Should HGVs be banned from the city centre?

The big news that has been occupying the cycling blog headlines this week was an announcement by Boris that he is considering banning HGVs from the city centre. He mainly quoted environmental reasons as the precursor of the ban. Though of course cycling campaigners will be quite happy to piggyback on a ban.

Looking at the figures for cyclist deaths in the capital an alarming 43% involve Heavy Goods Vehicles. What is even more alarming is that HGVs constitute only 4% of road trips. They are therefore involved in a disproportionate amount of accidents. The well known left hook as a cyclist is passing on the inside is the reason in 53% of cases. Hence why all cycle hire bikes have a warning on them in a prominent position.

If a HGV ban did go ahead then trucks would stop in designated zones outside of the centre of London and then the goods would be delivered by other means. This could mean either by cargo bicycle or potentially smaller electric trucks. Similar initiatives are taking place in other cities also facing congestion problems. Experts making the case for the HGV bans believe that in some cases businesses can actually reduce costs.

It is definitely difficult to share a lot of love for the HGV. They are noisy, polluting, cause congestion and not in any way pleasant to cycle or walk next to. But is a ban the right way to go?

Those against the ban will argue the case for the businesses that will be affected and the goods that need to be delivered into the centre. There is also the need for construction vehicles in the centre and it would not be possible to replace their services with smaller vehicles.

Do you think a ban on HGVs in the centre is a good idea?

Coverage of the issue:

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

, ,

28 Responses to Should HGVs be banned from the city centre?

  1. Andrew 19/11/2010 at 8:27 am #

    Usually when change is suggested in Britain people see the apocalypse coming. Changing our ways seems impossible, unnecessary and plainly wrong. Things are because they’ve always been like this – there’s nothing we can do about it, and why do anything about it if they’ve always been like this and the circle closes. Yet, fortunately, some change is happening, and then people realize they must adjust, they do and life goes on.
    Back to the point – HGVs are not essential to the city centre, they are not designed to enter narrow streets (too narrow for separate cycle lanes, but wide enough for HGVs and parking? I don’t think so) of London. It’s all about cost – one HGV plus driver costs less then say 5 vans and 5 drivers or 20 cargo bikes. However I believe that this is a price to pay for living in a pleasant city. It’s time we start caring about London and I think that banning HGVs and introducing segregated bicycle network are good steps to take.

    • Gordon 19/11/2010 at 10:01 am #

      @Andrew 1 HGV resupplying a city centre supermarket = at least 20 vans, not 5. 20 vans take up far more roadspace and produce far more emissions, even if they’re electric. how many cycle couriers does it take to transport a lorry load of concrete?

      The presentation that the Mayor heard only applied to a small proportion of large vehicles, most need to be there. The way forward is to allow them to operate in the off-peak by making them and their drivers quieter.

  2. Nico 19/11/2010 at 10:18 am #

    There are two sides to this, of course it would be nice to get rid of HGVs in London, but supplies have to go in. I think some of the problem is when do the lorries come in. The other day I cycle down Marylebone Road to Kings Cross, and there were lorries and HGVs the whole way, around 9 am! Surely they shouldn’t be there at that time?
    I think one way to start to regulate this would be with a variable congestion charge, e.g. £100 a day per lorry between set hours, £25 at other times. This way it is in the interest of the transport companies and their customers to deliver only essential goods during peak traffic. Problem is that this applies only to congestion zone, and would probably increase traffic around that zone (i.e. Marylebone Road!), but it could be a good start.

  3. Dani Riot 19/11/2010 at 10:22 am #

    This is just stupidity.

    We need HGV’s, If we didn’t need them, they wouldn’t make them. Some things are too big/heavy for a van.

    And the 5 van rule doesn’t work, 5 drivers salaries for a year are a lot more expensive than 1 truck.

    Why don’t they propose banning buses while they are at it, they are just as big and heavy.

  4. Dani Riot 19/11/2010 at 10:27 am #

    Oh, and as for the proportion of cyclist deaths involving a HGV.

