Time for a London lorry ban

A report was published yesterday by the Transport Research Laboratory, the broad thrust of which is that the construction industry, despite the fact that their vehicles have been identified time and again as the number one threat to cyclists, have failed (with a few notable exceptions) to take effective action to reduce that threat.

INot photo-shopped, a real picture (Selim Korycki)t is now 19 years since the British Medical Journal published a report entitled Deaths of cyclists in London 1985-92: the hazards of road traffic’, which specifically addressed the problem of the disproportionate number of collisions between lorries (aka Heavy Goods Vehicles) and cyclists that resulted in a fatality.  By the way, isn’t it absurd that whenever these collisions are reported in the mainstream media, the driver is always described as ‘unhurt’ – of course the bloody driver was unhurt!  In the conclusion to report, there is the following:

a ban on heavy goods vehicles in urban areas should be considered.

Reading the numbers again, and some of the conclusions, some things jump out.  The absolute numbers of cyclists killed by collisions with lorries hasn’t really changed that much since 1985 -1992 (the period which the report was based on),  75 deaths in 8 years, or around 9 or so a year then, 8 or so a year now.  The report also notes that the higher proportion of women cyclists who die in accidents involving heavy goods vehicles in inner London cannot be explained satisfactorily. Same thing now.  It is a fact that women are well over-represented in the KSI numbers where the other vehicle was a lorry.


I am sick of writing and reading about London cyclists who have been killed by a collision with a lorry. I looked on the contents page of Moving Target, and started counting the number of articles that I wrote about the issue between 2005 & 2011, and stopped counting when I reached 40.  As I said in a previous post, I am delighted that the mainstream media has now picked up the story, and are demanding action.  However, I think they should be going further, and demanding, like the author of the BMJ article, like the London Bicycle Messenger Association did in 2004, a ban on lorries in central London daytime.


Memorial for Sebastian Lukomski, killed by a lorry on Upper Thames Street. Photo: Ben Brown

Putting it in economic terms, why should commercial road users be putting the costs (medical attention, police investigation etc) of their business onto the rest of us?  In a recent Freakonomics podcast, economist Steve Levitt said ‘there are few instances in our society where individuals are able to impose such large externalities on other individuals through their behaviour as on the roads.‘  Sure, all motorists are required by law to have 3rd party insurance, but this does not cover the costs of the emergency services etc, which are substantial, especially, as almost always happens where a fatality has resulted, there is an extensive police investigation.  Relatively speaking, there is little cost to the operator, or the operator’s employer, i.e. the organisation that is paying the operator to deliver whatever load the lorry is carrying, of a fatal collision. It is therefore not very surprising that, in a business in which margins are low, competition is high, and buyers are very price sensitive, that lorries still run over cyclists, as there is almost no economic penalty for doing so.

The threat of a daytime lorry ban, almost universally dismissed as unworkable, might serve to concentrate minds, given that it would carry considerably greater costs, especially in the construction sector.  I realise that there is currently a night-time ban on lorries in London, but this should be done away with.  This ban dates back to 1982, and I have no idea at all why it was brought in.  We want as many HGV movements at night as possible, surely?


And to those people who think that a daytime ban on HGVs is madness, I say, be reasonable, demand the impossible.

  1. Harold said:

    They way your article reads it suggest another solution, not just the lorry ban. How about making the haulage firm responsible for costs related to an accident? Any investigation into an incident involving a lorry upon a pedestrian or cyclist has to be paid for by those responsible for the lorry? Maybe not possible in reality when you consider the HGV’s not part of a large haulage of construction firm but I bet it would quickly stop accidents involving HGV’s.


  2. Any ‘management’ of an issue by a simple imposition of a total ban is in my book an admission that you cannot manage that issue. Let’s look at a number of points and see how they might be managed.

    First it is worth noting that the big articulated trucks used for ‘logistics’ now rarely venture in to Central London. To have such expensive vehicles and costly driver time stuck in traffic, when 90% of the packages they are delivering weigh under 30Kg, and so these trucks decant the loads to small vans, and with a refreshing sign of change are also providing core business for an emerging cycle logistics industry. Unlike the ‘rush job’ work of the cycle couriers before electronic document transmission had its impact, here are stable cycle ‘courier’ jobs, where the guys stay with an employer for years, rather than burning out in 18 months or less.

    Retail deliveries do still bring artics in to town, but again the need to keep those trucks rolling on schedule, and the access to deliver to many stores, means those trucks tend to be creatures of the night, leaving only the construction industry where materials HAVE to be moved during the working day, especially in the city where land space is at a premium, so that incoming and outgoing materials cannot be stockpiled on a site, but have to be moved in and out with a highly pressurised operating regime. Given the size of some developments that means a lot of truck-loads hitting the streets, and a lot of ‘costs’ extending well beyond that in the casualties inflicted on other road users, which need to be addressed.

