The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that tens of thousands of lorries with poor visibility will be banned from London’s roads within the next four years, in an attempt to protect the city’s cyclists and pedestrians.
Road safety campaigners have long called for action against certain types of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), especially high-wheeled construction lorries, which have significant blind spots.
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Out of all the cycling deaths that happen in London, lorries are involved in more than half, and more than a fifth of pedestrian deaths, rather alarming considering they only make up 4% of traffic.
Khan’s plans, welcomed by cycling groups, will give construction trucks and other HGVs a star-based safety rating from 0-5. The rating will be based on the amount of vision the driver has.
By the start of 2020, trucks with a zero rating – primarily construction trucks with a high cab and big clearance under the wheels, will no longer be allowed to travel in the city. By 2024, all trucks will have to be rated three stars (good) or above if they want to drive in the city.
From the next financial year, Transport for London (TfL) and the Greater London Authority will not sign any contracts that involve the use of zero-starred trucks.
Khan’s office said there were currently over 30,000 zero-rated trucks operating in London, and that over the past three years they had been involved in about 70% of the cyclist deaths involving HGVs.
Overall, lorries were connected to 58% of cycling deaths in 2014 and 2015, and 22.5% of pedestrian deaths.
Khan stated that he felt obliged to take action to better protect cyclists and pedestrians. Sadiq Khan said: “I’m not prepared to stand by and let dangerous lorries continue to cause further heartbreak and tragedy on London’s roads,” he said.
“Our groundbreaking direct vision standard will be the first of its kind in the world, directly addressing the issue of lethal driver blind spots. I’m also proud that TfL will lead by example and will not use any zero-star lorries in its supply chain from the new financial year.”
The majority of cyclists deaths that include lorries in London, happen when the truck turn left across the bike, with the driver unable to properly see anything in a large area around the truck.
Safety campaigns urge cyclists to stay away from the near side of lorries. However, bike lanes tend to filter cycle traffic to the kerb, and a number of deaths have happened when trucks have overtaken cyclists before turning across them.
Tom Bofdanowicz, the senior policy manager of the London Cycling Campaign, had this to say: “Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and operators of HGVs all stand to gain if modern designs with minimal blind spots become the norm for on-street use – no one wants fatalities and life-changing injuries to continue to happen,”
However, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said the plans were unfair. Richard Burnett, the chief executive said: “Lorries, including construction vehicles, play a vital part in the economic life of London. Without them, the capital’s businesses would grind to a standstill.
“We want to bring balance to the argument. We’re not convinced these measures are the solution. Improved visibility isn’t going to sort the problem alone.”
Construction trucks are seen as a major safety issue. A study conducted back in 2013 by TfL found that lorries carrying materials to and from building sites were disproportionately responsive for the cyclist’s deaths, in part also a factor of rushed delivery times and a lack of care about road safety within the construction industry.
A number of organisations have sought to design lorries with much better surrounding visibility. The European parliament has passed a law obliging the use of such trucks, although new standards won’t come into force until 2022.
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