Traffic-light mirror scheme to launch in London

Hopes high that device will save cyclists' lives

by Tom Henry   June 16, 2009  

lorries london.jpg

A plan to attach mirrors to traffic lights so lorry drivers can see cyclists coming up their nearside has been put forward by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The mirrors will apparently give the driver a clear view of anyone just below the front of the cab or between the lorry and the kerb, and is a response to the increasing number of cyclist deaths and injuries caused by lorries.

Boris Johnson has taken a personal interest in the plan after last he and several of his officials narrowly avoided a collision with a lorry while out on their bikes inspecting cycling facilities last month.

The statistics around lorries and cyclists make for sober reading. Five cyclists have been killed by lorries in London this year. Of the 15 cyclists who died on the capital’s roads last year, nine were killed in collisions with lorries. In most cases the lorry was turning left and the driver failed to see the cyclist on their inside.

Fatal collisions between bikes and cars have fallen, but lorries accounted for 39 per cent of the cyclist deaths between 2000 and 2003, 60 per cent last year and 100 per cent of those this year.

Even so, the mirrors will not come into use until 2010, when they are installed on the 12 new cycling “superhighways”, intended to attract less-confident cyclists who have been worried about the dangers of cycling round London.

Both the CTC and London Cycling Campaign (LCC) have welcomed the idea, but with reservations.

Charlie Lloyd, cycling development officer at the LCC said that it was also important to educate lorry drivers about coping with their blind spots. On most lorries, drivers could see into the blind spot simply by leaning forwards or backwards.

Roger Geffen, policy manager of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, said that the mirrors would help to save lives but extending cycle lanes across junctions could make cyclists feel under pressure to remain within them.

He said: “In slower-moving traffic it can be safer for cyclists to take their place in the traffic where they can be seen rather than staying to the side. Staying in a cycle lane could result in being overtaken by a driver who then cuts you up by turning left.”

A spokesperson for Sustrans said: “Anything that improves the safety of cyclists should be welcomed and these mirrors could be a very useful addition to our roads. We understand they are already being used in Basel in Switzerland (although we are not aware of any evaluation of their success).

"However they should not a substitute for responsible driving, and cycling. Anyone using the roads on four wheels or two should always be aware of others around them using all means available."

The idea has been given the backing of the Road Haulage Association, the body which represents the interests of drivers and haulage firms.

Kate Gibbs, of the RHA, said: “It sounds a very sensible idea. When you’re sat 10 feet in the air in your cab, it’s often difficult to see a cyclist directly in front of you, and so we would welcome anything that helps to reduce accidents between cyclists and lorries.”