a considerable distance from the kerb", the court heard.

The 55-year-old, who was a professor of molecular genetics and a clinical geneticist at University College London, died of "multiple injuries" at the Royal London Hospital the next day.

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Delivering a narrative determination, senior coroner Mary Hassell said: "Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died in a road traffic collision that occurred at approximately 11.30am on September 19 in St John Street, 70 metres south of the junction with Clerkenwell Road.

"She was cycling in a safe and steady manner wearing a helmet and fluorescent strap. Her bike was in good condition.

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"A van driver had parked his vehicle far from the kerb. This created a hazard and meant less space in the road.

"The van driver didn't look before opening the driver's door sharply. The result was either that Professor Bitner-Glindzicz has to swerve suddenly, or that she was sideswiped.

"In either event, the opening of the door caused her to fall under the wheels of a black cab overtaking."

Prof Bitner-Glinzicz worked in molecular genetics and as a clinical geneticist at University College London. She also worked at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital specialising in child deafness, and conducted world-leading research into Norrie Disease.

The van driver was charged with opening his door so as to "injure or endanger" on April 1, and was due to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates' court later that month - but the 43-year-old died in his sleep two days before the court case, and proceedings were discontinued.

Prior to his death, the man told police he had looked in his mirrors and out of his windows before opening the door - but Pc Tiffany Seery dismissed this as untrue, telling the court he would have seen her if he had done so.

CCTV footage suggests the cab driver was travelling between 21 and 23mph, whereas Prof Bitner-Glindzicz was cycling at 10mph.

There is no forensic proof that the bike and the van came into contact, the court heard.

Prof Bitner-Glindzicz's husband David Miles, who is a professor of medical oncology, said: "One of TfL's biggest ironies is that they promote cycling as healthy and an environmentally friendly alternative while under-spending on the safety budget by £142million."

He was accompanied in court by their daughter Helena Miles, who this year ran the London Marathon to raise money for the Norrie Disease Foundation. Ahead of the race Helena told the Gazette: "My worry is some of these rare genetic diseases don't get much funding, so we want people to know about conditions like Norrie.

"If my mum can't be here to carry on the work then at least we can make sure the work is carried on in some way.

"Only 30 or so families in the UK have an official [Norrie disease] diagnosis so it can be quite scary for those suffering from it.

"I look at the difficulties these families have had to face, and their resilience, and it make me think doing something like running a marathon can only be so hard.

"Whatever my family have been through, they are people to look to as shining examples of how to be resilient and graceful in the face of adversity."

The Gazette asked Helena how Islington might be made safer for cyclists. She said: "Making sure the quality of the roads is up to scratch would be a good start.

"The state of the roads would definitely be one of the easier low hanging fruits to address. It would please everybody to have good, safe, smooth surfaced roads."

Dushal Mehta, partner at Fieldfisher, pursuing a civil claim on behalf of the family, said: "The coroner highlighted the van driver's bad driving and concluded it caused Prof Bitner-Glindzicz's death and that she didn't stand a chance. What we need is a radical rethink of our attitudes towards road safety and that must be a priority."

Stuart Reid, director of TfL's "Vision Zero" road safety project to stop anyone dying or being seriously injured on London's roads by 2041, said afterwards: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Prof Maria Bitner-Glindzicz who tragically died after a collision while cycling in Clerkenwell in September last year.

"We're committed to a Vision Zero approach to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from London roads and are working with Camden and Islington Councils to invest in a number of proposals to reduce danger in the area."

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