Published: 01 July 2011
by JOSH LOEB
A HOLLYWOOD actor has hit out at the safety of Westminster’s pedestrian crossings after a 97-year-old woman was killed in a tragic road accident.
Nora Gutmann, a former tutor and language translator, died after a collision with a lorry outside Madame Tussaud’s on Marylebone Road.
Her family have questioned the sequencing of the traffic lights and Olivia Williams (pictured) – who has starred in blockbuster films including The Sixth Sense – told the West End Extra it was time for Transport for London (TfL) to make changes.
She said: “I feel very sad and very angry that there has been another death on one of the crossings on the Marylebone Road. Pedestrians have warned that these signals give insufficient time to cross and that staggered crossings encourage people to rush across the road.”
Ms Williams, whose children attend a nearby school, has supported calls for improvements for a number of years.
She added: “Having petitioned for many years to improve the signals, previous campaigners were told, off the record, that our campaign needed proof that the timings of the crossings posed a danger to pedestrians. Proof in the form of a death. I wonder how many more people have to die before TfL will put the safety of pedestrians over the convenience of motorists.”
Ms Gutmann was born in Germany in 1914 and came to London as a refugee from Nazism.
The circumstances surrounding her death on Marylebone Road have yet to be established and there is no indication that the TfL traffic light system was to blame. The driver of the vehicle was arrested at the scene of the crash on June 17 and has been bailed. Ms Gutmann died of multiple injuries, according to a post-mortem examination held last week. An inquest has been opened adjourned until September.
Her grandson, Nick Alexandra, said he had concerns about the sequencing of traffic lights in Marylebone Road, adding: “We went to see the spot [where the collision took place] and the lights do not leave much time for people to cross.”
He said Ms Gutmann had been walking back to Baker Street station to make her way to her home in Kilburn after an appointment with her dentist close to Harley Street, when the incident took place. She was taken to hospital, where she died of her injuries.
A spokesman for Transport for London, which controls a crossing adjacent to where the collision took place, said: “TfL’s Directorate of Traffic Operations regularly reviews traffic signal timings across London and makes adjustments where issues have been identified. We are unable to comment on the crossing where last week’s road traffic collision occurred, but will provide any information requested of us by police to assist in their investigation.”
Ms Gutmann’s funeral took place last week and was attended by her grieving family from the US and friends from Germany and Italy.