    I can pretty much guarantee the fault lies with the cyclists. No truck driver will purposely turn in on a cyclist.

    It’s called a ‘blind spot’ for a reason (as your picture above shows). The driver cannot see you, yet you still put your bike in the gap.

    • Nico 19/11/2010 at 10:41 am #

      Dani, cyclist are most certainly responsible for some of those deaths, but so are lorry drivers: http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=2138

      I am not against lorries, buses or even cars for that matter, but I am pro-bike. What we need is a smart way to regulate traffic in cities to reduce congestion and pollution, Copenhagen-style. Lorries are part of the issues that need to be tackled, and bikes part of the solution.

      • Dani Riot 19/11/2010 at 11:05 am #

        He was a reckless driver who was charged multiple times before.

        A reckless driver kills someone on my street at least once a month, i have been here for 2 years and its never been a cyclist.

        These things happen.

        I am also a cyclist and pro bike. But until everyone wants to follow the rules, no-one will take us seriously.

        If another car undertook you on the traffic lights to get ahead you would get pissed off, and you would be horrified if you saw a car jump the red lights because they felt it was safe because no one was coming in the opposite direction.

        Cyclists do not have the upper ground, and we are in no way more important.

        Back to the HGV situation. We are in a recession, and its now, more than ever, important for retailers to get the maximum number of stock in the fewest journeys. It keeps their costs down.

        Take arcadia for instance, they have a fleet of hgv trucks that deliver to their chain of stores. now imagine knocking on their door one day and tell them that the hundreds of thousands of pounds they have spent on those trucks were now unusable and they had to spend a further hundreds of thousands on a new fleet of smaller vans. And along with that, however many more drivers they will need to employ to move the same quantity of items.

        Where will the money come from to pay for all that?

        We will have to pay for it, because their prices will go up.

        Also, it seems no one has taken into consideration of the traffic. 1 HGV truck can carry the same amount of 10 vans. Can you imagine the traffic problems when every retailer has an additional 9 vehicles on our streets?

        This will not work. You cant make a U-turn on things, people don’t like it. You cant make something that has been the ‘right’ thing, ‘wrong’ overnight. Its too late. Its now part of our lives.

        Take the recent scandal over the drugs classification where they reported that the 2 worst drugs were nicotine and alcohol. they cause the mosts deaths and have the longest effects. What the government should have done, (if they truly believe that new policies are to make our lives better) is banned cigarettes and alcohol, over night, make a big U-turn.

        But they can’t, because its something that society has accepted for so long.

      • ibikelondon 19/11/2010 at 11:08 am #

        I should add that if a modern lorry is fitted with all the EU mandated mirrors and they have been adjusted properly by the driver, large vehicles like the one in the poster in fact DO NOT have a blind spot that is large enough to hide a cyclist (let alone a whole peloton of them)

        “She was in my blind spot” was the defence used this week by killer lorry driver Dennis Putz. Turns out (just like in the case of Emma Foa) he didn’t actually bother to even look in his mirrors. He was too busy using his mobile phone whilst drunk behind the wheel.

        Dani Riot I am afraid that you cannot guarantee that the fault lies with the cyclists at all.

    • Alex 19/11/2010 at 7:39 pm #

      Dani, sorry but you really are a buffoon.

      • GL 22/11/2010 at 11:16 am #

        Dani, you are not a buffoon. You speak absolute common sense, particularly with regard to the econmics of the situation. I doubt the people here advocating this thought of that!

        I am a daily commuter cyclist and cringe at the things other cyclists do. I suspect they are the same people who moan about ‘bad’ drivers on here, when in actual fact they are bad cyclists.

        Cyclists need to accept a few things.

        Firstly, we need cars. Admittedly probably not as many of them and many journeys are not needed but I am sure no-one here would want to return to the days pre car when no one leaves the village they were born in!

