Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond has insisted that the UK is pressing for European legislation to be introduced that would help protect vulnerable cyclists from the danger posed by heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), including fitting vehicles with cameras and sensors.
The cabinet minister was speaking to The Independent newspaper, which earlier this month launched a Save Our Cyclists campaign aimed at improving the safety of cyclists sharing the roads with large vehicles.
The newspaper reports that 369 of the European Parliament’s 736 MEPs backed a resolution on the issue, taking it just over the 50% threshold required for the European Commission to frame legislation on the issue, which will be discussed and voted on by European transport ministers at a meeting in Brussels later this year.
While the intervention and support of a mainstream media outlet such as The Independent is to be greatly welcomed, it shouldn’t detract from the successful work put in by campaigners such as Kate Cairns, whose sister Eilidh was killed by a lorry in London two years ago.
As reported on road.cc earlier this year, Kate launched the See Me, Save Me campaign in memory of her sister to mobilise opinion formers to help gather support for change amongst MEPs and encourage them to adopt the resolution.
Talking about how the proposals are moving forward, Mr Hammond told the newspaper: “We are leading discussions at a European level on further improving vehicle standards for heavy goods vehicles to help reduce accidents with cyclists and pedestrians caused by poor visibility.
“Cycling is good for the environment and can have enormous health benefits and I share The Independent’s commitment to improve cycling safety.”
The newspaper added that according to government safety, cycling safety will be discussed by European transport ministers at a meeting in Brussels in October this year – still six months away – when they will debate the proposals and vote on whether to implement them.
Mr Hammond also confirmed that the Department for Transport has given the go-ahead to a pilot of “trixi” mirrors, which are placed on traffic lights at cab height and afford drivers a clear view of cyclists alongside the vehicle.
“We are making progress on a number of the issues raised in the campaign. For example, we have just authorised a trial of trixi mirrors which, if successful, could be used elsewhere in the country to make cyclists more visible to drivers.”
A DfT spokesperson confirmed to road.cc that she believed that the trial in question was the one previously authorised by the department that began in July last year on the first two Barclays Cycle Superhighways routes in London, with the pilot being conducted by Transport for London.
Mr Hammond added that £11 million had been set aside to provide Bikeability training for schoolchildren in England, which he said would “help a new generation of cyclists gain the skills and knowledge they need to cycle safely on the roads.”
Tom Bogdanowicz from the London Cycling Campaign said that the minister’s suppor was welcome, but insisted that further efforts needed to be made to improve cyclists’ safety.
“We would like to see cycle awareness included in lorry drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence,” he explained. “Really their training should also include time spent on a bicycle – that would bring home the issue to them.
“Of course we welcome any support from the Government to make the roads safer for cyclists – but we want to see what is actually done.”
Government sources said next key phase in the campaign to improve cycling safety is a meeting in Brussels in October when Transport Ministers will discuss the new plans to make lorries safer and vote on introducing the new laws.
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.