A coalition of cycling groups has urged the government to support EU regulations designed to make lorries safer for vulnerable road users like cyclists.
But the government said it will only back proposals if evidence that the changes will work is produced.
Earlier this week, organisations including CTC and British Cycling sent a joint letter to Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, to support the EU move that would mean current lorry cabs would be redesigned to give drivers more direct vision of vulnerable road users around the vehicle and simultaneously make the cab nose longer to improve aerodynamics.
Campaigners say more the proposed changes could cut some of the 4,250 lorry-related deaths across Europe each year.
The design amendments were approved by the EU Parliament in mid-April and were welcomed by campaigners. But before they can become law, they need to be voted on by the 28 EU member states, including Britain. According to the Financial Times earlier this week, France and Sweden are petitioning to defer the date the proposed changes would come into effect from 2022 to 2025.
However the government may not support the legislation at all. After the EU Parliament decision to approve the changes a month ago, a Department for Transport (DfT) statement read on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One questioned whether the proposed changes would result in “practical changes that will benefit UK road users”.
It added: “We will continue to work with our European partners to push for well thought out changes – for example, by ensuring trucks are fitted with mirrors to eliminate blind spots.”
And in a clarifying statement today, a spokesman added: “Improving cycle safety is a key priority for the Government. We support the amendments that will allow longer, more aerodynamic vehicle designs, but only where it can be clearly demonstrated through evidence that they will improve safety.”
Kate Cairns, a campaigner for See Me Save Me, an organisation tackling lorry danger, said it takes HGV drivers up to six seconds to check the current array of mirrors and sensors inside current lorry cabs.
She told the World at One: “That is a ridiculous point about the mirrors… in the majority of cases the driver says they just didn’t see the cyclist. In inquest after inquest and investigation after investigation, the driver simply says I didn’t look in that mirror at that time and then nothing else happens. Mirrors are not working. We need direct vision”
The British Cycling and CTC letter has been signed by Campaign for Better Transport, Living Streets, London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace, See Me Save Me, and Sustrans.
CTC is urging the public to write to the Department for Transport urging him to support the EU rule change too.