Question for Short Debate
My Lords, the House will be aware that, every year in London, there are several cyclist fatalities involving HGVs and that these accidents often occur at relatively low speeds. These are extremely distressing incidents for all concerned, not least because of the gross disparity in vulnerability. I have been first on the scene on one occasion and witnessed a near miss on another.
My noble friend the Minister, his department and Transport for London take these accidents very seriously. When one occurs, TfL does not just place another appropriately coloured sticker on the map. It takes it very personally and understands the effect on the families, friends and all concerned. The House will also recognise that, for every fatality, there are also numerous serious and life-changing injuries.
The Metropolitan Police should be investigating each fatal accident carefully and dispassionately. However, it is not clear to me why, on one occasion, it was appropriate for the highways engineers at TfL to be interviewed under police caution. It would be helpful if the Minister could write to me to help me understand the logic of that police action.
While the Department for Transport has been a bit slow in consulting on some obvious and desirable changes to the construction and use regulations, TfL has made imaginative use of a traffic regulation order concerning mirrors and sideguards. I expect that other noble Lords will cover this point. However, mirrors work only if drivers invariably use them and if cyclists do not enter the truck’s blind spot or danger areas in an inadvisable way. We could alter the technical requirements for the cab of an HGV but these are quite properly determined at European level. Designs are predicated on the needs of operators using national roads and not for the peculiar problems of London.
Last week, I attended the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety—CLOCS— conference at ExCeL. We saw some of the technological developments in better cab design, sensor technology and how freight operator recognition scheme operators can reduce risks. I am sure that all noble Lords will applaud the efforts of all those involved in the CLOCS programme.
Can my noble friend the Minister explain why the CPC regime for HGV drivers does not include a mandatory road safety objective? Furthermore, at present, a work-related, road traffic accident fatality is not reportable under RIDDOR. There does not even seem to be a need for a risk assessment for work-related driving. Why not?
While all these points and policies are helpful and interesting, they are not predicated on meeting a target of zero. By that I mean that, in some years, no cyclists in London will be killed by an HGV, irrespective of fault.
My understanding is that, despite claims to the contrary, none of the sensor systems developed thus far is good enough to be mandated. That is how I was briefed when I was in the Minister’s position and I do not think that it has changed. However, we could make the problem orders of magnitude simpler if cycles were to be fitted with transducers for truck-mounted equipment to detect. I want to emphasise that I am not applying parliamentary pressure to adopt any particular technology, nor have I been stimulated by any outside organisation. I have proposed a system whereby one or more infrared transmitters are fitted to the relevant truck. The cycle has a transducer mounted on it which retransmits the IR signal radio frequency back to the truck. This is known as a tag-and-beacon system, and a very similar system has already been marketed which uses RFID. These systems do have the difficulty that the cycles would have to be fitted with a tag, which could be a problem, but that has to be balanced against the technical advantages. It would be necessary to fit only certain types of high- risk HGVs, in particular construction vehicles. My understanding is that the concept would work, but the difficulty is in its implementation.
I understand that in the past three years more than 20 new companies have been set up selling HGV blind spot safety technology. The technology they offer ranges from simple electromagnetic and ultrasonic sensing devices to sophisticated camera monitoring systems, radio frequency identification, short-range radar and infrared. We should applaud their work. The sales pitches of these companies make ambitious claims about being “the solution to the problem”, but static tests and live vehicle trials reveal why it is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to make these claims themselves. During my researches this week, I have come to realise to my horror that there is no specification in terms of functional and performance criteria for what the equipment and technology must achieve in order to be mandated. This is clearly a role for the DfT since we cannot have large metropolitan authorities each having their own systems and standards. I have to ask my noble friend the Minister what he is doing about this.
Products said to be designed to save lives should be independently evaluated and compared. The operators of HGVs would then have all the facts they need to make informed choices and know that the safety equipment they are investing in offers value for money and is effective. I am sad to say that this is not the case. Unlike every other safety device in the workplace, those being sold to HGV operators do not have to meet stringent performance criteria or undergo rigorous testing. A robust and consistent process needs to be established independently to evaluate HGV safety products against the functional and performance criteria set. Does the Minister agree that his department, and not TfL, should ensure that there is an assessment and approval organisation and mechanism in place?
This is not regulation for regulation’s sake. Not only will it help HGV operators now, it will also steer the technological developments of the future so that more lives can be saved, and not just for this specific type of accident. I am passionate about road safety and I believe that we should be going for zero for this type of accident. I will happily engage with all concerned both inside and outside the House. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for initiating this debate because it is a terribly important subject. We have regular debates both in the House and in Grand Committee on the minor detail of the various bits of legislation under which people use the roads, and often Ministers say in their responses that basically it is all too difficult. All the legislation going back almost 100 years needs to be reviewed. That is not going to happen quickly, so let us get on with what we can do.
I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Like everyone else, the club is very interested in this subject. I suppose we should start with the problem, which is that lorries and cyclists do not mix, and we are trying to find solutions to that. I want to talk about a number of those. The most obvious one is more space. We have a lot to learn from some continental cities, not only in terms of the space that has been provided for whatever reason—demand from cyclists, political will or whatever—but in the design of our cities. We are making progress here. The Mayor of London is going ahead with the east-west highway, which is a segregated route. I think it is absolutely wonderful and have welcomed it for a long time. If we cannot have segregation—and cyclists feel much happier if they are properly segregated—then we need space with suitable white lines that are not transgressed by other vehicles. There are particular problems at junctions, as we have seen in London. It is very easy just to talk about London, but the problems are just as bad in other cities. In fact, there may be fewer people cycling in other cities, but there are also fewer facilities. Certainly, when I go to some other cities with my bike, I sometimes feel a lot more frightened than I do in London.
