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London Councils wants to amend rules restricting movement of lorries at night to improve cycle safety

Operators of some heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) being driven in London may be required to put in place safety equipment including side guards and additional mirrors, as well as having restrictions placed on their movement in morning rush hour, in a bid to improve cycle safety. The news follows representatives of councils across the capital today agreeing to launch a public consultation regarding proposed changes to the London Lorry Control Scheme (LLCS).

Lorries account for 4 per cent of London’s traffic, but between 2008 and 2012 were involved in 53 per cent of the deaths of cyclists in the capital. So far this year, 14 cyclists have lost their lives in the capital, and HGVs have been involved in nine of those fatalities.

Under current European and UK law, most lorries need to have side guards and close proximity mirrors fitted but some types of vehicles are exempt such as cement mixers, some other construction vehicles, waste vehicles and tipper trucks – the latter have been responsible for a number of fatalities of bike riders in recent years.

Following today’s meeting of the Transport and Environment Committee of London Councils, many of those vehicles being operated in the city could now be required to be fitted with side guards and additional mirrors.

Chaired by Islington council leader Catherine West, the committee has one member representing each of the capital’s 32 boroughs plus the City of London.

It is responsible for the LLCS, under which movement of lorries over 18 tonnes is restricted to an “excluded route network” between 2100 and 0700 during the week and between 1300 on Saturdays and 0700 on Mondays, unless they have a permit to use other roads at that time.

Currently, permits are issued for some 56,000 lorries, and the Transport and Environment Committee believes that if additional safety equipment become a requirement of such permits being issued, that would lead to a significant proportion of lorries being fitted with those features.

Chaired by Islington council leader Catherine West, the committee has one member representing each of the capital’s 32 boroughs plus the City of London, and today’s meeting also agreed to give thought to amending the conditions of those permits “to restrict the number of lorries allowed to drive in London during the morning rush hour.”

After today’s meeting, Councillor West said: “The tragic number of cyclist fatalities in London in recent weeks has heightened concerns about cycle safety, particularly the risk of collisions with lorries.

“There is no valid reason for lorries driving in London not to have basic safety equipment fitted including side guards and extra mirrors. Although the London Lorry Control Scheme only operates overnight and at weekends, the benefits of using it to implement cycling safety measures would be far greater as the lorries are used at other times too – very few such vehicles operate only during the day time in the week.

“It is important to reduce the risks to cyclists to encourage Londoners to make more journeys by bike.”

Earlier this week, Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Sir Peter Hendy and Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that construction companies involved in projects for TfL might have be required to buy new lorries affording greater visibility to make conditions safer for bike riders sharing the road with them.

Mr Johnson said: “The role of lorries in cycle accidents is well known now - roughly half of all fatalities involve HGVs, though they are only four per cent of the traffic."

A report on the website of the Transport Research Laboratory added that builders Laing O’Rourke had demonstrated a new lorry which has a cab at a lower level and larger windows, improving drivers’ visibility.

Last year, the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) released a video of what it termed a ‘Safer Urban Lorry’ with a number of features aimed at improving the safety of cyclists.

At the time, LCC’s haulage expert and former lorry driver Charlie Lloyd, said: “Our Safer Urban Lorry design is a challenge to the construction industry to use vehicles that help reduce the terrible number of people on bikes and on foot who are killed by lorries.

“The restricted view from the cab of many of today’s construction lorries means the driver often has little or no idea who or what is in their immediate vicinity, which is totally unacceptable.”

As has been noted by road.cc site user and transport expert AV Lowe in a comment to a story we published last weekend, one thing prompting the use for lorries with low driving positions in the refuse sector, for example, isn’t the safety of cyclists, but issues related to the health and safety of the operator's own employees.

He wrote:

You might notice that refuse trucks have low driving positions – you can look in the window and actually see the driver – full torso, and they can look back at you – no mirrors , just a full view direct vision. So why (for most councils - but not Glasgow my local one) do they pay 15-20% more for the truck with the special low cab? Not for cyclist safety, but to avoid the injury claims from the crews who slip and fall climbing up the steps into a high cab.

Now when asked about their experience of driver injury on tipper trucks, the indication comes back that drivers, slip & fall climbing up into the high cabs, as one of the main causes of driver injury. So it would seem that delivery of an employer's duty of care both to employees, and to the public (Section 3 offences), could be achieved through spending a bit more on the truck to have a low position cab. So what is stopping this move? (aside from most of the main truck suppliers not at present building vehicles like this – and making the excuse that there is not the demand for them).

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.