Longer lorry rollout risks cyclists’ lives

A large lorry in on a small, local road
New laws mean that lorries even larger than this could become an increasingly common sight on our roads. Photo: Dalibor Znamenak (CC)
Despite an 11 year trial, serious concerns remain about the safety implications of longer lorries says Cycling UK

Today, the Government announced new legislation to allow longer lorries to be used by businesses across England, Scotland, and Wales from 31 May. The new laws permit vehicles up to 18.55m long to be used across the entire roads network – 2.05m longer than current limits, which is nearly as long as a lorry cab.

Although the decision comes after an 11-year pilot scheme in which a small number of firms tested the lorries, with about 3000 currently on the road, Cycling UK and other road safety organisations have repeatedly highlighted flaws in this pilot which mean that a widespread roll out could put lives at risk.

The longer lorries have larger blind spots and almost double the ‘tail-swing’ of conventional HGVs, which could pose significant danger to vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians, especially when driven in dense, busy, urban environments and narrow country lanes.

Although the legislation will require operators to plan their routes and undertake risk assessments that take the longer vehicle length into account, there will be no specific restrictions on where the vehicles can be driven, opening the floodgates to longer, larger lorries rolling into our city, town and village centres, trying to navigate narrow streets and tight turns and risking lives. 

Given that lorries are already seven times more likely than cars to be involved in cyclist or pedestrian fatality, the decision represents a serious step backwards for cyclists’ safety argues Cycling UK.

Keir Gallagher, Cycling UK campaigns manager said:

“At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it’s alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people doing these activities. Before opening the floodgates to longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes, further testing in real life scenarios should be done to assess and address the risks.

“Counting casualties years down the line is the wrong way to conduct road safety policy – yet just like with smart motorways, that’s the risk we face unless the government urgently reconsiders these plans.

“Although these longer lorries will represent a minor saving in terms of efficiency, they risk creating a more dangerous and scary roads environment and in doing so could deter people from zero emissions transport options like cycling and walking”.

Former Lib Dem Transport Minister, Norman Baker from the Campaign for Better Transport also highlighted that “Rather than longer lorries, the government should be working to ensure more freight is moved by rail - an efficient, safe and clean alternative with just one freight train capable of removing up to 129 lorries from our roads."

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