Mayor responds to LCC's calls to end lorry danger through Safer Lorry scheme plans

Direct vision lorry

LCC is calling for the adoption of direct vision lorries, like the above, which give drivers a much clearer view of cyclists and pedestrians near their vehicle than conventional cabs. The Safer Lorry scheme contains no requirements for freight operators to use lorries with improved direct vision.

On the day London's Safer Lorry scheme launches, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced planned changes to the scheme in response to calls from London Cycling Campaign and its supporters for stronger action to end lorry danger.

LCC has been calling for much stronger action from the Mayor to put an end to lorry danger. In the first half of 2015, seven out of the eight cyclist fatalities in London involved large lorries. LCC has stated that the Mayor’s Safer Lorry scheme doesn’t do enough to address the issue, as it will only require lorries to have basic safety equipment, which most lorries on London’s roads already do.

The Mayor has today announced that the second stage of the scheme will require lorries to be retro-fitted with glass doors. This would help to reduce blind spots and improve driver vision, one of the key calls of LCC's End Lorry Danger campaign. Consultation will begin in January and Mr Johnson has vowed to make a final decision on glass doors before he stands down as mayor in May. 

Mr Johnson said today: "This big step forward is only one element of my work to protect cyclists and pedestrians from lorries. I announce today that I propose to require further safety modifications to all HGVs in London, including the retrofitting of bigger side windows to further reduce the driver blind spots that contribute to so many tragic accidents.

“Bigger side windows, in the lower panel of the cab door, give the driver direct vision of any cyclist who may be alongside them, and can be fitted to most lorries for around £1,000.”

The Greater London Authority say that in the interim, glass doors will be fitted as a priority to all lorries working for the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and Crossrail. Three cyclists, Maria Karsa, Brian Holt and Claire Hitier-Abadie, have died in collisions with Crossrail HGVs.

The third stage of the safer lorry scheme will aim to utilise the Mayor’s planning powers over the capital’s largest developments to dictate HGV delivery routes, which could require drivers to avoid roads heavily used by cyclists, or to take a route that avoids the need for left turns. The GLA say that discussions with London boroughs and the construction industry have begun to ensure this happens “as fast as possible”. Developers breaching planning conditions can have their sites shut down by local authorities. 

In addition, TfL has commissioned trials at the Transport Research Laboratory of sensors that sound an alarm in the driver’s cab when a cyclist or pedestrian is near. These could be introduced if the trials are a success.

London Cycling Campaign is pleased that the Mayor has taken on board calls from thousands of supporters demanding stronger action on lorry danger.

One of the key reasons for the danger presented by lorries is the restricted vision that most current lorry designs, even those with the most modern safety mirrors, offer drivers. This makes safe working very difficult even for careful drivers. In around 80% of cycling fatalities involving lorries, the cyclist was initially hit when in the area to the front left of the vehicle. It is difficult for the driver to see what is in this area from a conventional lorry. From a ‘direct vision’ lorry, this area would be clearly visible. The current Safer Lorry scheme contains no requirements for freight operators to use lorries with improved direct vision - merely safety mirrors which do not solve the problem of the 'lorry blind spot' - but plans to retrofit side windows which give drivers a better view of cyclists near their vehicle would be a welcome improvement to the scheme.

Rosie Downes, Campaigns Manager at London Cycling Campaign, said: “The restricted view from most lorry cabs means drivers are not fully aware of what is in their immediate vicinity, be it a pedestrian or a cyclist. This situation is both unacceptable and unnecessary. The news that the Mayor is to consult on retrofitting glass doors to lorries is welcome, and a step towards the widespread adoption of lorries with direct vision cabs, which have a lower driving position and offer the driver a direct view of pedestrians and cyclists in close proximity to their vehicle. Plans to use planning powers to dictate HGV delivery routes are also welcome, and another of LCC's calls. The Mayor must also prioritise safe conditions for people on foot or bike during roadworks, as well as redesigning our streets to provide safer and inviting space for cycling. Junctions, where over 70% of serious injury or fatal collisions occur, must be redesigned to eradicate the risk of cyclists being hit by turning traffic. Cycling deaths are not inevitable, and London’s leaders must do everything in their power to eliminate them.”

On the day the Safer Lorry scheme launches, LCC campaigners will cycle alongside a Mercedes Econic direct vision 18 ton skip loader lorry as it travels from Hyde Park Corner to Lambeth Bridge North, where London arts visionary Moira Gemmill was killed after being struck by a lorry while cycling to work in April 2015. London Cycling Campaign believes that the current design of this junction is unfit for purpose.

Over 12,000 people have signed LCC’s petition to end lorry danger (1), which calls for a commitment from the Mayor to use direct vision lorries for Transport for London and Greater London Authority funded projects. The petition also calls for a rush hour lorry ban (2) and stronger enforcement against operators who put profits before lives by allowing unlicensed, untrained lorry drivers, or unsafe vehicles, to operate on our roads (2).

Notes:

1. LCC’s petition and further information about the campaign can be found at www.lcc.org.uk/hgvs.

2. 40% of cycling fatalities involving lorries occur in the morning rush hour. A ban on all lorries over 7.5 tonnes between 8am and 9.30am would prevent the majority of people who cycle to work from having to share space with lorries. Construction traffic creates the biggest risk to cyclists. Some cities such as Paris and Dublin have restrictions on large lorries at particular times, though these bans do not cover the size of lorry typically involved in cyclist injuries. Any rush hour ban in London, where 28% of the UK's development is currently taking place, must not exempt construction traffic. 

3. In its first month of enforcement the City of London Police Commercial Vehicle Unit found that, 95 of the suspect 136 lorries they stopped had to be taken off the road for non-compliance or safety reasons, including lack of insurance, driving without the appropriate licence, with an unsafe load, or not accurately recording driver hours.

4. The Mercedes Econic lorry that will be driven from Marble Arch to Lambeth Bridge North has been kindly provided by S&B Commercial, part of the Imperial Group, the largest Commercial Vehicle Dealer Group in the UK. S&B Commercial are taking the lead in providing the new Econic Truck in built up urban areas to improve safety.

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