Yesterday morning, as Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced his new Cycle Safety Accident Plan, news broke that a 21-year-old male cyclist had been killed after being hit by an HGV at the junction of Weston Street and Snowfields in Southwark. A 30-year-old man was arrested and has been bailed while police carry out their investigations.
The accident took place four weeks to the day after 46-year-old university professor David Vilaseca-Perez was killed by a skip lorry just a few hundred yards away, at the junction of Druid Street and Tower Bridge Road.
News of the latest fatality prompted London-based users of the social networking website Twitter to call on Johnson to explain how he intends to protect the capital’s cyclists from the dangers posed by lorries on the city’s streets, as well as asking why cuts have been made to the road safety budget, but despite repeated calls for a response, their requests have so far been met with silence.
Johnson’s silence on Twitter came as little surprise to some of those who had asked him to reply. Buffalo Bill of the London courier e-zine Moving Target, told road.cc: “I'm not really surprised the Mayor chose not to make a comment. What could he say: 'glad I back-pedalled on my decision to close the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which is the part of the Met Police specifically tasked to reduce these casualties which have risen year on year for the last 6 years'?”
We’ve spoken to the Mayor’s office to find out what steps, if any, it proposes to take now with regard to cyclists’ safety in London, as well as why yesterday’s requests for action on Twitter went unanswered, and we will bring you their response once we have it.
The Mayor’s Cycle Safety Action Plan announced yesterday included provisions for “the development of an awareness-raising campaign targeted specifically at improving safety between HGVs and cyclists” and “distributing safety mirrors to fleet operators and working with the industry to avoid deliveries at peak times, especially on roads with high cycle flows.”
But perceived inconsistencies in Johnson’s method of dealing with the issue of the dangers posed to cyclists by lorries have led to criticism, particularly following his decision last October to close the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit (CVEU), which inspected lorries in the capital, with the Mayor maintaining that the voluntary Freight Operators’ Registration Scheme (FORS) provided an adequate safeguard.
While the CVEU has been reconstituted by the Metropolitan Police under a new name, the Commercial Vehicle Unit, it does not now benefit from funding from Transport of London, and critics of the FORS maintain that the very fact it is a voluntary scheme means that it will miss smaller and less safety-minded operators that should be the focus of most attention from the authorities.
Although the full circumstances of yesterday’s fatal accident are not yet known, it is believed that the lorry concerned belonged to the demolition contractor Keltbray, which has extensive operations in London, and was last year involved in the Metropolitan Police’s Trading Places campaign which sought to increase understanding between cyclists and HGV drivers.
In Issue 7 of its Keltbray Live newsletter published earlier this year, the company highlights on page 5 the steps it has taken to improve cyclists’ safety including the use of sensors on its vehicles, which are also featured on a video on YouTube.
Mike Cavenett, communications officer at the London Cycling Campaign, said of yesterday’s fatality: "This shows how important it is to reduce road danger for cyclists." says Mike Cavenett of the London Cycling Campaign.
"There are some good measures in the action plan,” he added, “but no timetable for implementation. Every day the measures are delayed puts lives at risk."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.