Cyclists condemn mayor's decision to disband police lorry safety unit
The mayor Boris Johnson has been strongly criticised for his decision to disband a specialist lorry safety unit run by the Metropolitan Police force.
The decision to axe the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit (CVEU) comes in a year when 8 of the 10 cyclists fatalities in London have involved collisions with lorries.
70% of the vehicles checked by the unit since 2005 have been found to be defective, and it is the only such unit in the country.
LCC cycling development officer Charlie Lloyd said, "It's difficult to believe that our cycling mayor is disbanding the only police unit in the country that has the power to properly investigate unsafe lorry operators, and bring them up to standards set by Health and Safety law."
Eight of ten 2009 cyclist fatalities involve HGVs
Despite the high proportion of cyclist fatalities involving HGVs, the mayor has claimed that the voluntary scheme for haulage companies, the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS), provides adequate protection for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Lloyd said, "The mayor sings the praises of the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme, but there's a significant minority of operators who will never consider joining. It's for these people that the police need expert powers to pursue them until they comply with the law."
Mayor "badly informed" on cyclist/HGV safety
Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member for the Green Party, said, "Not enough is being done to stop cyclists and others from going under the wheels of HGVs in London. What little has been done has mostly been carried out by the police officers in this unit.
"The mayor is badly informed if he thinks that the small back-street haulage firms and businesses will sign up to his voluntary scheme."
Boris Johnson said, "The three sergeants and nine constables [of the CVEU] are being directed to other jobs as part of savings in the police budget.
"That's only happening because we're confident that the freight operators, through the FORS, will implement safety measures."
What is the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit?Since 2005 the CVEU has completed over 3000 roadside checks of freight vehicles, finding fault in over 70% of cases. The unit has also visited over 400 companies to examine procedures, agree action plans, and issue improvement notices under the Health and Safety Act.
The unit costs Transport for London less than £1 million per year. The funding goes to the Metropolitan Police Service under a parterneship agreement with the Transport for London Freight Unit.
The combined budget for the police and transport in London in 2009-10 is over £11 billion.
"I am writing to express my concern that the Mayor has disbanded the police lorry safety unit, particularly bearing in mind the number of lorries which are found to be faulty, and the number of lorries involved in fatalities in the capital. Please reconsider."
"It's understandable the mayor has to cut costs, but cutting them from a unit designed to reduce lorry deaths isn't acceptable when this is a massive problem at the moment - 8 out of 10 this year speaks for itself."
Jane K, Newham
"Having the police involved in educating lorry drivers, as well as improving safety, sends a powerful message that cyclists matter."
"What a terrible decision. This is negligent in the face of so many deaths caused by lorries. Shame on the mayor."
"The mayor needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Does he really want more people to cycle in London? Get tough with all road users. We should all be able to use the road without fear of losing our lives."
"I share everyone's concern about accidents involving lorries, but the high proportion of them suggests this scheme hasn't been working. Perhaps something different is needed, like legislation about wing-mirrors."
"You would think with the mayor himself nearly seriously hurt in a incident with a lorry only a short while ago,that he would understand the need for such a specialised task force."
"If, like me, you had a good friend that died in this way, you would truly know that this scheme should not be withdrawn and in fact should only be the start."
"Boris, as a cyclist I'd have thought you'd know there is still much to do before we are safe from lorries. Aren't eight fatalities in one year enough to make you feel that more needs to be done, not less?"
"Lorry drivers need to be kept on the alert about their driving at all times, particularly at the end of a long drive, when their attention wanders."
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