LCC challenges construction industry to adopt our Safer Urban Lorry to reduce lorry-cyclist deaths

The London Cycling Campaign has published pictures and video of its new Safer Urban Lorry design, and is calling on the construction industry to adopt similar vehicle designs to reduce the shocking number of lorry-cyclist fatalities.

The Safer Urban Lorry features a lower seating position and larger windows, so the driver can see much more of what’s happening immediately around their vehicle.

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.”

Half the cyclist deaths in Greater London involve lorries, even though they make up only 5% of the traffic. A large proportion of pedestrian fatalities in urban areas also involve lorries.

The most common response from lorry drivers after a fatal crash is to say they didn’t see the victim in the moments leading up to the crash.

The Safer Urban Lorry design for uses technology already found on many refuse trucks in British towns and cities.

Modern refuse lorries have a cab design that minimises the risk of running over refuse collectors working close to the vehicle, as well as providing greater protection for pedestrians and cyclists in residential streets.

The London Cycling Campaign has married this tried-and-tested cab design with a lower chassis from a construction lorry, providing equivalent load-carrying capacity. 

Current construction lorry design prioritises off-road convenience and site cost saving over safety.  The high driving position encourages drivers to go faster and closer to other traffic; it doesn't reduce danger.

The Safer Urban Lorry features can be adopted without significant risk to the driver or the lorry because:

(1) new lorries don't need such a high ground clearance because site roads are becoming better graded for all vehicles and

(2) low-entry cabs reduce falls and injuries to drivers, and encourage more cautious driving.

The London Cycling Campaign is this week organising a ‘week of action’ to highlight the wide difference in action that borough councils are taking on making their lorries.

The events are highlighting the worst councils for lorry safety, such as Tower Hamlets, while praising those such as Southwark that have signed up to LCC's Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling pledge.

Safer Urban Lorry features

Lorry graphics produced by Release the Chicken

1. Lower driving position: The seating position in our lorry is approximately 60cm lower than in a conventional construction lorry, which provides the driver with a much improved view of what’s happening around the vehicle, significantly reducing risk to anyone in the immediate area. Inside a traditionally designed lorry a cyclist in a normal riding position is invisible (see below), yet the driver of our Safer Urban Lorry can see them clearly.

2. High-visibility glass panels: The windscreen and side windows are much larger in our design than those found in today’s construction lorries, which means enhanced visibility to the front and the side, The area to the front-left of the lorry, where the vast majority of lorry-cyclist collisions occur, is clearly visible.

3. Lower bumper clearance: Reducing clearance between the underside of the lorry and the ground helps lower the height of the cab and the seating position. It also increases the chance of a cyclist being pushed to the side in the event of a collision, rather than being dragged underneath the wheels.

4. Sideguards: The sideguards work in the same way as the low bumper, increasing the likelihood of a cyclist being knocked away from the lorry in the event of a collision, rather than being dragged under its rear wheels and suffering much more serious harm.

5. Early-warning cameras: The best of today’s early-warning camera systems provide a 360-degree view around the lorry inside the cab (see below), ensuring the driver is aware of pedestrians and cyclists at the sides and rear of the lorry, even if they’re not directly visible.


Excellent concept and visualisation.

Could air suspension help overcome the (possibly exaggerated) requirement for construction lorries to have high ground clearances? I understand that coaches with air suspension have a 'ferry mode' that temporarily jacks the coach up so it doesn't get grounded when boarding ferries. Do lorries have air suspension of this kind, or still have metal springs?

Very few sites in London have any kind of cross country element - there simply isn't space! Most construction lorries in London never go 'off road'. In fact most construction sites take deliveries off the highway (all sites except the big ones).

Even the big sites have limited space for vehicles in addition to site set up & construction and because it's highly trafficed they generally concrete it so it doesn't become a quagmire. This also helps reduce the mud and gravel left on the highways - which causes problems for cars, windscreens & cyclists.

The exception to this is probably demolition and excavation where temporary surfaces are less likely to be used as they may well be on ground which is about to be removed anyway.

Thanks for your comments fredofred. We agree with your assessment, and have tried to emphasise in our piece that construction sites have changed over the years - often due to very sensible health and safety reasons - and that off-road lorries are an anachronism.

  • By JohnM at 8:49pm 22 March 2013
I think it's a good idea to look at ways to make lorries safer and it's the truck manufactures that need pressure to make changes but coming from a construction/lorry background there are some misinformed statements being made, for instance i do agree the construction sites in London do not usually need trucks with with high clearance but when you take material to landfill sites this is where you need high ground clearance especially in bad weather, our company had damage to 5 trucks in one day because of bad roads in landfill sites causing thousands of pounds of damage and this is just one instance, we are going in the right direction with projects like crossrail insisting on many safety features before you can enter there sites but I think this should be enforced on all building projects and also more consultation between truck operators, cyclists,pedestrians etc including educational days so we can look at things from each others perspective, as a truck operator I do care about safety to others and we need to work together to find a way for lorries,cars,cyclists and pedestrians to live together.

