Despite a campaign by CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, to try and get the government to pull back on plans to allow lorries of up to 18.55m in length on UK roads, the Department for Transport (DfT) is pressing ahead with a ten-year trial of longer lorries.
The Transport Minister, Mike Penning MP, confirmed in a statement to the House of Commons that the trial would go ahead that will add 2.05m more to the current legal length of lorries.
Thanks to CTC’s campaign, the initial trial is smaller than the DfT might have conducted (There will be a trial of up to 900 trailers of an increased length of up to 2.05m; and 900 trailers of an increased length of up to 1m. The 1,800 trailers in the trial represents just under 2% of trailers on British roads).
However, the cyclists’ organisation remains deeply concerned that many more longer trailers will be permitted onto the roads in subsequent years if the trial is widened.
Lorries are a threat
CTC has maintained that longer lorries could represent a significant threat to cyclists’ safety despite Mike Penning’s recent claim that he was looking at how to improve cycle safety.
Mr Penning suggested in parliament that a partial mitigation for the trial might lie in “the effectiveness of additional vision/sensor/safety systems fitted to improve detection of vulnerable road users.”
However, the CTC said the Department of Transport had so far rebutted efforts to introduce such safety systems.
CTC’s Campaigns Director Roger Geffen said: “If the Minister was serious about cycle safety he wouldn’t allow this trial to go ahead but would ensure that the existing lorry fleet – which already poses a considerable threat to cycle safety – is equipped and their drivers sufficiently trained to share roads with cyclists safely. The Department must ensure that the trial is not simply the thin end of the wedge: we need a proper assessment of the risks to road users and road infrastructure.”
The DfT’s own analysis found that the threat to vunerable road users from certain slow manoeuvres could increase by as much as 9%. Cyclists are particularly at risk from lorries, particularly in incidents where slow manoeuvres are taking place. During the period 2005 to 2009, these manoeuvres accounted for 40% of the crashes involving an articulated lorry and a cyclist where the cyclist was killed.
CTC campaigned against the proposed trial, with more than 1,300 CTC members writing to their MPs to object.