The family of a cyclist killed by a tipper truck in London have called for HGVs to be banned from the city’s streets during rush hour and to be fitted with more safety equipment, and are also urging that a full enquiry be held to address the issue of cyclists’ safety in the capital.
TV producer Eilidh Cairns, aged 30, died after she ended up under the wheels of the vehicle after coming off her bike while traveling to work in Notting Hill Gate on February 5 last year. On Friday, the trial opened at Kingston Magistrates’ Court of lorry driver Joao Lopes, aged 53, who was charged with driving while his eyesight was such that he could not comply with requirements of a prescribed eye test. The case was adjourned until October.
Ms Cairns’ sister, Kate Cairns, told the Standard: “We know more measures can be put in place to stop deaths like Eilidh's; there is roughly a cyclist a month being killed on London's roads. We would like to see more research so that we can implement appropriate remedies. Until we know how and why these tragedies are happening we can't do that.”
She insisted that measures such as providing cycling awareness lessons did not address the problem, pointing out that her sister was far from a novice. “Most of those killed are very experienced cyclists,” she explained. “If anyone knew about cycling, Eilidh did — so why did this happen? I don't think it's acceptable to just say that these things happen, part of the problem is that people call it an accident.”
She continued: “If you don't cycle yourself you know someone who does, it is in the public interest to research this and try to prevent it. My sister's death was preventable and unless more measures are put in place to reduce the rate at which people are dying her death will be in vain.
“It is not enough to just say that there are more cyclists and that's why there are more accidents: 80 per cent of cyclists' deaths are caused by HGVs, yet they only account for five per cent of the vehicles on the road,” she claimed.
So far during 2010, seven cyclists have died in the capital, a slightly higher monthly average than the 13 who were killed during 2010, reports the newspaper.
Ms Cairns says that the cost of furnishing a lorry with safety equipment including sensors is £554, and asks: “Why isn't that mandatory for an HGV that comes into London? That's saying to me that my sister's life isn't worth that much money.”
The victim’s flatmate, Emma Chesterton, said that she was in in favour of banning lorries in London during rush hour, highlighting that they are already banned at night in the capital and saying, “what's more important — noise or a cyclist a month?”
While the full circumstances of the crash that killed Eilidh Cairns will probably never be known – for a start, there were no witnesses to the collision itself – her sister believes that it is now time to fully investigate the relationship between HGVs and cyclists on London’s roads.
“The fact is that the two vehicles are incompatible, there was nothing she could do. But this is not about one individual and his eyesight, there is a systemic failure to protect the most vulnerable by the police, the CPS, the coroner and the industries that put these vehicles on tight roads without proper safety equipment,” she said.
“The deaths are all spread out, there is no 100 people dying at a time like in a train accident, and therefore there is no public inquiry, but this affects everybody. The deaths are not taken seriously because it is a cyclist and they are seen as putting themselves in danger,” she concluded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.