MEPs give overwhelming support for measures in the European Parliament to improve lorry safety for London cycling and walking

 

UPDATE: 15th April 2014 Euro MEPs voted overwhelmingly to support amendments to the lorry design directive.

Thank you to all our supporters who sent messages asking MEPs to support the vote in Strasbourg. 570 MEPs suported the change with only 88 against.

Now the campaign focus changes to all 28 governments in the Council of Europe who will negotiate the final changes. In January London's Mayor Boris Johnson expressed concern that the UK government would oppose these changes.

To date the UK government is still talking about amending the version supported by their and most other MEPs. London Cycling Campaign fears the proposals will be watered down, putting the emphasis back on more larger lorries and not on cyclist and pedestrian safety.

Some of the responses our members recieved from their MEPs are shown below. LCC will be working with other cycling, pedestrian and safety groups to lobby the government to full support the European Parliament's decision. We will be sending out further calls for support in the coming weeks.

Safer Urban Lorry

 

Our call for action from last week:

On 15 April 2014 the European Parliament will vote on its Transport Committee report supporting major changes to the regulations governing how lorries are designed, which has the potential to make them much safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

See our report on how they support LCC's proposals for "Direct Vision" lorries.

We urging our supporters to email their MEPs in support of this vote.

The proposals are at risk of being neutralised by individual governments in the European Council.

Our support for the MEPs will strengthen their position in the bargaining over the final directive.

London Cycling Campaign and the other members of the Action on Lorry Danger group will be lobbying the UK government and Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin to reverse their opposition to these safety improvements.

Show there is strong popular support by emailing your MEP now.

Please use this text or add your personal views, and email to the following people (use the BCC field for the addresses if you choose to email them simultaneously):

The London MEPs are:

Lorries are involved in over 50% of all cycling deaths in Greater London. This horrific statistic can be reversed if lorries are designed in a way that prioritises cyclist and pedestrian safety.

The vote in the Plenary session of the European Parliament on 15 April 2014 supporting the report from the Parliament's Transport Committee will do just that.

Your support for this measure will guarantee it passes to the next stage and ensure its provisions are not weakened by changes from the Commision and European Council.

Please can you assure me that you will vote to support safer lorries?

Could you also take the time to write to the UK transport minister asking for his full support on this issue in the Council of Ministers.

Thanks for your support.

Replies

"Directive 96/53/EC limits the maximum weight of heavy goods vehicles to 40 tonnes (44 in combined transport) and the length to 18.75 m. " (how much larger will this be with 45ft box below?)

"?What are we proposing? (info from 'fersi', euro road safety ins.)
Better aerodynamics:.. by allowing manufacturers to design truck cabins with a rounded shape and to equip vehicles with aerodynamic flaps at the back of the trailer" (flaps can be fitted to the back of trailers already & streamlining also possible).

"The current brick shape.. also reduces the drivers "sideways" vision" (it's the small side windows that reduce vision).

"red tape will be reduced to make it easier to switch 45 foot containers.. between ship, road and rail. For example, a special permit will no longer be required" (this is the crux, a longer truck)

"Overloading: Today, up to one third of controlled vehicles are overloaded causing damage.. compromising road safety and costing taxpayers some 950 million Euro every year" (ouch!)

I sent an email to some of the MEPs listed. These were their replies. Can someone help with Marina Yannakoudakis response because I am not sure what she is saying, if anything.

 

1) LibDem (best response)

Thank you for contacting me about the revision of EU Directive 96/53/EC on maximum authorised dimensions and weights of lorries.

I have long been concerned about cyclist safety and the dangers of large lorries; there were three deaths involving lorries in my local area during my 8-year stint as an Islington borough councillor in the 1990s. As an MEP I have supported a campaign led by my Liberal Democrat colleague in the European Parliament Fiona Hall MEP, in support particularly of the See Me, Save me campaign, calling for the use of sensors to eliminate lorry blindspots which lead to thousands of collisions each year and an unacceptable number of death and injuries; see my work for instance here, here and here.

In April 2013 the European Commission published a proposal for revising Directive 96/53/EC which lays down the maximum authorised dimensions and weights for lorries in the EU. The current rules do not allow enough length for manufacturers to incorporate safety improvements without reducing capacity. Existing lorry cab design is driven by the need for the cab to be as short as possible, hence the flat-fronted vehicles we see on our roads which are bad for both safety and aerodynamic efficiency.

A revision of the weights and dimensions Directive in fact became necessary because several member states, including Sweden, Finland and Germany, allow longer lorries within their countries as is currently permitted under the Directive as long as these vehicles don’t cross borders, but there is now pressure to introduce them in international traffic. The new proposal is an opportunity to make HGVs more environmentally friendly and safer on our roads, even though I am opposed to huge lorries.

