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Lorries should be banned from cities to save cyclists' lives, say researchers

Call follows study of cyclists' deaths in London over 15-year period...

A new study into the death of cyclists in London has called for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to be banned from the streets of Britain’s cities after researchers found that although only accounting for 4% of road journeys in the capital, they were involved in more than four in ten of fatal accidents.

The research team, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), studied police road casualty data covering a 15-year period from 1992 to 2006.

They discovered that over that period, 242 cyclists lost their lives in the capital, an average of 16 each year, with HGVs involved in 103 – or 43% – of those accidents.

According to the report, published in this week in the BMC Public Health journal and available to read online here, “Despite evidence for increases in the amount of cycling in London over the last 15 years, the number of cyclists who have been killed has remained constant.

The study adds: “The biggest threat remains freight vehicles, involved in more than 4 out of 10 incidents, with over half turning left at the time of the crash.”

Researchers say that they “did not find any difference in the number of fatalities in central London following the introduction of the congestion charge [in 2003], although the majority of deaths overall occurred in inner London.”

Lead author of the study, Andrei Morgan of the LSHTM’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: “This unnecessary death toll cannot be ignored any longer. Our research, combined with that carried out previously, reveals that there has been no reduction in cycling fatalities in almost a quarter of a century.

“At a time when we are seeking to encourage more people to cycle, both for health and environmental reasons, this is not good enough. Measures are required to make cycling safer and to reduce the number of people dying so needlessly on our roads,” he continued.

“Heavy goods vehicles are involved in a disproportionate number of cycling fatalities on the capital’s roads. It is for this reason that we are calling for all freight vehicles over 3.5 tonnes to be removed from urban roads, and for safer, alternative solutions to be sought for transporting essential goods,” Mr Morgan added.

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who is a keen cyclist, added: “If the streets of London were safer for cyclists, many more people would cycle, thereby improving their own health and reducing pressure on the capital's transport system. Not only should we be taking freight vehicles off the roads, but we should also be investing in cycle lanes that are separate from motorised traffic”

Mr Morgan said in conclusion: “Earlier this month, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, proposed a ban on the most heavily polluting HGVs in central London. If it makes sense to do this for environmental reasons, then it makes even more sense to do so in order to prevent people dying and being seriously injured on the capital’s roads.”

Quoted in The Guardian, Roger Geffen, campaigns director at national cyclists’ organisation CTC, said: "This research is absolutely correct, although cycle use in London is up 117% in the past 10 years, and the total number of cycling fatalities has been going down, the number of cyclists killed by trucks has not."

While the data on which the research is based may not be the latest available, and the study itself was submitted 12 months ago, it is published at a time when the relationship between cyclists and lorries is in the headlines.

Earlier this week, tipper lorry driver Dennis Putz was jailed for seven years and received a lifetime ban from driving after killing cyclist Catriona Patel, as reported on

We also reported on efforts by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to have the wording of a Transport for London (TfL) safety poster changed, saying that it reinforced the misconception that lorries have a “blind spot” that prevents drivers from seeing cyclists or pedestrians who are alongside the vehicle.

LCC has also been heavily involved in getting TfL and London boroughs and HGV operators to introduce safety measures such as Fresnel mirrors and cycle awareness training for drivers, and is also running a ‘No More Lethal Lorries’ campaign.

The past few days have also seen the revelation that a cyclist has won £280,000 in compensation after she was seriously injured when she was crushed between two lorries on North London’s Holloway

Doris Barrera-Torrico, a student from Chile who lives in Gipsy Hill, South London, suffered multiple fractures and other injuries to her right leg during the accident which happened while she was riding her bike to a charity she volunteered at.

It has taken the cyclist, now a student at the University of Roehampton, three years to obtain compensation following the accident, which took place in 2007.

Paul Kitson, head of personal injury at Russell Jones and Walker, the firm of solicitors that acted for Ms Barrera-Torrico and which also represents national cyclists’ organisation CTC, including running its accident headline, welcomed the resolution of the case.

“After a long and hard battle the case settled out of court, shortly before trial when blame was apportioned at 70:30 in Doris’ favour. She has a permanent disability which has restricted her mobility and has also prevented her pursuing her sporting activities.

“Before the accident she was an accomplished triathlete. The settlement provides compensation for Doris’s severe injuries, the nine operations she has undergone, as well as compensation for her past and future care requirements and loss of earnings.”

He continued: “Doris’s case highlights the need for cycle awareness on our busy streets. Earlier this year RJW launched the 2 Way Street campaign with the help of Gail Porter to increase motorists’ awareness of cyclists.”

Ms Barrera-Torrico added: “I fully support the 2 Way Street campaign, lorry drivers as well as car drivers need to be aware of cyclists on city roads. Safer, more aware driving will prevent other people suffering serious injuries like I did.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Recumbenteer | 13 years ago

Essentially, it’s down to greed. We all want cheap goods; cheap food etc. But that cheapness is illusory, it has a very real cost – in human lives. At the moment, it’s mostly cyclists and pedestrians paying that price.

