Two cyclist lorry deaths in two days highlight need for urgent action

photo John Davies The skip lorry involved in a fatal collision in Hackney is towed away by the police

Two cyclist lorry deaths in two days have prompted urgent calls for the measures in the mayor's Cycle Safety Action Plan to be implemented as soon as possible.

A total of three cyclists have been killed so far in 2010 by HGV lorries in London:

10 March 2010 Charity worker Shivon Watson was killed by a skip lorry on Lauriston Road, Hackney, on her way to work. Shivon was a highly regarded musician, who had recently moved from Bristol where she used to work for Sustrans.

9 March 2010  21 year-old student Haris Ahmed was killed by a four axle tipper lorry in Weston Street, near Guy’s Hospital.  It is believed that the lorry had been servicing the massive Shard construction project next to London Bridge station. In recent months dozens of lorries a day have been queuing on roads around the site.

9 February 2010  David Vilaseca, professor of Spanish literature at Royal Holloway College, University of London, was killed on the corner of Tower Bridge Road and Druid Street, by a left-turning four-axle skip lorry.

Cyclists in Southwark have asked for the next Critical Mass ride on Friday 26th to visit all three sites as a memorial to these victims.

Transport for London published its Cycle Safety Action Plan on Tuesday 9 March

The content of the plan has been greatly influenced by LCC, in conjunction with our HGV working group, which in turn has had significant input into the TfL Cycle Safety Working Group.

The dangers posed by HGV lorries is recognised in the Cycle Safety Action Plan as the major threat to life to cyclists in London.

The key elements of the Action Plan relating to HGV safety include:

  1. Promoting the most effective safety equipment, sensors, mirrors and guards
  2. Encouraging council and public sector operators to provide cycle awareness and cycle training to lorry drivers in London
  3. Encouraging responsible procurement so only operators who meet high standards get the contracts
  4. Working to re-schedule deliveries away from peak hour busy roads.
  5. Run marketing campaigns to highlight the danger, for cyclists and for drivers
  6. Research and monitor behaviour to discover more about the problem, including the ‘gender gap’

LCC lorry campaigner Charlie Lloyd said, "Despite the positive attitudes to resolving problems in the Action Plan, there is a lack of real targets or a schedule for change.

"LCC needs to engage further with the political leaders and the freight industry to make sure the appalling run of fatalities does not continue."


I ride daily from Holloway to Southwark. It seems that recently some super enormous lorries have started driving on London roads. They seem to require a driver and a spotter/passenger - as I always see them with two people in the cab. They are absolutely terrifying when they bomb past and I'm normally a pretty confident cyclist. Does anyone know of these are a new type of lorry or something? Do they really need to go through central London? Where are they all going anyway?! It's not like there are enormous mines or factories in central London that need big trucks!

I actually saw an artic lorry stop outside an advanced stop line last week. I gave him some silent applause in my head, and then – lo and behold – he inched his truck forward, while the lights were red, until his massive lorry was filling the box. Driver behaviour is a massive problem... and don't get me started on lorry drivers and mobile phones.

Yes, cyclists that are too close to a lorry are hard to see by the driver. So how come virtually every lorry pulls up behind me with centimetres to spare? And how come a skipper lorry blasted past me last week, within touching distance, only to reach a red light and leave me in the danger position? I am concerned that the lorry campaign, or certainly the media take on it, always focuses on training cyclists, cyclists wearing helmets and some technical solution for the driver. Driver behaviour rarely comes into it.
Gerhard Weiss

If we overtake on the right as we should. Then surely the risk of danger is lessened. Squeezing through a gap on the left hand side of any vehicle at a junction is putting ourselves at risk.
Tim Benson

Separating cycle traffic from motor traffic is not the answer IMO. It can't be done everywhere so motor vehicles and cyclists still need to interact. Seeing tipper trucks being driven a bit less like rally cars would help a lot I think.

