It is a sad fact that a substantial number of cyclists both in the UK and Europe have been involved in accidents with lorries, with one of the main reasons behind this being that lorries have large blind spots which cyclists are often caught in. This is why Mayor of London Boris Johnson has recently put forward proposals to the EU to change the design of lorries throughout Europe so that they have better visibility.
However, reports have suggested that Mr Johnson’s plans have hit a wall as the French and Swedish governments are trying to delay the changes in order to appease Renault and Volvo – each country’s respective commercial vehicle manufacturer. Naturally, there has been some anger over these blocks, with Boris Johnson saying: “The way lorry cabs are designed currently means drivers are often unable to see cyclists and pedestrians until it is too late.
“Eliminating blind spots is an obvious and relatively simple way for vehicle manufacturers to help save lives. I’d urge the DfT to push ahead with supporting these plans, which will remove some of the blockages which prevent us from making lorries safer.” Meanwhile the former Olympic champion Chris Boardman, who has joined the Mayor on the project, said: “The DfT needs to ramp up its support for safer lorry designs.
“Postponing this until 2025 is not an option […] These vehicles are involved in a disproportionately high number of fatalities involving people on bikes and only better designed cabs can put a stop to this.” Under the plans, restrictions concerning lorry designs will be relaxed so that they will no longer have to adhere to certain length restrictions. Currently, most HGV manufacturers produce lorries with short cabs in order to maximize load capacity, however under the new rules lorries will be given more space.
There are a few restrictions under the new rules however, such as that all cabs will still need to be built with rounded fronts, large windows and crumple zones. Both the French and Swedish governments want to delay these new design freedoms for ten years – until 2025 – which has caused anger from supporters. Kate Cairns, whose sister was killed by a lorry in London, said: “It’s crazy that the UK government isn’t supporting this. The calls aren’t even for the designs to be mandatory, only for clients to have the choice to use these new cabs if they want to. The UK is sitting on its hands even though we will have hundreds more deaths without it.”
The Department for Transport has acknowledged that they need to do more, with a spokesperson saying: “Denmark, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands have called the 10-year delay excessive, but what is really lacking is for a bigger country like the UK to stand up and say it is not acceptable. We are pushing for progress with our European counterparts towards a resolution.”
Even though the government is pushing for new legislation to come into place, it is unlikely that we will see many of these new-style lorries on the roads any time soon. If the proposal went ahead this year manufacturers would still need to produce these types of vehicles and there would be no guarantee that logistics companies would purchase them right away. Unfortunately, HGVs are generally a large investment, meaning that companies are prone to keeping them for as long as possible, or, if they are debating purchasing a new one, buying second-hand.
One way in which the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety can be ameliorated in the near future is by further educating all road users on how to stay safe. This includes reminding lorry drivers that they must always watch out for cyclists, especially in built-up towns and cities, and ensuring cyclists understand the difficulties associated with driving HGVs. Improving the UK’s roads so that there is enough space for all types of vehicles and users will also prevent further accidents occurring, which should hopefully be achieved under the government’s new road building plans.
CC BY-SA 2.0