        Secondly, cyclsits have a right to use the road and drivers should accept that. However, cyclists should aslo accept that motor vehicles have a right to use the road. We should promote happy cohabitation not the “me or them” attitude we always see.

        Thirdly, until cyclist obey the laws of the road (all of them regardless of whether you agree or not) then we have no right to moan about bad drivers.

        Cyclists can be their own worst enemy! We need to live in the real world not some fantasy utopia where the roads are designed for cylists, HGVs are not needed and there is only a single communal car for each village! Get real.

        • Amoeba 22/11/2010 at 12:56 pm #

          GL 22/11/2010 at 11:16 am

          It’s extremely hard to believe that some of the purported ‘cyclists’ that make posts like yours or “pro-bike” ‘Dani’ even know what a bicycle looks like, or has the faintest idea about cycling on today’s roads.

          In the real world there are places where pedestrians and cyclists aren’t treated like moving targets or obstacles to be crushed in the furtherance of profit.

          Furthermore, the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians have a very real cost that at the very minimum should be born by those parts of the economy that causes them. If they can’t ‘afford’ to pay those costs, then those parts of the economy shouldn’t continue in their present form.

          IIRC, as indeed does the 19,000 – 50,000 people in the UK killed by motor-vehicle related pollution each year.

  5. ibikelondon 19/11/2010 at 10:36 am #

    Andreas, great article but you are confusing the issue somewhat. Boris has not proposed banning HGVs from the centre but instead has said he supports the development of redistribution centres on the fringes of town. The centres will be close to motorways (which are suitable for HGVs), and then smaller ‘greener’ vehicles will take the goods into the city. A similar scheme works very well in Copenhagen.

    However, this will only affect retail deliveries – the biggest killer of cyclists are HGVs involved in the construction industry (tipper trucks, skip lorries, cement mixers etc) Most of these are exempt from minimum mirror standards and side guard safety measures because the construction industry lobbied for these exemptions. Re-distribution centres would not fix the issue.

    The lorry problem is so serious that this week ANOTHER (the third so far) medical paper called for a ban of large vehicles in London till a solution can be found. We need a multi-faceted approach; the redistribution centres for the retail trucks, better cycle awareness training for all commercial vehicle drivers, better enforcement against criminal drivers (see Dennis Putz in the Catriona Patel case), better training for cyclists and most importantly an amendment to the existing London Lorry Control Scheme (or lorry ban) which bans HGVs from driving through the City at night and encourages trucks with full loads to come roaring out of their yards straight in to morning peak traffic (when the most HGV vs cyclist collisions occur) which is of course ludicrous. They should be allowed to drive later in to the night and not in the morning rush hour (and with no exemptions, unlike at present)

    I just hope that Boris’s soundbite doesn’t just turn out to be that – a soundbite, and that he does something about it!

    • Bluenose 19/11/2010 at 4:49 pm #

      I am afraid Copenhagen is a very different kettle of fish than London. It is a lot smaller, the roads in a lot of places are narrower. Comparing Copenhagen with London is not a good idea.

      Edge distribution centres are still a good idea when they are financially and commercially sound, other wise the costs just go up.

      I do agree with you that in my experience the HGVs which are the menace tend to be ones used in the construction business where the drivers I would think are more interested in getting from A to B as quickly as possible. Its not only cyclists who suffer a fiend of mines car was crushed between a construction HGV and a crash barrier, not only that she kept beeping her horn and all the driver did was put his foot down so he drove over the front of her car.

      My personal experience was quite some time ago, there was a queue of trafic, not moving. I must admit I did undertake but to get to a side road on the left. The HGV, full of construction waste suddenly turned left with no indication, luckily for me it was the time of moda and rockers and I had a Vespa which alloed me to jump off, my scooter was not in a good condition though. I guess some would argue that was my fault. Needless to say I no longer for a very long time undertake vehicles on a bike.

