The CTC and Sustrans have combined with a number of environmental and safety organisations to fight Government proposals to allow longer lorries on to Britain's roads as a means of cutting congestion.
The move has drawn wide ranging criticism from a variety of campaigning groups who yesterday combined to back the findings of an independent review carried out by the Metropolitan Transport Research for Freight on Rail into the effect of Government Proposals for Longer Semi-Trailers. In a joint statement the the Campaign for Better Transport, Freight on Rail, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, CTC, Sustrans, Friends of the Earth and RoadPeace warned that the move to allow lorry lengths to increase by 2.05m to 18.55m would lead to six extra deaths on UK roads every year with the greatest number likely to be made up by cyclists for whom large lorries pose a disproportionate danger.
CTC’s Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, said: “Lorries present a serious risk to cyclists – one in five of the deaths of cyclists involve lorries. Allowing even longer lorries onto our roads will mean larger ‘blind spots’, more tail swing and a greater risk of hitting other road users. Instead of increasing the danger from lorries, the Government should be working to reduce the threat that already exists.”
Left turning lorries are a particular threat to cyclists says the CTC whose anaylysis of police recordds shows that while lorries turning left account for 3 per cent of overall road fatalities they account for 30 per cent of cycling fatalities. The problem of cyclists being killed or seriously injured when trapped in the blind spots of left turning lorries is particularly acute in London where such incidents have accounted for a large number of cycling fatalities in recent years particularly of women riders - leading to the London Cycling Campaign to mount its No More Lethal Lorries campaign. Campaigners argue that longer lorries are simply too big to interact safely with other road users - particularly vulnverable road users, in an urban environment or small towns and villages.
The Government says longer trailers would have zero impact on traffic casualties, but this doesn't take account of the increased blind spot and tail swing created by longer lorries – they say a truer figure is closer to 6 extra deaths a year. The report also refutes the Government's assertion that longer trailers would lead to fewer lorry trips, if previous changes are anything to go the number of lorry trips will not fall there will simply be more lorries on the roads carrying partial loads.
The report also questions the economic benefits of the change contradicting the Government view that longer lorries would be niche vehicles – and citing the Government's own statistics the report authors say the new size would quickly become the standards thereby forcing small and medium sized hauliers out of business and costing them up to £1.8bn over five years. It would also undermine Government efforts to get more road freight on to rail and off the road.
Campaign for Better Transport's chief executive, Stephen Joseph, said: "The Government’s research is misleading and inaccurate. All the evidence points to longer lorries being more dangerous, having a negative impact on road congestion and the environment while providing very little economic benefits - in fact they could be the final nail in the coffin for smaller hauliers. The Government needs to re-examine its own figures as a matter of urgency."
Longer lorries if carrying heavier loads are also likely to have a detrimental effect on the roads themselves. Heavy lorries are already blamed for helping to break up road surfaces damaged by poor weather creating potholes and cracks and the breakdown of the edges of rural roads. Such damage to the roads particularly affects cyclists because it occurs precisely on the part of the carriageway they ride on – potholes and defective road surfaces have also been to blame for a large number of cyclists being injured this year. In March last year 29-year-old Captain Jonathan Allen was killed by a lorry when he swerved to avoid a pothole on the A338 in Wiltshire – a pothole created by a combination of poor weather and heavy traffic.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.