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By Selim Korycki

A report from Transport for London's 'Safety and Sustainability Panel' on 'Cycle Safety' was published last week. In the backwards world of road traffic speak, the 'Safety' in the title actually refers to fatal danger from lorries (Heavy Goods Vehicles, also known as Large Goods Vehicle) to people cycling.

I would have missed it, had I not seen a tweet from Boriswatch: “next time Boris tries to pretend [London Assembly Member] Jenny Jones is just being silly about rates of cycling KSIs, that paper suggests TfL believe her.” This is a reference to claims that Jenny Jones made last year that the risk of injury & death whilst cycling in London had gone up under Mayor Boris Johnson's tenure. These claims were disputed by the Mayor at the time.

I would recommend that every London MP is sent a copy, or is emailed link to the report. There isn't a lot in it that is new in terms of numbers collated or trends identified, but the report is an excellent primer for anyone that isn't familiar with the topic. I don't want to reproduce too much here, as the report is relatively short, and can be read in a few minutes, unlike more technical reports.

I tweeted a couple of the salient statistics, HGV making up 6% of traffic during the morning peak, and 5% during the rest of the day, yet were involved in 53% of cycle fatalities between 2008 & 2012. These numbers won't surprise anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the statistics on cycling fatalities in London. HGVs were identified as the number one danger to London's cyclists nearly 20 years ago, in a British Medical Journal report that I have been linking to for at least 8 years.

Also not new is the identification in the report of lorries working for builders, mainly skip or tipper lorries, being more likely than other lorries to kill cyclists. 7 out of 9 fatalities in 2011, where the collision was between a large goods vehicle and a cyclist, involved a construction lorry. In 2004 the HGV working group set up by the Mayor of London's office identified construction lorries as over-represented in cyclist fatalities.

What is new is language like this:

This research identified a systemic failing in road safety cultures within the construction sector, a lack of ownership of road risk throughout the supply chain and an imbalance between work place safety and road safety.

This is pretty strong language for an official report. There is a list of some things that need to be done, and in what looks very much like a 'to do' list for the Mayor & TfL the report suggests that

urgent attention is given to: greater enforcement of operator, vehicle and driver non-compliance of existing regulations;

I was a little bit disappointed to find that a conditional ban on HGVs was way down the same list at 'g' or 7. At least it's on the list for urgent attention. On the other hand, I take the fact that enforcement is right at the top of the list as an indication that, as I have said before, the construction hauliers do not regard compliance with regulations as anything like as important as they should do. The rules & regulations, after all, are there to keep road haulage operations safe for other road users like children, old people, people cycling, people walking, as well as people driving other motor vehicles.

I understand the pressures that the hauliers are under. I have worked in the transport sector most of my adult life. I know the margins are low, that there is constant pressure from customers to shave time & money, and that everywhere you turn someone is trying to fine you for something or other. However, Operation Mermaid, which is run by the Vehicle Operator Services Agency and police forces all over the U.K. and is virtually a random road-side MOT for HGVs, routinely show contravention rates of over 50%, which shows that there are a lot of illegal lorries out on the road.

I have some sympathy with the drivers. I am sure, as The Lorry Lawyer says, that no driver sets out to kill someone. However, the hauliers keep droning on about how professional they are, and blaming cyclists for not being sufficiently trained, or not wearing helmets etc etc.

(For an example of how the haulage industry thinks about it, have a look at the survey that was commissioned by Commercial Motor from ComRes on 'cycle safety' – do have a look at ComRes' numbers as well. The slant of the questions, offering cycle helmets, training etc as options for clearly indicates to me that the haulage industry thinks it can evade increased regulation & enforcement by blaming cyclist behaviour for the fatalities.)

The evidence from Operation Mermaid, which has been going on for years and years, suggests that hauliers routinely send out onto the roads vehicles which are not compliant with current legislation. Is this pattern of behaviour, of sending out poorly managed heavy machinery to interact with the public, consistent with claims of professionalism? Obviously, I don't think so. I would suggest that, along with greater levels of enforcement, a strategy of making the hauliers employers take responsibility for their contractor's safety record has been shown to be fruitful, taking as an example the Olympic site in east London, during the construction of which the danger from the lorries going to and from the site was taken very seriously by the builders.

At the end of the report there is a section on the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety Project. The principle aim appears to be to get the construction industry to accept that the high cab tipper lorry is not fit to be driven around London, and to buy a design of tipper lorry which doesn't have any blind-spots at the front, rather like a conventional bus or a modern design of refuse lorry. Yes, we know it will be expensive to replace the current fleet of tipper lorries. It will be very, very expensive.