  6. Mike Smith 19/11/2010 at 10:54 am #

    I haven’t looked at all the research on this, but do have a little experience of the Australian HGV system.
    In Oz, as I’m sure some of you know, they use what are called Road Trains – massive tractor units pulling two, sometimes three trailers each of which is bigger than our comparatively dinky-toy sized HGVs.
    They have re-distribution centres on the outskirts of main towns and cities. Her the trailers are unhitched, and smaller tractor units take them closer to the point of delivery, where a further redistribution takes place to load the stuff onto smaller trucks and vans for the city centres.
    When I was in Perth WA a couple of years ago, I didn’t see anything bigger than a 7.5 tonner – and no-one driving one of those can claim not to see us cyclists!
    Yes we have a problem with lack of space on the edges of cities (not something the Ozzies will ever have to worry about.
    Yes, there is the argument about construction and specialist vehicles.
    But difficulties in making a change are NOT valid reasons for not changing.
    Stop making exemptions for particular classes of vehicle or trade (why the hell doesn’t a skip lorry need proper mirrors?), stop whining about cost (there was a lot of that about Congestion charging, but it works!), and start saving lives.

  7. el-gordo 19/11/2010 at 11:04 am #

    @ Dani Riot: “We need HGV’s, If we didn’t need them, they wouldn’t make them”.

    They make motorised spinning forks as well (to save you time eating spaghetti) but just because they make them doesn’t mean we need them.

    “I can pretty much guarantee the fault lies with the cyclists”.

    HGV driver sentanced to 7 years in prison today for killing a cyclist.

    I am not anti HGV at all, but they are primarily designed to move goods in bulk over long distances. I would wager good money that most in London are actually going relatively short distances and delivering stuff that could easily be moved around in smaller vehicles. For example, supermarket deliveries – they don’t NEED to deliver everything in one go and via HGV, it is just cheaper to do so. I wonder what % of HGV movements they make up?

    However, a company that manufactures something that needs to be moved in bulk over long distances NEEDS to move stuff in this sort of way. In this instance the HGV will be on motorways/trunk roads – where they were always intended to be.

    Personally, I agree with the notion of banning at certain times and/or charging heavily for peak use. That represents a decent compromise.

  8. Dani Riot 19/11/2010 at 11:08 am #

    He was a reckless driver who was charged multiple times before.

    A reckless driver kills someone on my street at least once a month, i have been here for 2 years and its never been a cyclist.

    These things happen.

    I am also a cyclist and pro bike. But until everyone wants to follow the rules, no-one will take us seriously.

    If another car undertook you on the traffic lights to get ahead you would get pissed off, and you would be horrified if you saw a car jump the red lights because they felt it was safe because no one was coming in the opposite direction.

    Cyclists do not have the upper ground, and we are in no way more important.

    Back to the HGV situation. We are in a recession, and its now, more than ever, important for retailers to get the maximum number of stock in the fewest journeys. It keeps their costs down.

    Take arcadia for instance, they have a fleet of hgv trucks that deliver to their chain of stores. now imagine knocking on their door one day and tell them that the hundreds of thousands of pounds they have spent on those trucks were now unusable and they had to spend a further hundreds of thousands on a new fleet of smaller vans. And along with that, however many more drivers they will need to employ to move the same quantity of items.

    Where will the money come from to pay for all that?

    We will have to pay for it, because their prices will go up.

    Also, it seems no one has taken into consideration of the traffic. 1 HGV truck can carry the same amount of 10 vans. Can you imagine the traffic problems when every retailer has an additional 9 vehicles on our streets?

    This will not work. You cant make a U-turn on things, people don’t like it. You cant make something that has been the ‘right’ thing, ‘wrong’ overnight. Its too late. Its now part of our lives.

    Take the recent scandal over the drugs classification where they reported that the 2 worst drugs were nicotine and alcohol. they cause the mosts deaths and have the longest effects. What the government should have done, (if they truly believe that new policies are to make our lives better) is banned cigarettes and alcohol, over night, make a big U-turn.

    But they can’t, because its something that society has accepted for so long.

