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Fears that government set to push through laws that will result in greater danger to bike riders

CTC is urging the country’s cyclists to get behind a campaign it has launched to oppose plans to allow longer lorries on Britain’s roads, which it says will result in a greater threat to bike riders' safety, and is asking them to write to their MPs and ask them to contact Road Safety Minister Mike Penning.

The government is due to announce later this month its decision over whether to increase the maximum permitted length of a cab plus trailer to 18.55 metres in length, compared to the existing 16.5 metres – an increase of more than 12 per cent.

The national cyclists’ organisation fears that if the longer vehicles are allowed, there will be an increase in the number of cyclists killed after being hit by heavy goods vehicles, which are already responsible for a disproportionate number of casualities.

In particular, the organisation says that the longer vehicles would pose an increased danger due both to their length of tail swing as well as the extent to which they cut into corners when turning, a factor behind the deaths of a number of riders killed after being trapped on the inside of left-turning lorries.

CTC says that while left turns are a factor in just 3 per cent of all road fatalities in which a lorry is involved, they are responsible for 38 per cent of deaths of cyclists on the roads. It adds that research commissioned by Freight on Rail and the Campaign for Better Transport also demonstrates that longer lorries would mean poorer road safety.

CTC Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, says: “Lorries present a serious risk to cyclists – one in five of the deaths of cyclists involve lorries. Allowing even longer lorries onto our roads will mean larger ‘blind spots’, more tail swing and a greater risk of hitting other road users. Instead of increasing the danger from lorries, the Government should be working to reduce the threat that already exists."

The previous Labour government consistently opposed calls from the freight haulage industry for longer lorries to be permitted in Britain, but last year, following the formation of the coalition government, Minister of State for Transport Theresa Villiers gave a hint of what may lie ahead.

Speaking to the Rail Freight Group Annual Conference last October, she said: “Like our predecessors, we reject the proposal to pilot Longer Heavier vehicles exceeding 18.75 metres in length.

“Quite apart from the concerns of the rail freight industry, we simply do not believe the nation’s roads are designed to deal with such vehicles and are not persuaded by the arguments for their introduction.”

While on the face of it that sounds like a rejection of calls to increase length, the 18.75 metres the minister cited is longer than even that currently being contemplated, at 18.55 metres.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 such an increase may be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport without needing the approval of Parliament.

According to a report from the Department for Transport unveiled in March and welcomed by organisations including the Freight Transport Association, there will be a trial period of the proposed new rules.

Lack of consultation with bodies such as CTC and Sustrans that respresent vulnerable road users including walkers and cyclists suggests that the government’s mind is already made up on the issue, however.

Earlier this year, CTC joined with the Campaign for Better Transport, Freight on Rail, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Sustrans, Friends of the Earth and RoadPeace to warn that the proposed measure would result in six extra deaths on UK roads every year, with the biggest danger being to cyclists.

CTC has made available on its website a form which, once the template has been filled out, will automatically send an email to your MP asking them to contact Mr Penning.
 

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.