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Metropolitan Police also reveal one in three people fined after London road clampdown were cyclists

Two thirds of lorries pulled over by police are being driven illegally or are not fit for the road, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police.

The crackdown on dangerous HGVs without basic features began late last year, and now drivers of defective lorries face a £200 fine as part of a tightening up of road safety begun by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Penalties can be given for misdemeanors including failing to have side-guards and convex mirrors to give a better view of blind spots.

According to The Times, “in the first two months of a police clampdown on the most dangerous construction vehicles, 622 out of the 821 lorries stopped by officers failed to comply with the existing safety rules. Only 32 trucks had mirrors and safety equipment, including bars to prevent cyclists being crushed beneath the wheels, as required by law.

“Just 24 per cent of vehicles complied with regulations covering maintenance, how loads are carried, insurance and how long drivers have been on the road. Officers fined 243 lorry drivers for operating without a licence or working long hours, or for driving with insecure loads, broken lights or running a truck that was in poor condition.”

Only 30 per cent of the almost 6,000 vehicles stopped in the 11 months from January were driven legally or free from defects.

Martin Key, campaigns manager for British Cycling, said: “This level of law-breaking is disturbing and shows that as a country we have to do a much better job of looking after each other on the roads.

“HGVs are involved in a disproportionate number of collisions with people on bikes and on foot, so we applaud the Met Police for running this targeted operation, which shows a clear and immediate need for greater levels of enforcement.”

Last year we reported how London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said local authorities and transport fleet operators should not install technology aimed at improving the safety of cyclists around London until a series of questions regarding how the systems operate in practice have been satisfied, amid fears that they could actually increase the risk to cyclists.

LCC says that while its Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling is making progress in getting London boroughs to sign up to use only highly trained drivers and vehicles with specific safety equipment, there are concerns about a rush of products coming to the market.

The LCC criticised the way in which such devices are marketed, such as Cycle Safety Shield, currently being trialled in Ealing, with the company hoping to install TFID tags on Barclays Cycle Hire bikes and which is touted as enabling drivers to “concentrate on driving and not be continuously checking for cyclists."

LCC said: “We are deeply sceptical this approach will reduce danger on London streets. The designers of many of these devices claim that if they can stop even one cyclist death a year it will be worth it. Our fear is that these systems actually increase risk by giving drivers and cyclists a false sense of security.

“We have seven burning questions about how these systems work in practice, and have told the TRL testing team of the potential pitfalls,” it adds. “Before any system is adopted for use by companies or governments then we must have answers to these questions:

  • How many of the 1-2 million bikes in London need to fit a tag before a lorry driver can be sure he'll not put a cyclist in danger?
  • What happens if drivers begin to rely on a system that only shows a minority of cyclists?
  • Even if the system notifies a driver to the presence of one cyclist, how will they know about any other other bikes without tags in the immediate vicinity?
  • If the alarm goes off at a three junctions in a row and is silent at the fourth, should a driver assume there are no bikes in the immediate vicinity?
  • Is it a failsafe system? How will the lorry know if the battery in a bike’s tag has died?
  • How will the cyclist know that the lorry’s system is turned on and working?
  • Will cyclists with the device fitted assume that it's safe to go up the left side of any lorry?
  • If drivers stop looking out for cyclists, will this have a detrimental effect on pedestrian safety? (as LCC points out, many more pedestrians than cyclists are killed by lorries most years in London).

The Metropolitan Police also revealed that in a major clampdown on illegal road use following a spate of cyclist deaths in the late autumn, one in three people fined was riding a bicycle.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.