Transport minister Robert Goodwill says cameras and improved mirrors set to be fitted to new lorries under proposed European regulations may also be installed on to existing vehicles to help make cyclists safer – but he has ruled out a call from Respect MP George Galloway to make sensors and other safety equipment mandatory for HGV operators.
Mr Goodwill, who is responsible both for cycling and road safety, was replying to a question in the House of Commons in which Mr Galloway asked him if he would “bring forward legislative proposals to make sensors for the blindspot and other cycling safety equipment a legal requirement on all new heavy goods vehicles and passenger service vehicles,” as well as on existing ones.
In reply, the minister said: “The Department for Transport has led moves at the UN-ECE to improve the mirrors fitted to new heavy goods vehicles. Once implemented at EU level these new mirrors will help cycle safety by increasing the driver's view of the passenger side.”
“The International Standards Organisation (ISO) is developing a standard for camera monitoring systems fitted to road vehicles. The Government anticipates the standard will be included within the UN-ECE regulation as a means to improve further the driver vision for new large vehicles. It is possible that these new mirrors and camera systems could be fitted to existing large vehicles.”
But he added: “There are no plans currently to introduce requirements for sensing systems to detect cyclists alongside heavy vehicles. A full assessment of these systems will be needed before reaching a decision to impose additional costs on operators of these vehicles.”
Mr Galloway, who was MP for Bethnal Green and Bow from 2005 to 2010 and now represents Bradford West is widely expected to run for Mayor of London in 2016.
With transport being one of the mayor's principal areas of responsibility, cycle safety is likely to be a key campaigning issue, as it was last year when Boris Johnson won a second term.
He urged that safety features on lorries should be compulsory. Quoted in the London Evening Standard, he said: “I welcome a European-wide initiative to make cycling safer through the installation of cameras on large vehicles, but this has to be mandatory and not optional.”
But he added that cycle safety was too pressing an issue to wait for European regulations to go through the legislative process, saying: “The Department of Transport seems to be worried about cost but how many more cyclists must be killed or injured for the cost to be right? This is urgent. We can’t wait for Brussels.”
He also asked Mr Goodwill if he would “launch a public education campaign to encourage all cyclists to engage in safe cycling practice.”
The minister highlighted the four-week THINK! campaign aimed at cyclists and motorists launched in the latter part of October and covering London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Cambridge.
The campaign was conducted through outdoor advertising, which Mr Goodwill said “was chosen as it enables us to reach and remind drivers and cyclists at the point of action and when behaviour is more likely to be positively influenced (i.e. when they are driving or cycling).”
Mr Goodwill added: “A review of the campaigns performance will be carried out shortly and the results will inform our cycling approach going forward.”
A similar campaign conducted in 2012 was criticised by cycling groups including CTC due to the fact it appeared to conflict with minimum standards for driving set out in the Highway Code, advised cyclists to wear helmets, and had a budget of just £80,000.
Cycle safety will continue to be in the spotlight at the Palace of Westminster this week, with the Transport Select Committee holding an oral evidence session on the issue on Monday.
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.