September 4, 2013 2:40 pm

‘Unsafe’ lorries face £200 London fee in cycling safety drive

Lorries lacking equipment to protect cyclists will face a daily £200 charge to enter London under plans announced by Boris Johnson and Stephen Hammond, transport minister.

Cycling safety in London has become a highly charged issue as cycling groups have called for action to address the dangers of high wheel based vehicles. These can drag cyclists under their wheels and have been involved in a disproportionate number of fatalities.

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Some 53 per cent of cycling deaths between 2008 and 2012 involved a heavy goods vehicle, but such vehicles made up only 4 per cent of traffic. In 2011, there were 16 cycling fatalities in London, of which nine were caused by HGVs. Of those, seven were by vehicles fitted without safety sidebars.

Some heavy goods vehicles – such as supermarket delivery vehicles – must be fitted with sidebars by law. But the legislation does not cover other vehicles such as tipper trucks and waste vehicles.

At an event outside the Houses of Parliament featuring HGVs fitted with specialised mirrors and sensors that improve drivers’ awareness of approaching cyclists, Mr Johnson, London’s mayor, said: “There’s no question that HGVs, tipper trucks and cement mixers are the really dangerous beasts of the road and if we can do something to make them safer it’s obviously right that we should.”

A consultation will be launched early next year, with the aim of introducing measures in the middle of 2014. The first phase is set to cover side guards or low skirts, with a later phase tackling high-tech sensors and mirrors.

The scheme would be modelled on the Low Emission Zone, which levies a £200 penalty on high-polluting vehicles entering Greater London.

Andrew Gilligan, the mayor’s adviser on cycling, said: “We haven’t got the power to ban unsafe lorries from London. What we do have is the power to charge them a daily fee.”

Mr Hammond and the mayor also announced a joint initiative between Transport for London and the Department for Transport to create an “Industrial HGV task force” to enforce existing regulations, as well as a government review of the rules allowing some vehicles to operate without sidebars.

Mr Hammond said: “Today’s announcement of a dedicated Industrial HGV task force will target the small minority of large goods vehicle operators who are unaware of, or just wilfully non-compliant with, safety regulations for commercial vehicles and their drivers.”

The construction industry is unlikely to oppose the measures. Stephen Radcliffe, director of the UK Contractors Group representing some of Britain’s biggest builders, said construction groups took cycling safety seriously.

“They have already done an enormous amount of work in the past two years to minimise the risks, including putting technology on lorries to improve sight and awareness,” he said. “For the industry, this is pushing at an open door.”

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