Mayor of London Boris Johnson has called on the government to push for European legislation that would permit safer lorry design to be implemented without delay. He is joined in the appeal by British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman and Kate Cairns, founder of the road safety campaign group, See Me Save Me.
The revised regulations would allow the introduction of lorries with aerodynamic cabs including crumple zones and larger windows to the front and side.
They would also have a rounder front, which would help reduce the severity of injuries sustained by cyclists or pedestrians involved in a collision since they would be likely to be deflected away from the vehicle rather than dragged beneath it.
But France, home to Renault, and Sweden, where Volvo and Scania are based, are seeking to delay the implementation of the amended regulations, approved by the European Parliament in April this year, until 2025.
A “trialogue” session involving members of the European Commission, European Council and the European Parliament, meets tomorrow, reports Kaya Burgess in The Times, and the UK is being urged to take the lead in resisting pressure to postpone introduction of the new rules.
Lorries are responsible for a disproportionate number of deaths and serious injuries among vulnerable road users. In London, for example, they account for 4 per cent of the city’s traffic but around half of cyclist fatalities.
“The way lorry cabs are designed currently means drivers are often unable to see cyclists and pedestrians until it is too late,” said Johnson. “Eliminating blind spots is an obvious and relatively simple way for vehicle manufacturers to help save lives.
“I’d urge the DfT to push ahead with supporting these plans, which will remove some of the blockages which prevent us from making lorries safer,” he added.
Cairns, who set up See Me Save Me, now co-ordinated by the charity RoadPeace, after her sister Eilidh was crushed to death by a lorry in Notting Hill in 2009, has lobbied the European Parliament to change rules on lorry design.
She said: “It’s crazy that the UK government isn’t supporting this. The calls aren’t even for the designs to be mandatory, only for clients to have the choice to use these new cabs if they want to.
“The UK is sitting on its hands even though we will have hundreds more deaths without it.”
Boardman called on the government to show its backing for safer lorries, and said that “postponing this until 2025 is not an option.”
He went on: “These vehicles are involved in a disproportionately high number of fatalities involving people on bikes and only better designed cabs can put a stop to this.”
A spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association said that rather than redesiging cabs, equipping lorries with features such as cameras and proximity sensors were a “more efficient way to improve safety.”
In October, Volvo unveiled details of a collision detection system for trucks and said the technology, could come to market within five to ten years.
Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic and product safety director at Volvo Trucks, said at the time: "Our vision for traffic safety is to have no accidents involving Volvo trucks."
The same month, 11 organisations concerned with road safety sent an open letter to transport minister Robert Goodwill urging the government to push for the new EU regulations to be implemented as soon as possible.
Cairns and British Cycling’s campaigns manager, Martin Keys, were among the signatories to the letter.
A spokesman for the DfT told The Times that the department was in favour of the revised regulations, adding, “We are pushing for progress with our European counterparts towards a resolution.”
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.