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Cyclist safety debate rages as death toll rises

  • 21 November 2013
  • By Chris Druce

Two leading London politicians have called for a ban on LGVs during commuter hours after the death of six cyclists in the capital in the past fortnight.

Mayor Boris Johnson has come under intense pressure to act after the death of a cyclist on Monday (18 November) took cycling deaths in the capital to 14 this year – with nine involving LGVs – the same as for the whole of 2012.

London Assembly members Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones have criticised the mayor’s cycling policies and called for a default speed limit of 20mph across the city.

Jones called for a ban on LGVs during commuter hours, a move that won the support of former Olympic medal winning cyclist Chris Boardman and the leader of Southwark Council, Peter John.

“It is time to look at more radical action to keep cyclists safe,” said John.

“We need new ideas: I propose banning LGVs London-wide during the rush hour,” he said.

Responding, Christopher Snelling, Freight Transport Association (FTA) head of urban logistics policy, said: “FTA believes that the idea of banning LGVs from a city like London in peak hours is naive and not commercially viable. 

“It would mean massive economic implications for the shops, businesses and residents of the capital.  It would also create new safety issues as one lorry is replaced by about 8 – not to mention the increased congestion and air pollution that would result.”

Speaking on LBC radio last week, mayor Johnson said that cycling in the capital was, becoming safer in the long term, and reiterated that he had pledged around £933m to improve infrastructure.

“You cannot blame the victim in these circumstances. But what you can say is that when people make decisions on the road that are very risky – jumping red lights, moving across fast-moving traffic in a way – it’s difficult for traffic engineers to second-guess that.

“I’m appealing to all cyclists, as well as all motorists, to think of the laws of the road, because if you take these hasty, rash decisions that we’re seeing sometimes, then you will be endangering your life,” said the mayor.

The cycling issue has attracted plenty of debate amongst members of the Commercial Motor Networking Group.

Industry calls for improved infrastructure

Both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) questioned just how suitable London’s road infrastructure really is for cyclists. A spokesman for the RHA said: “We need to separate the cyclist as much as possible. The majority of LGV drivers in London do a very good job in difficult circumstances.”

Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics policy at the FTA, said: “The logistics industry has spent a lot of money [on the problem] and will need to carry on doing that. Last week demonstrated that the quality of cycling infrastructure is just as important.”

Mike Bracey, chairman of the Brewery Logistics Group, urged caution regarding full segregation. “Approximately 90% of freight comes in by road in London. If you segregate everything you will stop deliveries [as the lanes are typically at the roadside]. The city will grind to a halt.”

Bracey said that if the London Lorry Control Scheme ran until 4am rather than its 7am cut-off, operators would be able to make deliveries ahead of the rush hour.


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