Mayor of London Boris Johnson this week launched a two-pronged assault on the use of deadly lorries on London roads. Mr Johnson has accused the government of blocking European legislation that would improve safety for other road users and today announced a blanket ban on lorries without side guards and safety mirrors.
The Safer Lorry Scheme, announced today, sees Transport for London and the London boroughs come together to implement a ban on all lorries that lack certain safety features including as side guards and mirrors.
The move toughens up a previously-planned policy of charging unsafe lorries to enter London, replacing the proposed charge with a fine of £130.
The new rules will apply to all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. An estimated 30,000 vehicles will be affected, according to the Evening Standard’s Matthew Beard, mostly tipper trucks, cement mixers, and skip and scaffolding lorries.
According to BikeBiz’ Carlton Reid, the implementation will involve a traffic regulation order by Transport for London to ban HGVs without the required equipment from the roads it controls, which carry about 45 per cent of all HGV traffic in London. The London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee (TEC), on which all 32 boroughs, the Corporation of London and TfL sit, plans to start the process of making a pan-London Traffic Regulation Order for borough roads at its meeting in March.
The plan would create what the mayor has dubbed a Safer Lorry Zone within the M25. The effect would therefore probably spread much further than London as any lorry likely to cross the M25 would have to meet the standard.
Despite making up just four percent of London’s traffic, large vehicles are disproportionately represented in fatal and serious crashes involving cyclists. Between 2008 and 2012, HGVs were involved in 53 per cent of London cyclist deaths.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "In my Cycling Vision, I said that no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with equipment to protect cyclists. Neither I nor the boroughs have the power to ban lorries without safety equipment on our own. It was for that reason that I proposed to use a power I do have, to levy a hefty charge on lorries without such equipment. But I am pleased to say that after negotiations with London Councils, we can now combine our powers to propose a simple and comprehensive ban."
London's Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE said: "London has long led the way in working with the freight industry to drive up standards, especially in terms of greater road safety, better driver training and reduced vehicle emissions. TfL will work with the London boroughs to deliver this proposed Safer Lorry Scheme and further demonstrate our commitment to safer roads for all."
Chair of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, Councillor Catherine West said: "London Councils is supportive of further action to improve cycle safety in London and will continue to work closely with the Mayor and Transport for London to develop the proposal for a new London-wide Safer Lorry Scheme.
"London Councils is currently consulting on plans to improve cycle safety in London by making changes to the London Lorry Control Scheme that would require all lorries weighing over 18 tonnes to have extra mirrors and side guards before being issued a permit under the scheme."
Under national legislation, many HGVs, such as supermarket delivery lorries and the like, are fitted with sidebars or low skirts which protect cyclists from being dragged underneath the vehicle and crushed.
However, construction lorries, tipper trucks, waste vehicles, cement mixers and certain other forms of HGV are exempt from these and other safety requirements. The rising number of such vehicles in London's building boom is a serious hazard to the growing number of cyclists, who now make up almost a quarter of all rush hour traffic in the centre.
Of the 16 cyclist deaths in London in 2011, nine involved HGVs. Of these nine, seven were construction lorries.
Boris Johnson has also accused the Government of working against European plans for new HGV cab designs that would improve safety for vulnerable road users.
The Mayor’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan and other cycling campaigners were in Brussels yesterday to lobby MEPs to make mandatory new cabs with improved sightlines for drivers, reduced blind spots and sloping fronts to lessen any damage caused to cyclists and pedestrians.
But ministers have been accused of briefing MEPs that the move might harm British manufacturing interests.
Brois Johnson said: “If these amendments, supported by dozens of cities across Europe, can succeed, we can save literally hundreds of lives across the EU in years to come. I am deeply concerned at the position of the British Government and urge them to embrace this vital issue.”
British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman added: “It would be criminal for us to know how to save lives and then choose not to take action.”
Truck makers Skania and MAN favour the new designs, but Daimler is opposed because it has recently introduced new trucks.
The introduction of the new cab designs is snarled up in measures intended to standardise lorry designs across Europe, which with Austria and some environmental groups fear is a Trojan Horse to introduce larger lorries.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.