The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has today presented a petition containing more than 10,000 signatures to Mayor of London Boris Johnson and members of the four main parties represented in the Greater London Assembly urging that all local councils in the capital provide cyclist-awareness training for their lorry drivers.
By coincidence, the petition was presented on a day when new figures were published that were cliamed to show that London's roads were the safest "since records began," although commenting on those statistics, Mr Johnson said, "There is still much more to be done, especially around the safety of cyclists on our streets, and that is exactly why we continue to fund road safety schemes across the Capital."
LCC says that half of the cycling fatalities in London result from collisions with HGVs, and the petition has attracted some high-profile signatories, including Olympic champion cyclists Chris Boardman, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, Lord Berkeley, secretary of the All Parliamentary Cycling Group, Lord Haskell and the MPs Ian Austin and Simon Hughes.
The petition, which in terms of number of signatures is the most successful the LCC has ever run, was presented this morning by LCC CEO Dr Ashok Sinha to Conservative Assembly Member Andrew Boff, Mr Johnson’s cycling advocate and a supporter of the initiative, who will hand it to the Mayor.
Other politicians backing the LCC’s petition and who were present this at City Hall this morning are the Green Party’s Jenny Jones, Labour’s Valerie Shawcross, and Caroline Pidgeon from the Liberal Democrat Party.
Speaking to road.cc afterwards, Dr Sinha emphasised that it was vital that the initiative had received support from across the political spectrum.
“Today we had cross-party support for our petition and I think that is very important,” he explained. “We want to inspire members of all political parties not to treat this as an issue on which they can score points against each other, but actually to sit down and say, ‘Look, we all agree we want to address this issue, let’s find the resources and the political will to prioritise this issue and hopefully we can eliminate deaths of cyclists following collision with HGVs.”
Certainly the politicians who received the petition this morning agree that it is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
Ms Pidgeon, chair of the GLA’s Transport Committee, who represents Vauxhall and leads the Liberal Democrats in the Greater London Assembly, said: "Cycling in London needs to be made far safer.
“More than one cyclist a month dies on London's roads - that is a shocking figure and is unacceptable. The Mayor is always talking about promoting cycling but the harsh fact is that much more needs to be done to tackle the dangers facing cyclists."
Ms Shawcross, GLA member for Lambeth and Southwark, commented: “I support the campaign to provide lorry drivers with cyclist awareness training as it has proved to be hugely successful in my constituency. I think it would be a step forward if other boroughs got involved, as it would reduce road danger to vulnerable users.”
Dr Sinha also emphasised the depth of public support for the issues outlined in the petition, saying: “We’ve brought together the largest petition we’ve ever run at LCC. What is really interesting is that at our recent day of action we were able to gain 4,000 signatures reaching out to a broad range of members of the public who aren’t actually involved in any campaigning activity but who instantly responded positively to the issue at hand.
“This just shows the strength of feeling that there is out there on the streets, in London, for action to be taken to address this unacceptable issue of cyclist deaths in collisions with HGVs.”
“In terms of the value of the campaign, we’re in the fortunate situation in London where in general cycling is getting safer,” he continued. “However there’s this stubborn number of utterly unacceptable deaths running at about ten every year of cyclists due to collisions with HGVs,” he added.
“Not enough is being done to deal with that and it’s outrageous that the situation is continuing. So it’s very important that an organisation such as LCC make it known that in fact with a little bit of investment in some very cost-effective driver training and re-kitting of HGV cabs we can go a long way towards eliminating these avoidable and unacceptable deaths.”
The cyclist awareness training initiative, now running in five boroughs in the capital as a result of the LCC’s campaigning, was originally pioneered in Lambeth, and aims to foster greater understanding between cyclists and lorry drivers.
The latter gain experience of urban cycling and an understanding of the cyclist’s point of view, while bike riders can also benefit from exchanging places sessions which see them given the chance to climb up to the cab of an HGV to discover the lorry driver’s view of the road.
LCC wants Mr Johnson to lobby the government to give its approval to ‘on-bike’ cycle training for lorry drivers, which it says “is the most cost effective way of raising awareness – and the drivers enjoy it.”
Specifically, it is pressing for such training to be included in the regular professional training that lorry drivers are required to undergo as well as urging that it form part of the Transport for London FORS (Freight Operators Recognition Scheme) quality standard scheme, currently supported by 21 boroughs.
Dr Sinha added: “Cyclists and other road users have supported our petition for lorry driver training in huge numbers – we trust that politicians in every London council as well the Mayor now respond to this call for action.”
LCC campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd, himself a former lorry driver, said: " LCC is urging those who run the FORS quality standard for lorry operators to include ‘on-bike’ training in the urban driver training package they provide for members.
“Every council and every lorry operator should become part of the FORS scheme because membership can help them reduce the number of collisions on our roads,” he 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.