    As an example I took pictures at 07.30 one morning of the sight that hit me arriving outside St Pancras on Midland Road, where the Francis Crick site had just started excavating down to build 4 floors of basement. I counted over 30 of the 32T 4-axle rigid tipper trucks queued back as far as the eye could see towards Camden High Street. They were needed to keep the excavators supplied with a truck to fill up whilst the fleet formed a loose chain of loaded and empty vehicles stuck every 200-300 metres along City Road and out for a 63 mile round trip to Pitsea for tipping. Between 40 and 50 trucks were running every day for about 2 months making around 150 round trips, shifting roughly 3000 tons per day. To cover the operating costs a 32T rigid tipper needs to earn around £300-£400 per day, and at a rough guess on Ton-mile rates I’d reckon that this was being charged at £100/load – or costing the developer £15,000 per day to use trucks over the distance involved. This contrasted with the construction work for the adjacent St Pancras International station, where the sidings of the old Kings Cross Goods Yard were used to take out and bring in materials, and the works included building a new delivery siding for aggregates coming in to the 2 concrete batching operations which continue to operate in the area. Substantial tonnages went out by rail, but a combination of building over the access to the sidings, for the future Thameslink connecting line, and transfer of the site to the Kings Cross Central site meant that the Kings Cross Goods tracks were lifted, and a second facility (the lines no longer used by passenger trains to Kings Cross through the eastern tunnels at Copenhagen and Gas Works, with a ramp connection from York Way, were also removed.

    Now a DfT report on the economics of operating the 32T rigid against a 44T articulated truck makes interesting reading – the articulated truck actually does less damage to the road than its rigid counterpart, and carries a payload 50% larger – so you actually need 50% fewer truck movements, and thus potentially reduce the risk of a collision between a truck and another road user by 50%. The emissions footprint also shrinks, and one presumes that the cost to a developer – paying for fewer trucks and drivers also goes down. The report concludes that roads authorities (TfL and London Boroughs) would have lower road repair bills, and a reduction in emissions – and the potential penalties linked to this. But the ubiquitous 4-axle rigids remain the tool of choice, not least because of the fact that a Class 1 licence – for an articulated truck is not required, and a good Class 1 driver can get cleaner better, and regular work driving trunk routes with logistics and retail deliveries.

    Of course no one questions the design of the trucks themselves. The current EU regulations actually work to make trucks less safe. By setting a limit on overall length truck cabs are made as short and flat as possible, and the engine mounted as far forward as possible so that the driver gets shoved upwards reducing the coverage of direct vision of the road immediately adjacent to the vehicle,and forcing a reliance on mirrors, cameras and other indirect systems, and all that this can introduce in failing to monitor a burgeoning array devices that can distract from a simple focus of driving the truck. We have a long established ENCAP system which ensures cars have collision management systems (CMS) to deflect pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a collision, and a measure of delivering direct vision from the driving position. Scandalously there is NO minimum standard for direct vision and NO requirement for a CMS applicable to trucks. However a research project by the lobby group Transport and Environment shows that revising the EU legislation could provide a truck with a front end design that pushes a pedestrian or cyclist clear against the current designs that knock them down flat and run them over, and the revised design of cab would also provide a far greater coverage for direct vision from the driving position. There is one attraction for the haulage industry as well – teh shaped front is more aerodynamic and such a design would offer reduced fuel consumption, making the operators happy, and reduced emissions to help the government targets. What;’s not to like, and we are coming up for a review of EC directives 96/53 covering legislation on trucks, and a big opportunity to press the MEP’s to repeal some aspects and add key features such as a minimum standard for direct vision, and crash testing/CMS for trucks. The T&E report estimates that fatalities in collisions with trucks across Europe for all road users could be halved, and around 300 cyclist & pedestrian deaths saved per year.

    Some trucks actually can be built with a walk-in cab, where the driving position is practically at eye level with pedestrians and cyclists outside – you’ll see such cabs on air-side trucks at an airport, but also on some council refuse trucks, where you can look in to the cab and actually see the driver from head to hip. A few other operators are using such cabs – I saw a Fullers dray in London the other day, so there is a clear opportunity even now to call on your local council to specify trucks with walk-in cabs for their own and their contractors’ vehicles used on the city streets.