But how much does it cost when someone is killed or seriously injured by a lorry whilst cycling? I don't know, I'd be interested to see some estimates, but I bet it's a lot more than the cost of a new tipper lorry.

In closing, I don't want to overplay the dangers of riding a bike in London. If you cycle regularly, even in London, all the evidence that you will live longer than someone who does not cycle, even if you don't wear a helmet, hi-visibility clothing, and you sport high-heels and use a set of noise-cancelling head-phones playing Public Enemy's back catalogue. Cycling in London can be unpleasant, very occasionally wet & cold, but fatal & serious injuries are rare.

 

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This was forwarded to all the attendees by Jenny Jones’ office.

Findings from ‘Cyclists and the Law’ seminar, 22nd May 2013

 

Andrew Gilligan’s opening comments

  • It is not just cars but also motorcycles that often fail to stay out of ASLs. He would be in favour of signage warning of £50 fines for vehicles that encroach on ASLs.
  • Cyclists currently are prohibited from entering ASLs via any means other than the feeder lanes and can be prosecuted for doing so. This needs to be changed.
  • Red bicycles on crossings are not allowed whereas red pedestrians and red horses (in Hyde Park Corner junction) are permitted. Why not red bikes?
  • Mayor’s sentencing unit recently set up – monitoring sentences for those convicted of causing death to a cyclist by dangerous or careless driving is a ‘priority’
  • Cycle Task Force to be expanded by 25% – there will be an average of approx. 2 officers per borough
  • Commercial vehicle unit (8 officers) to monitor commercial vehicle safety

Kevin O’Sullivan’s opening comments

  • A big step forward would be for the injury caused to be mentioned in a criminal charge. This would communicate the seriousness of the collision and make the process not just a judgement on the driver’s driving but also on the injury they caused another person (and the impact on that person’s life).

Andrew Gilligan – main comments

  • Suggests we could learn from the Olympics re: restrictions on HGV movements during peak hours – the Games were delivered on time and with restrictions enforced well
  • Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable
  • Bad road design produces bad cyclist behaviour e.g. pavement cycling

Kevin O’Sullivan – main comments

  • Police officers are often reluctant to share CCTV footage after a collision, citing ‘insufficient resources’ as the reason. DCS Wilson agreed with this reasoning
  • ‘Death by careless driving’ is the routine charge in the event of a cyclist fatality
  • After a collision, police should as a matter of course check drivers’ ‘phones to see if they have been used shortly before the incident

Scott Wilson – main comments

  • Re: HGV driver who caused a cyclist’s death not being immediately arrested – this was because the police did not want to use up allowed questioning time before knowing the details of the incident

Darren Johnson AM – main comments

  • Current shift in engineering thinking is not being accompanied by shift in law
  • TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them

Ideas from the floor

  • Stricter penalties should exist for drivers (including police officers) who park their vehicles in cycle lanes. At the moment no penalties
  • Charges of ‘careless’ (introduced in 2008) instead of ‘dangerous’ driving are lessening burden of blame on drivers who have caused injury or death Since 2008, prosecutions for dangerous driving have nosedived. CPS need to look again at this distinction
  • Proximity used to feature in previous incarnations of the highway code but has been dropped. This remains in place on the continent
  • Restrict HGV movements during peak hours (it worked during Olympics)
  • A legally binding inspectorate is lacking (unlike rail or aviation accidents) – if one existed it could prosecute councils for bad junction design Gilligan pointed out this could discourage innovative thinking from junction engineers
  • Poor performance of cycle safety working group. Police do not enforce road traffic laws properly
  • ASLs to be treated the same as yellow box junctions. Kevin O’Sullivan pointed out that this would be best enforced using CCTV, as yellow boxes are enforced
  • Re: the police saying ‘we are not going to enforce 20mph limits’ – elected representatives make these decisions, not the police.
  • More one-way systems which are two-way for cyclists only
  • Junction outside Victoria Station (Palace Street and Victoria Street) lacks safety features such as ASLs. Police cars are often seen inside ASLs all over London. Accidents should be visible on a map like crimes are on the crime map. Signalling in the city also seems to be optional – why can’t this be enforced with CCTV?