The Commission's proposal introduces changes to the design of HGVs which could improve safety for cyclists in traffic. The driver's field of vision would be generally increased and there would be fewer blind spots which are often the cause of a collision with a pedestrian or cyclist. The change in design would reduce the impact of frontal crashes and push cyclists and pedestrians away from the wheels of the lorry, which would at least reduce fatalities and very serious injury even in the event of a crash. Thus along with other Liberal Democrat MEPs I have been active in supporting the changes proposed by the Commission, which would allow for a much smarter design, both in terms of aerodynamics and road safety: you can read our letter to The Times on the subject here.

I however strongly oppose these longer vehicles - ‘mega-trucks’ - becoming the norm across Europe, particularly in heavily populated urban areas. London, with its heavy traffic and narrow streets, is a particularly dangerous place for huge lorries to be driving around. In fact mega-trucks would not only pose an added safety risk on Europe’s roads but also be contrary to the EU’s intention to move away from ‘dirty’ forms of transport and towards cleaner, greener modes like freight trains.

My Liberal Democrat colleague and European transport spokesperson Phil Bennion MEP, who follows this file in the Transport Committee, shares this view. He has been working to prevent cross-border traffic of mega-trucks while taking into account the specific geographical situations of countries such as Sweden and Finland. His approach was backed by transport safety campaigns in the UK, including not only See Me, Save Me but also Live in Hope and Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling (London Cycling Campaign).

I am very pleased that Phil succeeded in getting all references to cross-border use of these longer vehicles deleted from the proposals during the vote in the European Parliament Transport Committee on 18th March. It’s a shame that Conservative MEPs on the Transport Committee Jacqueline Foster and Philip Bradbourn abstained from the vote while former UKIP MEP Mike Natrass voted against it.

The plenary vote on the proposal will take place on 15 April 2014 when I will be able to vote in support of it as well. I have also written to the UK Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin MP asking him to support the proposal when it comes before him and his Transport Minister colleagues in the Council of the European Union.

You can keep up to date with the outcome of the vote by subscribing to my weekly bulletin here: http://www.sarahludfordmep.org.uk/signup

Thank you once again for contacting me on this important issue.

2) UKIP (worst response)

Dear Sir

Thank you for writing to me on this issue.

Road safety for all road users and pedestrians is very important, and government should always be responsive to new measures that will increase road safety.

As I am sure you know, UKIP policy is for Britain to leave the European Union. We do not accept the legitimacy of the EU to legislate over the British people, therefore we never vote in favour of EU Directives. These kind of measures should be initiated and enacted by our own democratically elected and accountable Parliament.

I hope you will understand our position.

Your sincerely,

Gerard Batten MEP



3) Conservatives (confusing)

Thank you for your email describing concerns over the need for better lorry design in order to protect cyclists and pedestrians from accidents.

I contacted Jacqueline Foster MEP, Conservative Spokesman for Transport & Tourism in the European Parliament, who provided the following information to me for your attention:

"As the Conservative Transport Spokesman for 9 years in the European Parliament, I would like to inform you that the UK Government has never suggested that we oppose improvements to road safety that would protect cyclists.

The current proposed legislation being discussed focuses mainly on the weight and length of lorries and does not in fact cover the design element of these vehicles. This also applies to other transport manufacturing sectors where these design changes must be covered under type approval legislation.

However, I intend to support a number of amendments which have been put down focusing on the improved design of lorries which should send a strong message to all countries to ensure this issue remains a priority.

I have met with manufacturers, businesses and passenger groups, and I am hopeful that when we come to vote on the 15th April we will improve the Commission text."

Like Jacqueline, I take this issue very seriously which is why next week I also intend to support a number of amendments that improve the design of lorries. Further to this, I have also raised awareness by passing your concerns directly to the Permanent UK Representation to Brussels, which supports the work of the UK government at the European Council.

As your London MEP I would be happy to receive further comments and suggestions on how we can protect cyclists and pedestrians from accidents. I have offices in London and in Brussels, and if there is anything else you would like to bring to my attention please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Marina Yannakoudakis, Conservative MEP for London

Conservative Women´s spokesman and member of the Women´ s Rights and Gender Equality committee of the European Parliament

 

Conservative Heath spokesman and member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee of the European Parliament

 

  • By phufbl at 10:46am 15 April 2014

My interpretation of the response from Marina Yannakoudakis says is:

"I support safer and better designed lorries, but I do not think the currently proposed directive achieves those aims. I hope to help make amendments to the directive to improve it"

The UKIP response is, of course, bizarre. As a democratically elected MEP he is claiming that the European parliament is undemocratic. What the hell are you doing there then Gerard? Why don't you do some work to represent the best interests of your constituents who have democratically elected you?  

I can accept that interpretation (from phufbl). I got a long email from the Greens and Labour too, but I think posting these would be OTT given that the measure has passed for now.

 

And yes, I completely agree with your interpretation of the UKIP response and sent an email back along the lines you outlined above.

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