In the real world there are places where pedestrians and cyclists aren't treated as obstacles to be crushed in the furtherance of bigger profits, but not in the UK.

2008 DfT figures
LGVs killed 27 and HGVs killed 62 pedestrians.
LGVs killed 5 and HGVs killed 24 cyclists.

While cars kill many more they are far more numerous, the danger of LGVs & HGVs is due to their enormous weight.

The deaths of cyclists and pedestrians have a very real cost that at the very minimum should be born by those parts of the economy that cause them. If those parts of the economy can't 'afford' to pay those costs, then why should those parts of the economy be permitted to continue in their present form?

Cities should be largely HGV free with distribution from hubs.
The penalties for causing death by motor-vehicles are substantially less than for causing death by any other means.

Kill someone in your car and there's a jolly good chance you'll get off with a fine, sometimes not even that and your licence will probably remain intact. A popular excuse is to say you were distracted by a spider, even if you noticed it on your mobile phone while you're texting and driving.

Kill someone with a bicycle, you'll instantly be a national pariah and vilified repeatedly by the Daily Rant and the often anti-cyclist media.

Google: A Critical Review of the Legal Penalties for Drivers Who Kill Cyclists or Pedestrians

A V Lowe | 13 years ago

View Robin Webbs Testimonial to his daughter - killed by a truck in London. It ends with a repriwse of the Scammell Scarab 3-wheeler tractor unit which used to deliver the containers and other loads from rail yards to final destination (before the deregulation of freight transport in the 1950's allowed bigger and bigger trucks, and private operators travelling further.

THe Scarab driver sat with eye-level contact with pedestrians and cyclists, and thus very much more awareness.

We should keep questionning why truch drivers need to be sitting enthroned and immune from the carnage they cause. Remember that there are also families in cars wiped out by trucks driving over them - the truck drivers walk away. Heavy cranes, airport tugs etc all have walk-in cabs so why not heavy trucks? In this age of economy the wind resistance of an unladen truck without the high cab is much less (fuel economy) and a low-down cab could mean extra load length over the top for high volume, low weight stuff commonly being shipped around. Buses have managed to go low floor simply because the money drove the design to fit the engine in to the smallest space to deliver the biggest passenger area. Pity the haulage industry doesn't have the same incentives.

Aapje | 13 years ago

My solution won't fix the lack of driving skills among van drivers, that will require good policing and awareness campaigns.

But vans are inherently safer to cyclists than lorries. A reasonably good lorrie driver can still easily fail to see a cyclists who's in a blind spot. A van driver doesn't have an excuse.

OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

More white vans Aapje? Good solution - not.

Aapje | 13 years ago


- A distribution centre on the edge of the city
- Small vans to distribute goods to the shops

- Safer cities for cyclists, pedestrians and cars
- Less polution in the cities
- Less road damage, so fewer potholes and fewer repairs needed
- Big lorries spend much less time in the busy cities, making their rides more efficient
- Lorries can pick up goods at the distribution centre, reducing the number of empty trips
- If the distribution centre is next to a river, barges can deliver some goods to it, reducing traffic on highways
- The distribution centre can store goods, allowing shops to reduce their inventory

OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

Yeah, a daytime ban would still allow heavy trucks to make deliveries at night. otheriwse, the cost of goods will shoot up dramatically.

londonplayer | 13 years ago

Can't these lorries just deliver at night or during certain limited hours in the day? Then as a cyclist, you might be able to plan your journey accordingly. Currently, it's impossible to judge when you will encounter one.

DABenji replied to londonplayer | 13 years ago

Problem you have there is that most companies wont pay for someone to offload a lorry overnight, and I doubt anyone living next to a building site would want a delivery to appear when they are trying to sleep.

Trucks are designed the way they are due to the engine being low down and forward in the chassis, if you were to have a slung cab (such as the rubbish lorries) you would loose load space as the trailer would need to be shorter as there are limits to the length of a trailer, and as for having loadspace above the cab you have weight distribution issues as the truck would be more prone to toppling over,

As you might have guessed I am a truck driver, but also an avid cyclist (justifying my presence here), I have driven in London on several occasions and you can put money on at least one cyclist with a death wish not paying attention to my left turn signal and trying to come up my blind side as I am trying to turn left, but that is also extended to motorcyclists, car and van drivers. But one observation I have made, if you watch all these videos that are posted of cyclists commuting through london and so on, commenting on poor driving when they are cycling out side of the cycle lane.

All motorvehicles have a right to use the public highways of the UK provided all their documents are in order (obviously abiding by individual road restrictions) so to ban all lorries from cities would cause major problems for everyone, just look around you, pretty much everything in your area has been on the back of a lorry at some point INCLUDING your cycles, if lorries were restricted to the outskirts of london most companies that require deliveries by road would move out of the city yes leaving every cyclist free of danger from trucks but you wouldnt be able to buy half of the goods you currently buy in the city. All of the superstores would stay on the outskirts as they have such a high turnover of trucks delivering to their stores it wouldn't be cost effective to deliver everything by van or even 7.5t trucks.

Everyone just needs to pay more attention including truck drivers.

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