The amount of cyclist deaths in London to take place between 2008 and 2012 is shocking enough; however, when we also consider that HGVs were involved in at least 53 per cent of those London deaths, it has many questioning better safety precautions and asking what can really be done. Only last month, 6 cyclists died tragically in a matter of two weeks.
Half the cyclist deaths in Greater London involve lorries, which is an astounding number considering lorries only make up five per cent of the traffic. Statistics also show us that a large portion of pedestrian fatalities in urban areas involve lorries as well. The most common response from lorry drivers after a fatal accident is that they didn’t see the victim in the moments leading to the crash. According to the London Cycling Campaign, a safer solution is available, and they’ve been trying to get attention.
The Safer Urban Lorry Design
The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) is a charity lobbying for better conditions for cycling in London. Its vision is simple – making London “a world-class cycling city”. The LCC was formed in 1978, and with the merger of several other London-based pro-cycling groups, the organisation was officially founded on 28 September 1978 at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese public house on Fleet Street. Today the LLC’s membership totals well over 12,000.
The LCCs current campaign list includes more cycle-friendly streets through the use of cycle lanes, better cycle parking in and around workplaces, residences ect. But most importantly, one of their largest campaigns is reducing the danger to cyclists from lorries or heavy goods vehicles. The LCC is challenging the construction industry to adopt a new design for better and much safer lorries.
The “Safer Urban Lorry” uses technology already found on many refuse trucks in British towns and cities. The modern refuse lorries have a cab that is designed to minimise risk of running over refuse collectors working close to the vehicle. The cab also provides better protection for pedestrians and cyclists. The LCCs campaign has taken this design, which already works, and combined it with a lower chassis from a construction lorry. This helps provide equivalent load-carrying capacity.
A lower driving position
Higher visibility vs lower
Lower bumper clearance
The LCC believes that the current construction lorry design puts any sort of safety on the back burner, with little care or initiative given to the making construction vehicles any safer. The current construction lorry prioritises off-road convenience and cost saving.
The LCC believes that the Safer Urban Lorry can be adopted without significant risk to the driver or the lorry for a few specific reasons:
1. The new lorries don’t need such a high ground clearance because site roads are becoming better graded for all vehicles and
2. The low entry cabs reduce falls and injuries to drivers, and encourage more cautious driving.
London’s Mayor did take notice
In September, 2013 Mayor Boris Johnson announced the new proposal to remove most unsafe lorries from the Capital. The Mayor had asked for views on whether he should use his powers to levy a substantial “Safer Lorry Charge” on any HGV which isn’t fitted with the basic safety equipment to protect London’s cyclists.
The Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond and the Mayor had announced a joint TfL/Department for Transport Industrial HGV Task Force of additional police officers and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) staff to enforce the regulations against construction HGVs.
“I have long been worried that a large number of cyclist deaths involve relatively small number of problem lorries, which are not fitted with safety equipment. In my cycling vision in March, I said that no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists.” – Mayor Boris Johnson said in a Press Release.
London Cycling Campaign haulage expert and former lorry driver Charlie Lloyd said:
“Our Safer Urban Lorry design is a challenge to the construction industry to use vehicles that help reduce the terrible number of people on bikes and on foot who are killed by lorries. The restricted view from the cab of many of today’s construction lorries means the driver often has little or no idea who or what is in their immediate vicinity, which is totally unacceptable.”
Geoff Lee, whose wife Hilary was killed by a lorry while cycling in Barnet in October 2012, said:
“The construction industry has a duty to do everything it can to prevent more people being killed by its vehicles. Perhaps if more lorries were designed like this lorry, then fewer innocent people would die on our streets.”
Mayor Boris Johnson blames cyclist victims
Last month, Mayor Boris Johnson blamed the victims of a string of cyclists deaths. After the fifth cyclist to die in the capital in only nine days, the London Mayor said that unless people obeyed the laws of the road, “there’s no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people’s lives.”
More recently, the Mayor blamed cycling campaigners for putting people off cycling in the capital. Yesterday, the LCC took to its blog to remind the Mayor that it is “badly designed streets and junctions that are responsible for deterring millions of Londoners from cycling, not campaigners trying to improve conditions.”
LCCs Chief Executive, Ashok Sinha said:
“Countless surveys show that most Londoners are deterred from cycling in the capital because of fear of motor traffic. The Mayor’s poor progress in making cycling safe at London’s worst junctions – by providing protected space on main roads and traffic-calming on smaller streets – is the main reason why most Londoners won’t cycle. In particular the Mayor’s Better Junctions Review has so far failed to deliver any substantial safety improvements on the ground.”
What do you think? Should construction companies rise to the challenge and invest in the Safer Urban Lorry? We want to hear from you in the comment section below.