A solution to London’s HGV woes

It’s not for want of trying that the London Heavy Goods Vehicle problem isn’t going away. Everything from critical mass gatherings to Lorries fitted with extra mirrors is being tried and tested. Unfortunately the number of incidents doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Perhaps the solution we are seeking is there and waiting to be given the go ahead.

When I met with David Dansky from Cycle Training UK last week we got a chance to talk about the work they are doing in Lambeth. What I heard sounded very promising. At least if the initial success is anything to go by.

With more than half of all cycle fatalities on London roads involving a collision with a goods vehicle, Lambeth council approached Cycle Training UK to create an awareness course for HGV drivers. There was also an awareness course created for cyclists where they are encouraged to take further training.

The course for the drivers begins by asking the drivers about any incidents they have had with cyclists. This invariably leads to plenty of “why do they jump red lights” discussions. They are then asked what sort of behaviour they would like to see from cyclists. The question is then reversed and they are asked what they think cyclists would like to see from HGV drivers. It is usually at this point when drivers begin to understand the difficulties we cyclists face on the roads and how standing next to a 7.5 tonne vehicle can be off-putting. The drivers are also given basic level training on bikes.

After the driver awareness course is over there is a complete reversal in attitude. It changes from anger and wanting to get cyclists off the road to a far more sympathetic position with understanding and awareness of the dangers cyclists face. This translates to more courtesy on the roads and of course safer conditions for everyone.

The initial feedback from the drivers and their companies has been very positive. Transportation companies such as Veolia have praised the scheme and continue to use it. Lambeth council has been extremely supportive and they have made it compulsory for all their drivers. Camden council are also getting on board.

This council funded scheme could be the solution everyone is desperately searching for. Whilst statistical evidence is still unfortunately lacking due to the fact it has been running for less than a year all the signs are looking good. Cycle Training UK are now looking to expand the scheme and roll it out across more London boroughs. For that they will be needing the support of TfL.

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12 Responses to A solution to London’s HGV woes

  1. MarkA 05/05/2010 at 10:46 am #

    This cycle training scheme is indeed excellent, and I understand that all of the lorry drivers working on CrossRail (of which there will be many 1000s) are also to receive similar training, which of course is great and a nod in the right direction.

    However, I can’t help but think that this should be the bare minimum to allow lorries into central London. In addition to this there also needs to be a serious review of the current London lorry ban hours which encourage hauliers to rush out of their yards into the morning peak hours (when the most HGV vs cyclist fatalities happen)

    It also won’t effect those hauliers who are operating on the margins of the industry (skip firms, small concrete mixer companies etc) and who represent a disproportionate amount of the lorries involved in such fatalities.

    We need things like FORS (the Mayor’s freight safety recognition scheme) to be made compulsory through tendering contracts put out by the Council and major capital projects, so that companies HAVE to provide this kind of training and a clean safety record in order to win the work.

    And perhaps if the CPS prosecuted the worst lorry drivers (who are a minority) properly there would be greater incentive to drive more carefully; there is a famous case whereby a lorry driver in London killed a cyclist ‘cos he was rummaging for papers in his cab as he turned a corner – unsurprisingly he got a small fine and a slap on the wrist.

    I’d also like to see more readily available cycle training highlighting the dangers of cycling down the left side of a lorry – all too often as cyclists we are putting ourselves into the ‘danger zone’ – we need to recognize that it must be quite hard to drive one of these trucks round town, and also recognize that we are not really ‘sharing the road’ when a lot of trucks can’t see you because of their blind spot design.

    Lastly, and I know it’s boring, but all of this needs to be implemented in policy with a clearly deliverable timetable for achievement; not something that the current Cycle Safety Action Plan from the Mayor provides (ie he can say all sorts of wonderful sounding ideas about cycle safety but is under no pressure to deliver) It’s a shame that in this instance cycling has to become something political, but that’s what it takes to try and save lives and improve the casualty rate.

    Sorry if I sound negative, I do think the lorry cyclist training is fantastic, I really do. We just need to see LOTS more of it, as well as other complimentary measures like those I mention above for it to be anything more than a token gesture with little effect.

  2. Amy 05/05/2010 at 10:54 am #

    I think this is brilliant, “putting in others shoes” is a great way to change culture through understanding.

  3. Hilary 05/05/2010 at 11:13 am #

    This sounds like a very workable program. I look forward to not being crushed in the future :D

  4. Adam Edwards 05/05/2010 at 11:37 am #

    I wonder if it’s worth talking to the insurance companies?

    If a lorry kills a cyclist they end up paying out. So would they be interested in offering reduced premiums for those trained on these courses (or perhaps increasing the insurance for those not trained) a bit like the way advanced motorists can get cheaper insurance so long as they maintain their skills and awareness? That creates a financial incentive for drivers to attend.

    A commercial pressure involving money is often a good motivator for company directors. Any one got any contacts who could advise us?

    Adam

  5. Jim 05/05/2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Mark is absolutely right. The training described sounds excellent, but it should become a condition of being allowed to drive in London rather than an option, and we need a variety of other reforms too. Unfortunately neither TfL nor the police nor the CPS seem to want to change the slap-on-the-wrist status quo.

  6. tim 05/05/2010 at 1:33 pm #

    i’ve attended the cycle awareness part of this and is a real eye opener to see the (lack of) visibility around the truck, and good to talk to a driver about their opinions on cycling, both before and after they have attended the training. bojo is a big fan, so why not make it compulsory for drivers, and more widely available for cyclists?

  7. BillG 06/05/2010 at 8:51 am #

    Sorry, but I’m not convinced that training is any more than a partial answer. Skip lorries and cement mixers are disproportionately involved in accidents but are exempt from several regulations which apply to other HGV’s.
    For example they are not obliged to use side guards (cost approx £400 to purchase and install) which prevent other road users from being crushed under the rear axle.
    They are also allowed to offer piece work to their drivers, i.e. a fixed price per skip collected which encourages staff to rush. The wages paid to skip drivers aren’t great so fitting in an extra run makes a big difference.
    I wrote to Harry Cohen MP about this and received a standard response on HGV’s which ignored the two exemptions I have mentioned above.

  8. Dave Holladay 13/05/2010 at 1:51 pm #

    Get the rail accident investigation board to expand their remit (like Passenger Focus now deals with buses and trams as well as trains) and apply thier methodical and detached analysis to the investigation of fatalities on the road involving goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles (PSV). The numbers are not huge for the categories considered, and RAIB already makes no full and formal report for any fatality where the victim displays darwinian tendencies, or is a clearly intended suicide.

    Introduce this initially for HGV and if the system can take the added work, with provben benefits from the process it might then expand.

  9. James 19/05/2010 at 10:55 am #

    In reality we really need more cycle lanes to improve safety and separate road users space.

    Regards,

    James

    minicab-london.org.uk

  10. Lamonica Skelly 08/11/2010 at 6:43 pm #

    I’d come to agree with you one this subject. Which is not something I usually do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!

  11. homepage 07/12/2010 at 11:47 pm #

    Resources including the 1 you pointed out here will be extremely valuable to myself! I will certainly publish a link to this web page on my personal website. I am sure my website visitors will find that quite useful.

  12. Building Materials 04/10/2011 at 8:26 am #

    We need lorries on the road. We don’t need cyclist. The keyword here is need. But extra cycle lanes would be a welcome addition to the streets of London for sure.

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