The London Cycling Campaign has criticised Mayor Boris’ decision to disband specialist lorry safety unit the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit (CVEU). The decision comes in a year that has seen eight cyclists killed by lorries in the capital. Six have been women.
The safety unit is run by the Metropolitan Police force and 70 per cent 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.
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.
But there is a significant minority of operators who will never consider joining, and Lloyd said: “It's for these people that the police need expert powers to pursue them until they comply with the law."
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."
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."
LCC Campaigns manager Tom Bogdanowicz said after the last fatal collision last month: "The number of cyclist deaths involving lorries has grown in recent years and action needs to be taken without delay.
“We want lorries to be safe, and to have a full set of safety mirrors (six). We also want drivers to be fully equipped and informed in order to avoid collisions in the future.
“All lorry drivers should be given cycle-awareness training, as already practised in some London boroughs, and we also more information circulated for cyclists, particularly those who are just taking up cycling, about the dangers of lorries.”
They have also argued for more lorries used in towns to have better visibility at the bottom of the drivers cab (as is the case with many refuse lorries and lorries used at airports), and recently provided information about HGV safety to the Minister of Transport responsible for cycling, draw his attention to the pioneering work with lorry drivers in Lambeth to help improve awareness of cycle users and recommended an expansion of the programme.