Totally agree with Paul re. the white van man... so many drivers seem to think it's a good laugh to drive closer and closer to the kerb in front of us, their aim being to block us from overtaking or forcing us to brake - or off the road altogether! Who said the white van man has any intelligence?

There is a lot of attention on accidental HGV collisions at the moment (and rightly so) but I would also like to see more action taken against the deliberately aggressive driving of light commercial vehicles (white vans). An alarming number of van drivers are openly hostile towards cyclists and deliberately take risks with their lives in an attempt to intimidate them. I have commuted to various workplaces around London for ten years and I have experienced an astonishing level of thuggish behaviour from the white van man. Apparently this is socially, legally and morally acceptable in London. I'd like to see that change.

Please can we have safe routes which we don't have to share with lorries, buses, motorbikes or fast cars?
Ann Warren

@Stella Hirsch - Eilidh Cairns and Catriona Patel, both killed by lorries in London last year, were widely reported at the time to be very experienced cyclists. And to suggest that not wearing high-viz is the mark of an inexperienced cyclist is unfair. Should cyclists really have to dress up like a Christmas tree so they don't get run over? Cyclists are perfectly visible if car and lorry drivers bother to look properly, which they frequently don't.
Mike C

Whilst pleased at the current pro-cycling attitude in London, I am concerned at the resulting increase in inexperienced and therefore vulnerable cyclists. On my 8 mile commute, I notice on fine days a growing number of clearly inexperienced cyclists on the road. These are identifiable by an absence of reflective clothing and use of gears, cycling too fast particularly when approaching changing lights and cycling through red lights. This cavalier way of cycling is frightening to observe and dangerous to everyone but mostly to themselves. When cyclists are killed by lorries, we don't usually get told how experienced they are on the roads so we cannot know if experienced cyclists have a higher chance of survival. I am not excusing lorry drivers, but trying to raise awareness of this upsurge in inexperienced cyclists. To carry on as we are, that is encouraging people to cycle in London, without providing safe facilities seems to be verging on irresponsible. The only responsible way of encouraging people to cycle is to provide well planned, safe cycle lanes and routes that are separate from traffic.  The alternative would be to introduce a cycling test which would be unpopular and impossible to enforce.
Stella Hirsch

Shocking! 3 cycle deaths in the first 3 months of 2010.
Boris - we need a poster campaign now highlighting the dangers caused by what I call the "arc of death" (the arc formed as a rest of the rear wheels of an HGV not following the front path of the front wheels when turning - this can be shown very clearly on a poster, and its very easy to avoid if you are a cyclist and you know about it.
Gautam Mistry

I'm 67 and still cycling, beginning as a child in Africa in getting to school. I agree with several comments thus far:
- the need for drivers (all drivers, but particularly HGV vehicles)to exchange with cylists to see each other's point of view when on the road; otherwise, why not introduce as mandatory prelude to getting a licence to drive, a set period of cycling in busy traffic?
- at the utter stupidity of some cylists when on the road, like jumping red lights etc
- ditto for pedestrians when stepping off pavements without looking to see if the road is clear of cyclists, let alone cars
Jim L

We all need to pull together to make travelling a better and safer experience and I laud and applaud every organisation and individual striving towards that.

When you find yourself riding between a lorry and the kerb, ring that bell loud and long. Fifty years of cycling, with toeclips & straps, and I'm still here. Be visible, be audible!
Phil Russell

I think both parties need to be educated and cyclist should be taught where to position themselves at junctions. With the introduction of the Bike to Work scheme why not make it a provision that everyone who takes up the offer has to go through a 1hr road safety class with a cycling instructor. I have been cycling to work for 7 years and I see cyclist doing such silly things on the road everyday so these incidents are no surprise. Yes better education for drivers however if you drive around London you will notice how difficult it is trying to avoid cyclist especially those jumping the lights! Slow down when in heavy traffic, sit behind large vehicles and enjoy the ride. Save the fast stuff for the weekend or on the turbo.

