Cycle and tipper truck

 A cross-party strategy to Get Britain Cycling aims to see a quarter of all journeys made on a bicycle by 2050. It's lead to to a flurry of pro-cycling announcements from Westminster with little consideration for operators.

In recent months operators have been dealt a deluge of safety initiatives and potential legislation aimed at protecting cyclists from ‘dangerous’ LGVs.

This is despite the fact that 82% of the 118 cyclist fatalities on UK roads last year did not involve an LGV, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

Not that it seems to count for much with shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle (now succeeded by cyclist Mary Creagh). In a recent Commons debate, she said: “We need tough new rules on LGVs that are involved in about a fifth of all cycling fatalities, despite the fact that LGVs make up just 6% of road traffic.

“We should look at the case for taking LGVs out of our cities at the busiest times, as has happened elsewhere in Europe. As a minimum, we should require safety measures on all LGVs, including sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars, as well as better training and awareness.”

The most recent cycling strategy from Transport for London (TfL) and the DfT is no exception either, placing a high priority on targeting unsafe lorries through the creation of the HGV Task Force; a consultation on mandatory Driver CPC training on awareness of vulnerable road users; and a mooted safer lorry charge for vehicles not fitted with the correct safety equipment entering the capital, which would be led by mayor Boris Johnson.

(Since this article was first published in print, we also had the announcement of the out-of-hours consortium).

While RHA director of policy Jack Semple welcomes the plans to improve LGV safety in London, he

said the measures being introduced affected only a small minority of non-compliant operators.

“It would be unfortunate if the impression was left that the industry was being ‘scapegoated’ – seen as easy targets because other necessary safety actions are too difficult or too sensitive,” he explained.

Semple believes the only way to achieve a real change in making roads safer for all users is by adopting a holistic approach. “There is no single answer,” he told MT.

“Driving and cycling culture and behaviour is the key. A national campaign to improve the behaviour of all drivers and cyclists in rural and urban settings would improve safety. Collisions with cars account for most cyclist deaths in the UK as a whole and, overwhelmingly, most serious injuries.

“Drivers must understand the risks and, unequivocally, must make allowances for cyclists – even when cyclists are in the wrong. Cyclists as a whole need to be better educated and better disciplined – and they need to be more visible.”

The FTA added that the majority of operators have already made huge investments in their fleets, often going “above and beyond” the legal minimum for safety equipment, and urged the government to get tougher on cyclists to initiate change.

“We need to see cyclists taking responsibility for their actions, obeying traffic regulations, giving space to LGVs making manoeuvres and generally riding responsibly,” said FTA head of policy Karen Dee.

Major change

Richard Harrison, who works for a company that is a member of the Brewery Logistics Group (BLG), told MT: “We have had major change to construction and use of LGVs over the past few years, which I applaud. However, we are in danger of over-complicating the basic fact that cyclists are not aware of the dangers posed by large vehicles.”

He added: “Regulation should include a Compulsory Basic Training [CBT] course, much like the CBT needed to ride a moped at 16.

“If you want to ride your bike on the road, for me, as soon as you hit the tarmac on a public highway, you must be regulated, otherwise there is a two-tier system, which cannot be right.”

Peter Eason, MD of ELB Partners, also wants the roll-out of compulsory training for cyclists. One of his drivers was involved in a collision in 2011 resulting in the death of a cyclist. The inquest recorded the cause of death as road accident collision and did not apportion blame.

The hearing was told that the victim had been wearing headphones and had cycled up the inside of the lorry, which was positioned to turn left at a set of traffic lights and was indicating.

But Eason said his company still endured a torrent of negative press articles in the run-up to the inquest and even after it. He said: “I would like a mandatory London cyclist awareness [LCA] course.

"The law states I have to put my drivers through 35 hours of Driver CPC training every five years and, while I do not expect the LCA to be as intense, knowledge of vehicle blind spots, knowing not to jump red lights, and not to cycle along the inside of a vehicle are a few examples of the training a cyclist should have as a road user.”

Ian Barclay, operations director of West Midlands operator Aspray24 and a keen cyclist, told MT he thought LGV drivers were incredibly “switched on” to the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads.

“In something approaching 2,000 cycling miles this year, truck driver behaviour in my case has been exemplary,” he said.

Additional costs

However, as an operator, he is concerned about the growing number of businesses and local authorities that are issuing cycle-friendly rules, which result in additional costs for Aspray24.

“If those businesses or authorities want additional safety equipment, such as side scanners, fitted before granting access to areas or specific sites, then funding should be available from those organisations,” he said.

“Hauliers should not be left to foot the bill, which is approximately £1,000 per urban delivery vehicle." He also questions the benefits of extra audible-warning equipment: “What testing has been done to measure the effectiveness or otherwise of these items?”

He added: “I think that drivers may be subject to information overload in an already busy

city environment with potential for being distracted.”

This view is echoed by lobby group the London Cycling Campaign, whose road danger reduction expert, Charlie Lloyd, argued that a lorry driver’s reliance on sensors to detect cyclists may provide a false sense of security, possibly causing rather than preventing accidents. However, the group still advocates extra safety equipment on lorries in the main.

The RHA is urging the government to carry out more research into the use of sensors on LGVs, following an increasing demand on operators to fit such equipment.

Semple said: “This is being done without any clear idea of whether they improve cycle safety and there is much scepticism among drivers and employers.”

Safer roads for all

Making our roads safer requires far more than simply educating road users, such as a shift in the way planners design new highways, investment in remodelling existing roads and a focus on ways to

ease congestion.


Banning trucks from London at certain times would protect cyclists, says mayor

Removing lorries from urban roads during peak times is a key suggestion in the Get Britain Cycling report. However, the likelihood of this becoming a reality soon is slim, particularly in the capital where lorry drivers are restricted from making night-time deliveries by the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS) and there is reticence among customers.

BLG chairman Mike Bracey said: “You will not be able to remove lorries from busy urban streets during peak times as they need to get to their first drops at this time.”

He added: “The only way this can be helped is for London councils to totally review the LLCS to allow those who want to do night deliveries to do so without having to go halfway round London to get from one call to the next. If this is achieved, there will not be quite so much emphasis on movement during the peak times.”

Bracey also told MT of his concerns over the confusion caused by London councils’ trialling of cycle lane options to segregate riders from the traffic as well as proposals for 20mph speed limit restrictions.