CTC tells Parliament and radio: We need lorry safety

While total police numbers are down 3.5%, roads police officers are down by 37%
CTC has marked Road Safety Week with two appearances in Parliament and one on Radio 4, calling for action to reduce lorry danger

Transport Select Committee on traffic law and enforcement

On Monday 23 November, CTC's Roger Geffen appeared before the Transport Select Committee, giving oral evidence to their inquiry on road traffic law enforcement. CTC's written evidence had centred on three main points, the last being particularly relevant to lorry safety:

  • The need to boost the willingness of police forces and the courts to ban bad drivers.  The use of driving bans has fallen far more steeply than road injuries, as the police prefer to send people on driver retraining courses, which earn them money but are of doubtful effectiveness.
  • The effectiveness of roads policing as a way to improve road safety and the need to reverse the decline in roads police numbers in order to create safer roads and streets for all - especially the most vulnerable road users. Road police numbers have now fallen by 37% since 2003, even though total police numbers are down by just 3.5%. Meanwhile the proportion of fatal and serious road injuries which involve cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists has risen sharply to 60%, up from 52% in 2005-9. With drivers being protected in ever-safer vehicles while facing reduced risks of fines or prosecutions for driving offences, it seems that they are more likely to drive in ways which endanger those road users who are not protected by a metal cage.
  • The need to strengthen the ability of the Health and Safety Executive to tackle work-related driving offences, and the Traffic Commissioners to take unsafe lorry operators off the roads. The latter is particularly important given the delays before they were able to act in the cases of AJ Drummond and Frys Logistics, the operators whose lorries were respectively involved in the deaths of Alan Neve in London, and of Toby Wallace and Andrew McMenigall in Cornwall.

Regrettably the MPs on the Select Committee seemed more interested in asking unhelpful questions about the supposed need for cyclists to have compulsory training and insurance, to force cyclists to wear helmets, and to tackle those who ride without lights (see broadcast of evidence session). Roger Geffen said afterwards: "Cycling per se is not dangerous - it is traffic conditions which make it dangerous. If we want to promote cycling as a safe, healthy and normal option for day-to-day journeys, we need to tackle the sources not the symptoms of danger that cyclists face."

Call to ban dodgy lorry operators covered on 'You and Yours'

Our call to strengthen the role of the Traffic Commissioners was picked up in Radio 4's 'You and Yours' programme on Wednesday 25 November. The programme featured interviews with Roger Geffen and Cynthia Barlow, Chair of road crash victims' charity RoadPeace (you can listen again until Tuesday 1 December).

Safe lorries needed for HS2 construction work

The following day, Roger was back in Parliament, presenting CTC's petition to the Commons Committee scrutinising the HS2 Rail Bill. As with Monday's hearing, CTC's evidence covered several points, including:

  • The need to design-in high standards of cycle-friendliness when planning or designing any new or altered highways, rights of way and other cycle access along and across the HS2 corridor, in accordance with the Government-backed concept of "Cycle-proofing".
  • The need to make provision for those wanting to combine cycle and rail travel, including: good cycle access to, from and through HS2 stations; ample cycle parking, hire and storage facilities; and good provision for cycle carriage on the trains (though this will be a matter for future train operators rather than for HS2 Ltd themselves).
  • Cycle-lorry safety, including action to minimise the number of lorries needed (e.g. by maximising the use of rail freight), while ensuring that lorries used are designed, managed and driven in ways that minimise the risks to cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

Prior to the hearing (CTC's evidence starts at 13'13"13), HS2 Ltd had already offered CTC some generalised but legally binding assurances on the first two points, but only agreed to offer a further assurance on lorry safety the day before the Commons hearing. They had previously resisted signing up to the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety (CLoCS) standard, even though it has been created by Transport for London with the backing of over 140 freight industry partners. However Roger Geffen urged them to go further still, by committing to the use of 'direct vision' lorries, where the drivers have a low seating position and are surrounded by plenty of window (rather than metal), so that they can see what's around them as easily as bus drivers can.

Geffen commented: "This is a chance for HS2 Ltd, as a publicly owned company, to show real leadership in promoting safe lorry design. Given that they are proposing up to 1,440 lorry movements a day on Camden's roads alone, it is frighteningly likely that cyclists will end up being killed by HS2 lorries, unless HS2 Ltd do all they can to avoid this risk. I hope they will commit not only to retaining or providing safe cycle access near and across the HS2 rail corridor, but also to avoid using lorries by maximising rail transport, while ensuring that any lorries that are used are designed, managed and driven to the highest possible safety standards."

The Commons hearing took place on the same day that the Construction Industry Cycling Commission published a new 10-point manifesto setting out how the construction industry can promote cycle safety. HS2 has agreed to continue its dialogue with CTC on how it can minimise the risks posed by its construction operations. We hope they will now take note!