Initial vote – 15 initiatives

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (82 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (79 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (53 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 4th (41 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 5th (40 votes)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 6th (35 votes)
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 7th (26 votes)
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 8th (22 votes)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (21 votes)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (21 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 10th (20 votes)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 10th (20 votes)
Combat pavement cycling 11th (11 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 11th (11 votes)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 12th (6 votes)

Follow-up Vote  (Audience ideas in red)

 

Initiative Ranking
Stricter liability – the assumption that injured cyclists deserve compensation unless it can be proved otherwise, or the Dutch scheme where at least 50% of responsibility for all cycle-related collisions lies with drivers 1st (34 votes)
The courts should make greater use of driving bans in sentencing and should be much firmer in resisting pleas of ‘hardship’ 2nd (9 votes)
Enforcement of 20mph limits by police 3rd (8 votes)
Advanced Stop Lines to be treated the same as yellow box junctions 4th (6 votes)
Decriminalise ASLs and mandatory cycle lanes 5th (5 votes)
Implement 20 mph limits on main roads, unless a case for exemption has been made and approved 6th (4 votes)
Tie cycle education to parking permits/DVLA 7th (3 votes)
‘Careless’ driving should not be default CPS choice 7th (3 votes)
French rules on close proximity 7th (3 votes)
Continental standards on vehicle design and fitting safety equipment, especially HGVs 8th (2 votes)
All drivers automatically arrested in the event of a death or serious injury 8th (2 votes)
Mayor should refuse to fund boroughs until they sign up to HGV training contracts 8th (2 votes)
No more road building in London 8th (2 votes)
Legal priority for ‘straight across’ movements at junctions 9th (1 vote)
Police to automatically look at CCTV and check mobile ‘phone records after collisions 9th (1 vote)
Focus on reducing number of potholes 9th (1 vote)
All KSIs to be properly investigated and the police should adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual 9th (1 vote)
Larger road traffic unit 9th (1 vote)
Create a legal inspectorate similar to that which operates on the railways 9th (1 vote)
Police report form ‘accidents’ does not mention cyclists and should be changed 9th (1 vote)
Tougher rules on dirty vehicles – air pollution 9th (1 vote)
Speed limiters in London 9th (1 vote)
Bigger, clearer cycle signage 9th (1 Vote)
Trial covering repeater traffic lights (should result in better adherence to signals) 9th (1 vote)
Ban on HGVs during peak hours (Games model) 9th (1 vote)
Close proximity collisions should be prosecuted using plain clothes police officers with cameras 9th (1 vote)
Ban taxis from bus lanes 9th (1 vote)
‘Stop at red’ campaign 9th (1 vote)
Cycle lanes should continue across side roads 9th (1 vote)
Coroners should make greater use of their powers to make “Section 43” reports to highlight solutions that might prevent deaths, and particularly the recurrent causes of deaths 9th (1 vote)
Combat pavement cycling 0 votes
All major new developments should include Crossrail-type clauses on HGV safety training and joining the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) 0 votes
Road crash victims of speeding, drunk and careless drivers should be included in the Government’s Code for Victims 0 votes

Ideas for ‘legislative wants shopping list’

  • ·         TfL should insist that boroughs sign up to HGV safety training code of procurement before money is made available to them
  • ·         Minimum proximity between drivers and cyclists – Gilligan commented that this was ‘interesting’
  • ·          All KSIs need to be more thoroughly investigated and that the police should be obliged to adhere to the Road Death Investigation Manual – over a year has passed since Roadpeace, LCC and CTC got TfL and the Met to agree to their demands to publish an annual report on the legal outcomes of KSIs in London. Road death investigation unit overall do a good job but the same cannot be said for borough police
  • ·         What can be done to deter motorists from using mobiles whilst driving? Urgent action also needed to get drivers with 12 points off the roads. 8,000 drivers in the UK are still driving with 12 points on their licence
  • ·         TfL have control over the taxi fleet. Why not use this leverage to influence taxi drivers’ behaviour and oblige them to fit sensors? Or limit parking permits to those who have undergone appropriate training? Power over taxi drivers lies in taxation, duties to be paid or licensing arrangements. Behaviour can be changed in these ways, leaving criminal action as a last resort

Update:

Jenny Jones’ office sent out the following emali:

We’ve realised that the ‘Cyclists and the Law – Summary of Findings’ report which you recently received contains a factual error.

 Specifically, the comment ‘Stricter liability makes sense especially if we look at the cyclist as the ‘vulnerable road user’ – motorists cannot be classified as vulnerable’ was incorrectly attributed to Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan. This comment was in fact made by a member of the audience and not Mr. Gilligan who has emphasised that he does not have any position on stricter liability.