    I do have a small theory on the ‘why so many women’ issue, that came out from a 5000 cyclist survey in Oxford and Cambridge. Women reported that they had a problem turning their heads sufficiently to look back (the lifesaver check – for motorcyclists). This seemed to have a connection with the incidents reported involving female cyclists, where rearward awareness appeared to be a factor. More work may be needed here but it is worth noting that on a bike set up for male body ratios, the shorter arms relative to torso relationship for women means that many shorten the reach on the handlebar stem, so that their arms are slightly bent and thus making it easier to turn the head and shoulders without affecting the steering, when riding along. Is that a possible explanation? Maybe so but clearly there is some mechanism that seems to make it less likely for a male rider to be taken by surprise when a truck overtakes and turns left or comes in too close behind.

    A lot might be resolved if you can actually eyeball that driver or pedestrian, and communicate without words, how you would like to relate to each other on the road. Its a campaign detail I’ve had kicking around for at least 15 years, and I can see a potential campaign along the lines that the only contact I want to make with another road user is Eye Contact, perhaps the only certain way to avoid a SMIDSY

    Bill drop me an e-mail and I’ll send over some material on the T&E report & truck cabs if you haven’t got it already


  3. David said:

    Well, if you are sick to death of reading about injured or killed cyclists, I am sick to death of reading about another HGV driver who has potentialy had his life ruined due to another cyclist not giving his or her vehicle the respect it deserves.Stop trying to blame everyone else for riders shortcomings.I understood at five years old that I should stay away from vehicles and that drivers may not know I exist.Now, as a 42 year old who has riden bikes, motorcycles and has driven HGV’s and cars all his life, the worst heart-stopping moments I see in London still relate to cyclists who are either too impatient or too stupid to realise the dangers they face.The more mirrors an HGV has fitted to check, the more chance another cyclist on a mission will have appeared and vanished again in one of them as the driver pulls away or turns.

    There are probably hundreds of red light jumping cyclists who are alive or uninjured today due to my ability to predict the stupid and dangerous actions they were about to take.Likewise those who squash themselves alongside my vehicle as I prepare to turn etc.There are good and bad road users across the board, I appreciate that, but an HGV driver has spent a small fortune to drive these vehicles and the training is ongoing.In contrast, many cyclists probably don’t remember their cycling proficiency tests from Jr school…if they had them at all!


    • Worth pointing out that the Cycling Proficiency (which I took when I was a kid), was conducted entirely off public roads. This has since been superseded by Bikeability.

      Also, the Mayor of London is considering bringing a HGV ban for London, as announced in the past few weeks.


      • simon reekie said:

        Still no lorry ban then i see. That’s because it would be impossible to implement. Its all well and good saying ban lorries from London, but that wont help supply and demand. Peoples want for convenience is now set in stone. That means 24hr shopping 7 days a week. That means delivery’s to meet that demand which could never be met by delivering only at night. Even you must shop so ask yourself next time you’re shopping, how did all this get here. Something else that springs to mind. I only ever hear : “Cyclist killed by lorry turning left.”
        How is it that its never reported: “Cyclist killed whilst cycling up the inside of a lorry”.
        This has to be not only the most dangerous manoeuvre that could be done by such a small and delicate vehicle, but, lets not beat about the bush, the most stupid.
        Why would you put yourself in such a vulnerable position? I don’t ever claim to be an intellectual genius but i don’t have to be. Common sense kicks in way before i have run through the pros of doing something so stupid.
        Now, I’m not saying all cycling accidents are entirely the cyclist fault. There are many truly appalling HGV drivers out there, but surely even more reason to steer well clear of such a dangerous area. But that said, how many cyclists owe the fact they are still able to cycle to the alert HGV driver who IS constantly checking their mirrors, cameras and any other driver aid the company has thought wise to install.
        A London daytime lorry ban will never happen all the time the cyclists and everyone else wants shopping convenience.


      • A ban on unsafe lorries is on the way, according to the Mayor of London. It also seems likely that high-cab (i.e. those that have all these ‘blind-spots’) will be phased, as the EU is likely to legislate on the issue shortly.

        As for the rest of your tendentious comments, I will restrict myself to correcting a couple of particularly incorrect assertions, which is that the operators thought it ‘wise’ to install safety equipment. The operators only started to install this equipment *after* road danger campaigners such as Cynthia Barlow O.B.E. aggressively and assertively demanded that they do so. Certain operators even complained about the extra expense involved.

        Organisations representing cyclists, and campaigners like myself have also consistently high-lighted the dangers of approaching lorries on the near-side, and especially at junctions.

        It is not, however, true that fatalities result from the cyclist approaching lorries on the near-side – it is frequently the case that the lorry has arrived *after* the cyclist, and run the cyclist over from behind.


      • Simon said:

        OK, so lets have a look at your comments.

        “A ban on unsafe lorries is on the way, according to the Mayor of London. It also seems likely that high-cab (i.e. those that have all these ‘blind-spots’) will be phased, as the EU is likely to legislate on the issue shortly.