    • Paul M 19/11/2010 at 4:27 pm #

      Reading Dani’s posts I have to ask – You are not by any chance also known as “Julie”?

  9. Steve 19/11/2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Interesting debate, and I expect the answer lies in compromise.
    We aren’t going to stop all HGV’s coming into the cities, but maybe we could restrict the hours they are allowed access, so that they are not on our roads at peak times.
    And also maybe they could be restricted to larger streets, so often you see them squeezing down narrow roads, where there is barely enough room.

    There are many options – use the train network more, cycle couriers, redistribution centres etc. They probably all have a place.

  10. Adrian 19/11/2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I’ve got to speak up in suport of Dani Riot here. I agree that not all cyclists deaths by HGV’s are the fault one party or the other but c’mon guys! You’ve got a neaderthal checking 15 mirrors, playing with 24 forward gears, in centrral london traffic with black cabs, buses, white vans, etc to occupy his attention. No matter how well the mirrors he’s got will reduce his blind spot, it’s still there, and you are still hard to see. I’ve been cycling in and out to work for years, and I’ve never had an issue with an HGV driver. Why? I never try and undertake whilst moving, or there’s a risk it will start moving, and I never stop where I can’t see the driver directly.

    The other issue you’ll have is enforcing the ban. Many streets already have a 5T or 7.5T limit for access, but the HGV drivers ignore it. Why? It’s not enforced. The same way a number of us cyclists ignore red lights. If you could get a ticket from a red light camera would that 30 second saving really be worth it?

  11. John 19/11/2010 at 8:24 pm #

    We moved many years ago from the railways carrying newspapers across the country to it all being done by HGV’s and having night time distribution centres by the motorways onto the smaller lorries we see by WH Smith etc each day.
    This was done for cost cutting – cheaper than British rail could – and works for this industry, but that is what it’s all about at the end of the day, is it financially viable to do it?
    For most I should think not and what would all these small delivery vehicles become – a doubling of the number of white vans on the road – that has to be worse for us.
    Over the years the size of articulated lorries has increased from the old 32 ton ones to the massive 44 ton ones of today and I understand they would like to make them bigger still.
    Surely this is where we need to be going – backwards – reducing the size of the lorries on our roads over a time period, allowing companies the next time they replace an HGV to have to replace it with a smaller vehicle, or would the EU stand up and say ‘You can’t do that’
    For myself I have cycled for 45 years now commuting and have not had any instance with a lorry because I give them the respect they deserve – THEY ARE BIGGER THAN ME!.
    Many years ago a driver told me how he hated having to suddenly make a stop as he had a 28 speed gear box to go through to get back to where he was, I think that looked at from our point of view is the same as when some one makes us suddenly have to stop in top gear, its hard work to go through the gears to get going again. So a darting cyclist around a lorry is chancing with a driver who does not really want to stop unless forced to – keep your distance and be safe.

    John

    • Amoeba 20/11/2010 at 9:14 am #

      “For myself I have cycled for 45 years now commuting and have not had any instance with a lorry because I give them the respect they deserve – THEY ARE BIGGER THAN ME!.”

      Kindly explain how that works when a cyclist is OVERTAKEN by a lorry that then doesn’t wait to pass before turning left – the left-hook. If there are roadside railings the cyclist is then ‘grated’ to death.

      Don’t say it doesn’t happen.

      I suspect it’s just a matter of luck.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1170208/Devastated-families-dead-cyclists-hit-danger-roads.html

  12. Gruntfuggly 19/11/2010 at 10:30 pm #

    As 100% of cyclist deaths involve cyclists, wouldn’t it make more sense to ban cyclists? That is of course if cyclist deaths are what we really want to reduce…

  13. Amoeba 20/11/2010 at 8:54 am #

    Essentially, it’s down to greed. We all want cheap goods; cheap food etc. But that cheapness is illusory, it has a very real cost – in human lives. At the moment, it’s mostly cyclists and pedestrians paying that price.
    In 2008
    LGVs killed 27 and HGVs killed 62 pedestrians.
    LGVs killed 5 and HGVs killed 24 cyclists.
    While cars kill many more they are far more numerous, the danger of LGVs & HGVs is due to their enormous weight.
    DfT figures

    Cities should be largely HGV free with distribution from hubs.

