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Volume 709: debated on Monday 16 March 2009


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reduce the number of fatalities of cyclists caused by large turning vehicles.

My Lords, since January 2007 all new large goods vehicles have been required to have improved mirrors. New legislation requires existing large goods vehicles, first used from 1 January 2000, to be fitted with improved mirrors. However, it is important that cyclists are fully aware of the dangers of large vehicles on the near side. The Highway Code gives cyclists specific advice on awareness of long vehicles which may be manoeuvring.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Kensington and Chelsea, many other London councils and the Greater London Authority hand out Fresnel lenses or supplementary mirrors, but there is a particular problem with heavy vehicles from the construction industry, such as concrete mixers and skip and trailer transporters, which are exempted from the requirement to have side protection bars that prevent cyclists being pulled under the wheels, which is how many of the worst accidents occur. As we can expect many more heavy construction vehicles to be in London in preparation for the coming Olympics, what does he think can be done to change this exemption so that heavy goods vehicles of all types have protection bars?

My Lords, I am told that for practical reasons some special types of vehicle, such as those that the noble Baroness mentioned, are exempted from the legislation. These include vehicles equipped with a tipping body, such as those used on construction sites. However, the effectiveness of the legislation is being reviewed in the context of a wider study that is currently being undertaken. The report of this study will be published soon. I will make it available to the noble Baroness and will be happy to discuss it with her then.

My Lords, while agreeing that all people who equip and drive all kinds of vehicles should take the greatest care not to cause injury to cyclists, can I ask my noble friend whether he would also agree that there would be many fewer accidents to both cyclists and pedestrians if that significant proportion of cyclists who routinely flout the Highway Code and the law were instead to observe the rules? When will the Government and the police take effective action to end this cycling anarchy?

My Lords, the Highway Code could not be clearer. Rules 72 and 73 advise cyclists not to ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left, to pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners, and not to be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb. So the advice we give to cyclists is very clear.

My Lords, will the Minister undertake to speak to the Mayor of London and to tell him that the sooner he redeems his promise to get Ken Livingstone’s bendy buses off the streets of the capital, the sooner the majority will be pleased?

My Lords, I am seeing the Mayor of London in precisely one hour to discuss with him the £16 billion investment that we are putting into the construction of the Crossrail line in London. I will personally see that the noble Lord’s concerns are conveyed to him at that meeting.

My Lords, what evidence is there in the Department for Transport on whether these collisions are caused by bendy buses, as has been said, or by other buses, and how many are caused by lorries fitted with guards or with left-hand drives?

My Lords, I think that there are two different issues here: which causes more accidents and what is the evidence on bendy buses. I cannot immediately say which is the cause of more accidents but I can provide the noble Lord with that information. As for bendy buses, however, the most recent statistics I have to hand are for London in 2007. They show that a total of 155 incidents involved cyclists and buses, of which 28 were bendy buses. That is 18 per cent of all incidents.

My Lords, has the noble Lord read the judgment of Mr Justice Wyn Williams in the High Court a few days ago to the effect that an otherwise blameless cyclist not wearing protective headgear would inevitably suffer a diminution in the damages that would otherwise have been paid? Is there any good reason why the rule that has obtained since 1976 in relation to the blameless person in a motorcar not wearing a seatbelt should not apply equally to cyclists?

My Lords, I have not read the judgment but I will consider very carefully what the noble Lord has said.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when I sat as a magistrate every single prosecution after an accident or fatality to a cyclist was the fault of the motorist? It is very important to look at the balance of the evidence.

My Lords, it is very important that motorists, including those in charge of large vehicles, behave responsibly and realise the acute vulnerability of cyclists on the road.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the real answer to the problem is to have doors that you can see through? I had to operate on a young lady of 20 who was run over by one of these huge lorries over her abdomen, and her injuries were appalling. It would not have happened if the driver could have seen through the side door. The lady survived.