I am a regular commuting cyclist from Wandsworth to Elephant and Castle (6 years) and some of the cycling I have witnessed has been appalling. Cycle safety is a two-way responsibility - Trucks, buses, cars and motorcyclists all need to be aware of cyclists, but we need to take responsibility ourselves and cycle defensively. We are vulnerable and need to take action to avoid getting into difficult situations. This means anticipating potential collisions and taking avoiding action before it happens.  Gary Wemyss

1.When are the police going to enforce ASLs? The law is there. If motor vehicles (especially motor cycles , taxis, buses and lorries) were prosecuted it would I believe give more cycle awareness to other road users.
2. Large multi axle lorries are "allowed" to deliver to "Local" stores, they often are loading on prohibited roads with no apparent action from councils.
3. Every where is dug up at the moment, with very little provision for cyclists around the roadworks, which have often replaced the cycle lane.
All this is taking place all over London and not 100m from where a colleague of mine died last year under a lorry in Notting Hill. How many cyclists need to be killed before existing laws are enforced?
Steve Knattress

These deaths are tragic and being low speed would seem avoidable. If the bike is dragged under the wheels of a lorry you would hope to get away from the bike. Do we know if the cyclists involved were using clits and unable to disconnect ? If so should these be discouraged for suburban commuting? I've used open toe clips for years and on the odd occasion when there's been a collision (wayward pedestrians) been glad to part from the bike easily.
Andrew Lis

Advance stop lines encourage cyclists to pass up the inside of stationary traffic.  All drivers know that cyclists may pass between them and the pavement. Driver and cycle education is the only answer as lorries and buses aren't going to disappear anytime soon.
Nigel Bassindale

My understanding is that cyclists killed on left turns are not being killed by high-speed impacts, but by being dragged under the wheels. If we effectively banned high-sided lorries by requiring all lorries to have sides (eg. have simple aluminium sheeting, or similiar, fitted to bridge the gap down to the ground) then when the inevitable collisions happen, they will simply shunt cyclists (and pedestrians) aside, rather then grinding over them. This is why you don't hear about buses and vans killing cyclists at left turns, and is more fail-safe than requiring drivers to be more "aware". Surely this would not be prohibitively expensive?

There are many long-term solutions but until they happen we should focus on educating cyclists not to ride up the left side of large vehicles, especially those waiting at junctions.
Sean O'Conor

The death of 2 cyclists recently demonstrates the need for separated cycle provision, reduction of HGV type vehicles during peak time and on major roads. Lambeth's idea to get lorry drivers to cycle on London's main roads is very good. This should also include experience during bad weather and night time. The same should apply to bus drivers and bus companies - they should be made to cycle their regular route - again during bad weather when there is more risk. Boris Johnson should not be aiming for cycle routes/cycle highways on extremely busy roads. The aim should be to reduce the danger by removing the source as opposed to avoiding it.
Monica Saunders

My single, greatest fear for my children when cycling is that they will be on the wrong side of a commercial vehicle at the wrong time. I heard about an event that set up scenarios for both drivers and cyclists to swap roles/positions between bike & lorry. Both groups seemed to learn a great deal about each other's difficulties in avoiding collisions. I would like to see these become a standard, regular event for each borough.
Lawrence O'Connor

@Lawrence O'Connor Several councils (Westminster, Lambeth, City – for example) and the Metropolitan Police have organised these 'changing places' events where cyclist sit in the seat of a lorry. Only Lambeth Council currently gets its drivers to experience riding a bike. LCC is pushing for this across the whole of Greater London.

Too many of us don't take the essential precautions we know can keep us safer: 1. Respect red lights. 2. Hold out your arm to indicate when you are turning off. 3. Don't overtake on the inside unless you're 100% certain that you will make it before the other road user turns.

I'm obviously not saying that all other road users are perfect, but there are a few, simple measures that we can take to keep ourselves safe, and we should pay attention to them.
Frank M