A COUPLE have spoken of their their relief after an investigation into their daughter’s death on a York cycle path more than six years ago finally finished.

But David and Alison Milnes said they still found it shocking that their 17-yearold daughter Ruby was killed by a lorry on what had been publicised as a ‘Traffic-Free Safe Route to School.’

They also said questions still remained unanswered about the removal of a barrier across the cycle path prior to her death, which had previously slowed cyclists as it crossed a road used by the lorry to get to York Racecourse.

Speaking after an inquest was held yesterday into Ruby’s death, the Bishophill couple said of the barrier: “It has still not been established when it was removed or by whom, let alone what precautions and risk assessments, if any, were made at the time.”

York’s acting senior coroner Jonathan Leach, concluding that Ruby’s death on her way home from York College on May 8, 2008, was accidental, said it did not appear a risk assessment had been carried out over the barrier’s removal.

The inquest was told there were no road markings or signs to warn either cyclists or drivers about the path/ road junction, and a large hedge also prevented lorry driver Stephen Todd seeing Ruby, and her seeing his lorry, at least until it was too late. However, the barrier had since been reinstated, warning signs had been put up and the hedge had been cut back.

Mark Hatfield, of the Health and Safety Executive, said he understood the barrier’s main purposes had been to prevent motorcyclists using the path, and it had been removed because it blocked access to the path by disabled people and cycles with trailers. He did not know who removed it but he imagined it was City of York Council.

The hearing was told there was no fault with the lorry, which had been taking portable toilets to the racecourse, or with Ruby’s bike.

Traffic Constable Stuart Langford said an Ipod was found at the scene which Ruby might have been wearing and which might have prevented her hearing the lorry.

However, Mr Milnes said he had been told that police had conducted an exercise which had concluded wearing one would have made little difference.

Mr Leach said Ruby had been an intelligent and talented young lady who was a ‘credit to her parents and family,’and who had been a cyclist since she was five and had passed her cycling proficiency test.

A racecourse spokesman expressed its sincere condolences to Ruby’s family, said it had always taken the view that the event had been a tragic accident and said the Coroner had confirmed that the racecourse was not responsible for maintaining the cycle path.

“The outcome of the inquest is entirely consistent with having been found “not guilty” last year, in a case brought by the Health and Safety Executive,” he added.

Ruby’s parents David and Alison Milnes told The Press after the inquest: “It’s a huge relief after six and a half years to finally hear the Coroner’s verdict on Ruby’s death.

We’d like to thank Investigating Officer TC Langford and Health and Safety expert Mark Hatfield for coming to give evidence and answer our questions.

“Even after all this time and after hearing so much evidence we still find it shocking that Ruby was killed on what we believed to be, as publicised, a Traffic-Free Safe Route to School.

“TC Langford made it clear that many cyclists, like Ruby, believed themselves safe on the cycle path and rode straight across the access road, which was normally gated and locked and rarely used.

“On the rare occasions the gate was unlocked it created a junction and yet there were no speed restrictions, warning signs or marks on the road to indicate this to either drivers or cyclists. The danger was exacerbated by poor visibility caused by overgrown hedges and the siting of waste bins.

“The chicane barrier across the cycle path that once used to slow cyclists had been removed. It has still not been established when it was removed or by whom, let alone what precautions and risk assessments, if any, were made at the time.

“Thankfully this junction is now made safe for cyclists. It remains our hope that lessons learned from Ruby’s death will lead to safer cycling at similar junctions throughout the country.”