DfT admits there is a safety issue... but apears slow to move on question of sensors and other safety features

CTC has urged the government to undertake a “proper assessment” of the hazards posed to other road users as well as road infrastructure after Transport Minister Mike Penning confirmed plans for a ten-year trial of longer lorries, despite the Department for Transport (DfT) admitting they posed a greater risk to vulnerable road users.

More than 1,300 CTC members wrote to their MPs to oppose the trial, which the national cyclists’ organisation says could result in 1,800 larger lorries on the country’s roads in the first year alone.

During his written statement to the House of Commons confirming the trial, Mr Penning said that areas meriting “additional investigation” included “the effectiveness of additional vision/sensor/safety systems fitted to improve detection of vulnerable road users.”

But as CTC points out, he has to date resisted efforts to introduce safety systems of that nature, while the DfT has yet to take any action following a coroner’s report earlier this year that asked it “to consider a review of the risks to cyclists from heavy goods vehicles which are not fitted with proximity sensors and what action can be taken to encourage fitting of such sensors.”

As recently reported on road.cc, the issue is also receiving attention at European level, with campaigners including the family of Eilidh Cairns, killed by a lorry while cycling in London in 2009, urging the European Commission to move forward on proposals backed by MEPs earlier this year.

CTC’s Campaigns Director Roger Geffen commented: “If the Minister was serious about cycle safety he wouldn’t allow this trial to go ahead but would ensure that the existing lorry fleet - which already poses a considerable threat to cycle safety - is equipped and their drivers sufficiently trained to share roads with cyclists’ safely. The Department must ensure that the trial is not simply the thin end of the wedge: we need a proper assessment of the risks to road users and road infrastructure.”

In a statement, CTC said that as a result of its campaign, “the initial trial is smaller than the DfT might have conducted. However, the cyclists’ organisation remains deeply concerned that many more longer trailers will be permitted onto the roads in subsequent years if the trial is widened.”

It added that it continues to believe that longer lorries may “represent a significant threat to cyclists’ safety,” adding that the risk arising in certain slow manoeuvres by lorries could increase by as much as 9 per cent.

According to CTC, between 2005 and 2009, such manoeuvres accounted for four in ten of the incidents involving articulated lorries and cyclists in which the bike rider was killed.

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.