The Department for Transport is pressing ahead with a ten-year trial of longer lorries, despite acknowledging the potential danger to vulnerable road users and the impact on road infrastructure. During its first year, the trial could see 1,800 of the larger vehicles on the roads of the UK. CTC, the national cycling charity, campaigned against the proposed trial, with more than 1,300 CTC members writing to their MPs to object.
The Minister, Mike Penning MP, in his statement to the House of Commons suggested that a partial mitigation might lie in “the effectiveness of additional vision/sensor/safety systems fitted to improve detection of vulnerable road users.” Yet the Minister has so far rebutted efforts to introduce such safety systems and his Department has failed to answer a Coroner’s report from earlier this year demanding a review of these systems and a plan for their installation.
CTC’s Campaigns Director Roger Geffen said: “If the Minister was serious about cycle safety he wouldn’t allow this trial to go ahead but would instead ensure that the existing lorry fleet - which poses a considerable threat to cycle safety - is equipped to share roads safely with cyclists and its drivers trained accordingly. The Department must ensure that the trial is not simply the thin end of the wedge: we need a proper assessment of the risks to road users and the road infrastructure.”
Thanks to CTC’s campaign against longer lorries during September, the initial trial is smaller than the DfT might have conducted. However, the cyclists’ organisation remains deeply concerned that many more longer trailers will be permitted onto the roads in subsequent years if the trial is widened. CTC has maintained that longer lorries could represent a significant threat to cyclists’ safety despite Mike Penning’s claims he is “looking at how we can improve cycle safety.”
The DfT’s own analysis found that the threat from certain slow manoeuvres could increase by as much as 9%. Cyclists are particularly at risk from lorries engaged in such manoeuvres which, from 2005 to 2009, accounted for 40% of fatal cycle crashes involving an articulated lorry.