  14. Corin 24/11/2010 at 11:31 am #

    Amoeba has hit the nail on the head here.

    I’m not an economist and don’t care too much for this idea that the needs of business are paramount. I think human life is paramount, and in that respect I see a strong case for devising a system that allows the goods city dwellers need to be delivered to shops, and at the same time reduces risk to cyclists.

    I happen to think in some sense cyclists are more important and worthier of being on the road than other road users. I agree absolutely that cyclists should obey road rules and show the same courtesy and respect to others that we would expect to be shown to us, but the facts are that cycling is healthy, socially positive and environmentally benign (not without any impact, but vastly better than motorised transport). So yes, ban HGVs to improve cycling in central London, I say.

  15. RoadBoy 25/11/2010 at 11:38 pm #

    Sorry everyone but I have to say we’re all at fault!! I’m a driver of a recovery truck and also a long time user of cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, cars, legs and had spurts of public transport so I’m not particularly on any ones side.

    If we didn’t have lorries we’d be doomed, yeah I know they’re heavy, noisy and pollutant but it’s the simplest and easy way to get the goods delivered. Anything heavy on the road or any large piece of machinery in general is always going to be dangerous but you wouldn’t stop using you’re biggest kitchen knife because a percentage of people chop their fingers off with them would you?

    We are the people who need all the goods, we are also the same people who drive/ride/walk around without giving other road users the right attention and respect. I see it all the time, people on phones, eating, half asleep, reading maps, day dreaming or whatever and trust my cyclist are some of the worst road users I’ve seen.

    Truck drivers are the best of drivers on the road and have passed more tests, done more miles and have more responsibility than anyone, everyone else ought to just wake up a bit and respect each and every other road user like someone in charge of a large heavy vehicle has to !!

    Yeah ban all the HGVs, best get your ration books out while you’re at it :-)

  16. Patrick 27/11/2010 at 7:19 pm #

    Just thought I would leave my own observations on this topc (for what they are worth). I am not sure a ban on HGVs would be a good idea but surely the fact that they have a “blind spot” has to be dealt with.
    I commute by bike from west to central London everyday and yes I have had “issues” with HGVs but mostly I ride keeping in mind that there is a blind spot and that truck is a hell of a lot bigger than me. Of course one of the biggest problems we all face is the fact that the cycle lane is on the left and at junctions we will always find ourselves on the left hand side of the truck and therefore by default in the blind spot.
    ASL boxes are a great idea but of course we all know that when we ride into one its always full of motorcycles and and vehicles which have “accidentally” crept forward.
    Anyway I think the main point I want to make here is that although there are procedures/rules/traffic routing options on the roads of London to help all road users we dont always adhere to them as hey are intended to be used.

  17. thereverent 01/12/2010 at 3:30 pm #

    The number of HGVs in central London need to be reduced.
    If construction traffic was allowed into central London during the night this would take some of the most dangerous vehicles off the road during rush hour (as well as speeding up their delivery times as there would be less traffic about).
    Likewise larger vehicle could make their deliveries to supermarkets, although I do think changing delivery patterns to use smaller vehicle would be more efficient.
    It would also be good to try and get HGVs coming up from the channel ports to avoid London rather than going through it.

    When HGVs try and use small streets it becomes dangerous for pedestrians as well:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNVbaPkbAi0

  18. Pete McCarthy 08/06/2013 at 1:09 pm #

    It’s no surprise that a blog like this is posted by a cyclist. Stands a good chance of working in a council office, and completely oblivious as to the reason why we are there in the first place. Sometimes people ought to get punished by what they wish for! Ok I agree, lets ban all trucks over 4.5t and I wonder who will be the first to complain at escalting retail prices.

Leave a Reply