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Safer trucks for London scheme slammed by transport body

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Official photographs of the new safer trucks

Author: Bike Social Road Safety Reporter Posted: 02 Sep 2015

Safer trucks for London scheme slammed by transport body

WHILE the latest safety scheme aimed at trucks in London is really intended to benefit pedal cyclists it’s easy to see that those of us on motorcycles will reap the benefits too. However, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is not convinced the budget has been well-used. 

Announced by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, yesterday at the introduction of requirements for new, larger mirrors and sideguards on all vehicles over 3.5 tonnes in London, the next stage of the plan is to adopt elements of the ‘direct vision’ ideas first mooted in a report by Loughborough University’s Design School last year.

In short, the concept is to add extra side windows to the cabs of trucks to reduce the blind spot that can so easily swallow a cyclist – or motorcyclist – that’s pulled up alongside. In theory, the extra windows could be retro-fitted to existing cabs for around £1000, although Loughborough’s original study encouraged a far more extreme, heavily-windowed lorry cab that would need to be developed from scratch to ensure a massively improved field of vision.

Loughborough University's enhanced field-of-vision designs

The intention is to complete a consultation and take the decision on the ‘direct vision’ idea before the next mayoral election on 5th May 2016.

Under the same drive to reduce cyclist fatalities in London, efforts are also being ploughed into the development of more effective blind spot monitoring systems, with the idea that it may become a legal requirement to retro-fit them to lorries in London if a suitable technology can be created.

The Safer Lorry Scheme – under which the newly-adopted mirrors and sideguards are now mandatory and which will also be used to cover the direct vision windows if they are approved – applies to all trucks over 3.5 tonnes and covers the same area of Greater London as the Low Emission Zone, with the exception of motorways.

Natalie Chapman, Freight Transport Association’s Head of Policy for London, said: “FTA is pleased that there are exemptions and concessions for vehicles where this equipment is either not possible or not legal. However, in principle we believe that this kind of blunt regulatory tool is not the best way to improve cyclist safety.

Ms Chapman continued, “We still think that the money and effort invested in this scheme would have been better spent on increased enforcement against the small proportion of lorries that don't comply with existing regulations. There are better ways to achieve safer roads for all users.”

Ironically, it’s on motorways that the idea could be a wider benefit to all road users – although not cyclists, of course – since extra, low-mounted side windows in the doors of trucks will help prevent the accidents caused by lorries changing lanes without seeing a bike or car driving alongside them in their blind spot.

Think the new scheme will reduce motorcycle accidents? Got a better idea?  or ! 

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