Some types of lorry need a high clearance but the vast majority (e.g. road freight lorries) could use LCC's safer lorry design. However if it is more expensive than a standard design, legislation will be needed to adjust the risk/benefit ratio of different types of lorry (e.g. higher road tax and congestion charges for older-style designs).

  • By docanne at 3:28pm 23 March 2013

Why isn't the cyclist in your picture wearinga cycling helmet?

There are other pictures of cyclists on your website who are not wearing cycling helmets, including the video of 'Stefanie all dressed up'.

If we expect others to be concerned for our safety, we must take the first steps to safety ourselves.

^ Because helmets shouldn't be needed if we have the right infrastructure (such as in the Netherlands or Copenhagen). It puts people off cycling in the first place because helmet wearing suggests that it is a dangerous activity. Also, a helmet won't help much against being crushed by a lorry, and helmets aren't that effective anyway, they are not designed to protect against injuries with collisions involving motor vehicles.

  • By gegi at 9:56pm 24 March 2013

docanne, could you explain to us how a cycle helmet would help that cyclist in a crash with that lorry?

More importantly, how would a helmet prevent a crash from happening? Because the consequences of a lorry crash are always so severe it is paramount to prevent the crash rather than try and mitigate the consequences.

It seems to me the new lorry design will enable drivers to do just that, prevent the crash by helping them to see others much better.

As far as Stephanie is concerned, well she is a grown up and can make a judgement as to the risk she takes and the protection a helmet might provide. It's her choice.

  • By sim-o at 12:49pm 25 March 2013

Excellent work, chaps.


maybe you can get Mercedes to make it, and call it Econic.


How are you proposing to get a 360 degree view of the truck as shown in the image above? Radar? It's not going to happen with ordinary cameras, unless each truck has it's own helicoptor flying above it, beaming pictures into the cab.


This is all just sticking plasters. There is only so much a driver can see, even with an array of mirrors and cameras. What is needed is proper seperation of traffic, with propor cycle lanes, and education of cyclists as to how trucks behave and move around the road.

All round 360 degree view around a lorry, van or bus is already available from ASL360 and some other suppliers.  This system is being trialled on buses and in use on some lorries. The LCC safer lorry design reduces the need for such a system by bringing the driver down to street level giving him/her direct vision of most of the people around the lorry. A 360 degree camera system is a useful addition to such a lorry but an essential aid for drivers of the unsafe lorries mostly used by the construction industry in London.

  • By JohnM at 10:34pm 27 March 2013
Charlie, what is an unsafe lorry used mostly by the construction industry in London ? Also it is impractical to bring all lorries down to street level although the thought is a good one it does not work when lorries go off road into landfill sites etc. It's very helpful to drivers having side scan bleepers and camera's but I believe lorry drivers need to be alert and watching the road and surroundings rather than cameras whilst moving forward, it would be interesting to read views of companies who have tried the ASL360 system
  • By Dave H at 2:31pm 1 April 2013

A few years ago TfL closed down their Freight Unit, the freight equivalent of their passenger services for rail, bus, taxis, river and trams. The London Olympics saw a rebirth of the unit which TfL has now realised can have a major impact on how the limited resource of London roads can be used to greatest effect with least damage, and minimised pollution (emissions, noise etc).

Freight operators in retail and logistics are already ahead of the game. It costs them serious money to have a huge truck designed for 56mph running on a trunk route, crawling around city streets to deliver a fraction of its load capacity, so they decant to smaller trucks and vans, and even bikes (as already well established in Cambridge & York), and large retail deliveries also get scheduled to run in to London so that the minimum of the costly time (drivers wages and truck running costs) is lost in gridlocked streets - just observe the M1, M40, M4, and see how the trucks seem to vanish from the traffic heading in to town between around 07.00 and 10.00. In London companies like Gnewt are using very small vehicles and cargo bikes to move the 90% of deliveries that weigh under 30Kg and are required by customers during the day.

The elephant in the corner is construction and development.  With trunk logistics and retail offering the best wages and clean regular work they can choose and get the best drivers, with the best qualifications (ie Class 1 licences for articulated trucks).  For construction the currency for bulk materials movement is the Class 3 rigid, and generally the maximum capacity of the 4-axle 32T chassis and its payload of around 20T.  The DfT has produces a paper on construction industry bulk haulage and their research shows the 44T articulated tipper, with a 30T payload causes substantially less damage to the road than a 4-axle rigid, and cuts the number of truck movements required to move the same tonnage - reducing the level of risk.  But the availability of casual agency sourced drivers, for the peaks and troughs of the demand for moving spoil and materials on and off site makes the picture one of transience and with transient operations the levels of risk are higher.

