Deaths sound alarm bells for London's 'Year of Cycling'

By Richard Peace | Wednesday, March 17, 2010 10.15am

The recent deaths of three cyclists in London, all of whom were killed in collisions involving lorries, have underlined the need for urgent action in a year when thousands of new riders are anticipated to hit the streets following the launch of a public bike share scheme.  

In February, a man was killed by a left turning lorry at the corner of

Tower Bridge Road
and Druid Street. Earlier this month, a student was killed by a lorry in
Weston Street
near Guy’s Hospital, and the next day a woman was killed by a skip lorry on
Lauriston Road
in Hackney.

Major new construction projects such as The Shard and Crossrail mean parts of the city and certain routes into will be particularly busy with lorry traffic – at one point, Crossrail estimated managing 600 truckloads a day.

Before the most recent deaths, the company had already announced they would be giving every lorry driver working regularly on the project – probably around 3,500 – training on how to drive carefully near cyclists.

Mayor Boris Johnson said of the training: "Cycling in London is getting safer but with so many new cyclists taking to the streets it's imperative that those building London's visionary new railway move around our streets with the utmost care. As someone who regularly cycles, and hears other cyclists talk of their experiences, it's clear that every action to cut the risk from lorries should be warmly welcomed."

Cynics might argue that this has hardly been helped by Johnson's withdrawal of funding for the Metropolitan Police’s Commercial Vehicle Education Unit last year. However, the programme has since been re-established by the force, through a re-arrangement of their resources. During the time up to the new arrangements, 70 percent of the vehicles the unit checked were defective.

The London Cycling Campaign has called for all London lorry drivers to be given cycle-awareness training and for cyclists to be trained to be more aware of the dangers of riding near trucks. They have also called for all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in London to be fitted with a full set of safety mirrors and a sign saying “Cyclists, beware passing this vehicle on the inside”.

A ban on lorries using key commuting routes at peak times has been called for by Jenny Jones, a former deputy mayor of London, who said: “Many of us are feeling a mix of sadness and anger at these latest deaths of cyclists in London.

"This summer, the mayor will be encouraging thousands of inexperienced cyclists to use the Cycling Superhighways and share the roads with some of the main lorry routes through London. The most obvious thing for the mayor to do is to ban lorries from using these cycling commuter routes at peak times of the day. The least he can do is to re-engineer these routes to give cyclists priority."

A Department for Transport report from 2009 said that “HGVs present particular challenges for cyclists and are over-represented in cyclist fatalities”, and added that “this is a particular issue for London".

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