        Quote London Evening Standard:

        “Boris Johnson and London’s 33 boroughs have joined forces to create a Safer Lorry Zone within the M25, excluding all unsafe HGVs heavier than 3.5 tonnes.

        It means an estimated 30,000 HGVs — mainly tipper trucks, cement mixers, skip and scaffolding lorries — have just months to fit compulsory side guards and cyclist-friendly mirrors or face fines of £130.

        Last September the Mayor announced a £200 daily charge for dangerous lorries entering London but he has dropped this in favour of the outright ban.

        Following the November spate of cycle deaths in London, some cycling supporters called for a morning rush-hour ban on all HGVs entering the capital but this is looking increasingly unlikely……

        This isnt a ban, it’s an initiative to bring lower end lorries up to scratch. I can only applaud this as they quite obviously save lives

        Firstly, speaking from experience as an HGV driver for 20yrs, ALL HGVs are dangerous. That is a fact. There are no safe HGVs (except maybe parked ones).

        Secondly, ALL HGVs have blind-spots. The very fact you say “all these ‘blind-spots’ ” would indicate that you don’t actually believe there are blind-spots. This is not only incorrect but ignorant. ALL vehicles have blind-spots, not just high cabs but low cabs, sleeper cabs, day cabs, 7.5ton, 3.5ton even down to your smallest car. I know this because I have driven them all. All Hgvs after (roughly) 2007 have blind-spot mirrors both nearside and offside.
        I also cycle a 30 mile round trip to work everyday so I fail to see how my comments are tendentious. I can see every point of view so have no underlying purpose to the point I’m am trying to put across. Something i don’t think you can.

        Thirdly, operators did think it wise to install safety aids for drivers. Nobody likes to deal with a death that could have been avoided. Of course they complained about the expense, they are in business but ultimately it’s the consumer who pays anyway. All the cost filter down to you and me.
        Campaigners can campaign all they like but its the companies who pay for the installation of the safety aids needed to make every ones life safer. Cars never had seatbelt, crumple zones, air-bags, side impact protection etc until people started campaigning for safer vehicles because of road fatalities. The vehicle manufacturers listen and vehicles are getting safer everyday. I ask you this, How many times do you see a driver (of any vehicle) driving whilst talking on the phone during the day? And how many cyclists do you see riding with headphones on?
        One is illegal resulting in points and a fine (if caught) because it quite obviously distracts the attention of the driver resulting in someone who is not concentrating on the job in hand, and the other is not illegal at all.
        You have to understand the frustrations of drivers where cyclists are concerned because of their actions, which sometimes are dangerous to themselves, sometimes to others.

        I’ll give you an example.

        I was driving a 44ton milk tanker along a main road and in front of me was a cyclist who i could not get past. The cyclist in question was riding with no hands, drinking a can of relentless with headphones on. He had no idea i was there.
        I waited patiently for a gap big enough to become available for me to pass. As my gap came, i pulled out and began overtaking the cyclists. As my drive axle wheels were in line with the cyclist, he fell off his bike. He bounced onto the road and rolled outwards towards the the trailer wheels as i passed. if it wasn’t for the fact i was watching him all the way, i wouldn’t have pulled the truck out further still and he would’ve been crushed by the trailer wheels.
        I pulled over and ran back to see if he was ok as did the cars behind me. They all thought i had hit him until the cyclists explain to them i had been nowhere near him. His seat post had snapped and as he never had hold of his handlebars, he simply fell off.
        The point i would like to make is that we are not all the same. HGV drivers, cyclists, car driver, motorcyclists. We are all different. I have done them all so i know which is the most vulnerable and i also know which is the hardest to do well.
        Had i killed that cyclist i would have most likely lost my job, been prosecuted for death by dangerous driving and would probably gone to prison. The only witness to the fact that i had not touched him was the cyclist and luckily for us both he was still alive to defend me.

        The roads are congested and will only get more so. We all have to work together to make them safer for all and banning one group of vehicles will only make room for others. HGVs and their drivers have an important role to do in the running of the country. Without them the country would come to a grinding halt.
        That is a fact.


  4. My thoughts here http://therantyhighwayman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/think-of-other-fella.html

    I doubt a complete ban is possible, but there are places in London (and indeed any town or city) where people must accept that larger vehicles are not appropriate on a day to day basis.

    Lorries are fine on the motorways and trunk roads and to a certain extent, main roads into town to serve shopping centres and indeed construct sites. These are the routes which probably need protected infrastructure anyway.

    There are largish construction sites in areas not suited to lorries and still they are used – this needs tackling with either temporary traffic management (to protect walkers and cyclists) or use of the planning system to limit the size of construction vehicle.

    Perhaps lorries going into these areas need to be treated differently with very low speed limits or escorts – think of huge loads on the motorways, but transferred to smaller roads.


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