The movement of muck from excavations produces some frightening figures, and sights.  I photgraphed around 30 32T tippers all lined up to haul spoil, along Midland Road almost to Camden, from the Francis Crick site at St Pancras to Pitsea (a 63 mile round trip) with an estimated 150 trips per day using at least 50 trucks, running continuously for around 2 months, and in part the number of trucks was determined by the fact that once moving they were stuck on City Road every 200-300 metres during the morning peak.

By contrast if you watch the Thames, you'll occasionally see a tug pass with 2-4 barges in tow. Each barge can carry 500T or 25 of those tippers could fill it, so we have up to 2000T being driven safely through London by a single 'driver' with a vastly smaller pollution footprint and a 'road' surface which repairs itself.  A train can carry 1000-1500T.  However the provision of loading facilities is expensive and not something an isolated development project would fund, so we do need a lead from TfL to provide and maintain those facilities - and recoup the cost from appropriate charges.    

The success of freight management during the Olympics, has lead to TfL maintaining their reborn freight unit, but with an interesting twist. Many of those who were recruited for 2012 have come from clear thinking military logistics operations, and have challenged the claims that high ground clearances, and other features are needed on the trucks used. perhaps thay can see a way that provision of facilities to put bulk materials on to rail and river can be paid for through transferring the savings in road damage, and some cycle safety funding to underwrite the reduction construction traffic from the many major projects on the horizon. 

Of course there is one further detail proven by Epsom Coaches on a London Buses contract.  They reasoned that since the route was entirely within a 30mph limit, the bus engine controls could be sete to limit the speed to 30mph. The result, reduced driver stress, and a reduction in minor crash damage.  So perhaps the Council operated HGV's can be operated at the local speed limits, and as such they can deliver mobile traffic calming, keeping the traffic speeds down, by their bulk and presence on the road. 

Oh and we have trucks designed with such crash unfriendly, non aerodynamic features thanks to EU legislation, which drives the design to make the cab as short and slab-like as possible, and maximise the length available for the load. Unlike cars, trucks have never had the crash testing of ENCAP, and the slab front design knocks the pedestrian or cyclist flat to be run over by the wheels.  Designs that incorporate curved deflection faces, crumple zones, and enhanced direct vision could be delivered if EU legislation is changed, and the opportunity to do this is coming very soon, as the current EC 96/53 is due for review.  A report on the possible changes estimates that the Europe-wide death toll could be halved by designing trucks with appropriate features to mitigate the results from a crash.  Are we gathering the momentum to deliver this?    

JohnM - you might reflect on whether it is the bad roads or the way the company's drivers are driving on those bad roads. I've driven in snow and other foul weather conditions and never got stuck in basic 2-wheel drive vans & cars, when 4 wheel drives, badly driven got stuck all around me. The calm, thinking driver gets through without damaging their vehicle or getting bogged down.

Safety gear - the best safety system is making direct eye contact with the other road user, if you are both looking at each other the chances are you have both seen each other and will act accordingly - hence the great advantage of direct vision. the Dennis Eagle Elite 2 trucks I see in London, have the driver in such a postion I can see them from their head to below their waist, from a bike alongside.  

This post was edited by Dave H at 2:51pm 1 April 2013.

  • By BrianW at 3:54pm 11 April 2013

Truck high seat position is historic, evolving from 1920s high chassies with engine on top next to the radiator . Tuck drivers may not even like the "king of the road" high position once they get in the city. This design is much better, espcially the glass bus doors.

  • By BrianW at 7:08am 12 April 2013

Take the passenger door off all trucks now ! Improve vision & the driver could hear the cycle bell .

More cyclists are killed in Britain than British Troops in Afghanistan. 

My father was a truck driver in the 70's and has been responsible for local authority spending on refuse and other such vehicles for the last 20 years.  Ever since I started pedalling around London he's taken a great interest in the changes to technology in lorries, and has been looking at improving the safety features in his fleet.  He test drove a lorry with 360 cameras.  His recommendation?  Too much information, any decent lorry driver can see just as well with the full range of mirrors (the panels on the side etc) that they have in newer lorries.  The 360 gave an illusion of better viewing, but by the time you would look at the full spectrum you'd missed certain points.  Whilst these safety features are helpful, nothing will take the place of better vetting and licensing of HGV drivers and the creation of a culture of care towards other road users. Prohibiting payment by the job for tipper lorries would go some way to curb their speed.  Those notices that say "cyclists beware on this side" well if a HGV passes you, they've just put you in that position.  

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This is actually pretty scary to read about. Yikes, I don't want to get hit :/

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  • By dcorn at 1:25pm 23 February 2016

I think this is a great idea. We need to encourage people to ride bicycles more and making the roads safer is a good way to start.


  • By dcorn at 1:29pm 23 February 2016

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