Another issue of course is the trucks. We are focusing in particular on construction industry trucks, which is the right thing to do; but we must not forget the logistics industry. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group, so I get involved in quite a lot of it. Big lorries in the middle of towns are necessary for delivering freight, unless there is some kind of logistics transfer point at the edges at which the freight can be transferred into smaller vehicles. In some places it is proposed that freight is taken round by smaller vans, or bicycles. Obviously, this cannot be done for construction traffic.
Here we come to the issue of enforcement, which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned. First, it is a pity that more people do not obey the law. Cyclists have been infamous for going through red lights, sadly. It is good that the trend is reducing in London, perhaps because there are more cyclists; perhaps it is due to peer pressure. I am pleased that PCSOs have now been allowed to stop cyclists—I have seen them doing it and have talked to them—if they go through a red light or the stop lines. It is ironic that they are not allowed to fine vehicle drivers in the way that they can fine cyclists for doing it, because it is a different regulation. What is good for cyclists surely should be good for vehicles. I have seen PCSOs talk to car drivers and it is obvious that some of them would like to have these other powers.
Another issue is the reduction in traffic police. CTC has produced figures that show that the number of road traffic police has reduced to a third of what it was in 2005. That is a very major reduction in enforcement and I suspect that many road users probably reckon that they can get away with more than they could then. There is a strong argument for having a separate traffic police force, though that is probably a slightly separate argument.
On enforcement, there is a further example of a man who ran over and killed a cyclist in 2009. He had been disqualified from driving as a teenager; he was breathalysed when the accident occurred; and he was also talking on his mobile phone. One of the possible solutions to this issue came up when we were debating the then Infrastructure Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned it briefly—namely, the question of why we do not use the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and RIDDOR in the roads sector. I put down an amendment to that Bill suggesting that since the Office of Rail Regulation was going to be responsible for monitoring the costs of the new strategic highways company, as it does for the railways—it should also be able to enforce cost reductions, as it is required to for the railways, which is another subject—it should be responsible for road safety, as it is for the railways. Let us not forget that 2,000 people are killed on the roads in this country every year and one on the railways.
It comes back to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act: people should be responsible for their own actions. If these people are employed—as in the example I have just given of the accident in London—why is nobody taking action against the companies that employ them? They are not doing what they should be doing to ensure that their employees are behaving and complying with the law. There is an awful lot more that could be done there. It is a massive subject but if you think about everybody driving—whether pedestrians and cyclists come into it, we can debate—being responsible for your own safety as far as is reasonably practical would make many road users think twice before doing some of the very stupid things that they do at the moment.
I will say one last thing about the technology. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned the idea of fitting transponders or something to cyclists. It sounds attractive in the first instance but there are questions to be asked, such as, if they did not work, who would be guilty? Would there be too much information in the cab for the driver of the lorry to be able to appreciate it all? Would it be a defence, if the cyclist did not have one of these transponders, that it would be all right to run him over? That is a bit of an extreme example. I hope that the Minister will tell us a bit more about what research the Government are doing to look into all these things, finding out what is going on on the continent and elsewhere, because something needs to be done but I think it would probably be better if it was led by the Government as a major contribution to safety. Then we would be able to move forward on all the various other issues that, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, suggested, could reduce the number of cyclists killed in this country—not just London—to zero.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in this important debate. I thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for initiating it. It was also a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is a transport expert like my noble friend. I am not a transport expert and I am not a cyclist—I think a combination of laziness and fear has prevented me. I am afraid I will probably concentrate on London, as that is my experience.
I was first sensitised to the issue we are discussing today as a local councillor in the 1990s in the London Borough of Islington, when I was aware of two fatalities in my area. As a Member of the European Parliament, I got involved particularly in supporting the See Me Save Me campaign, which was started by the Cairns family after Eilidh Cairns was killed in Notting Hill.
The death statistics are indeed terrible. I think there are about 14 fatalities of cyclists a year in London. Heavy goods vehicles represent only about one in 20 of the vehicles on the roads but are responsible for 55% of the fatalities. There are clearly some cowboy HGV drivers and employers but I feel that others are let down by the poor design of cabs and the lack of warning equipment leading to these fatal lorry blind spots.
The basic design of HGVs can and must play a significant role in reducing cycling fatalities and serious injuries, and I think there are three issues. The first is better design of cabs, allowing greater visibility to see cyclists and other road users. That can be done by lowering the cab, placing the driver in the middle of the cab, using more glass and improved mirrors. Secondly, there could be some kind of warning equipment. My noble friend talked about the possibility of equipment. I tried to follow the technical aspects of what he said, but it was about some kind of RFID on a bike. My experience has been more learning a bit about sensors on a lorry to warn the driver. But I take the point—I think that Transport for London makes the point, too—that there are so many different schemes, it is very difficult to assess their value. TfL is doing a study to try to get an evaluation of them. The third issue, which I will come back to in a second, is side guards on construction lorries.
I very much welcome the agreement recently achieved at EU level on a new directive on the weights and dimensions of lorries. That should deliver life-saving changes to lorry design, improving the direct vision under the front windscreen and minimising the risk of overrun and damage in the event of collision by replacing the blunt front with a more elongated and rounded one and an expanded glazed area with mirrors and cameras. Are the Government committed to the follow-up work from this directive? As I understand it, the talk is of a type-approval directive with a rather long timescale—longer than the European Parliament wanted—of about seven years. Are the Government committed to seeing the directive into law and to a mandatory requirement for HGVs to carry these safety features? Last year, in conjunction with some other politicians, I wrote to the Minister’s colleague Mr Stephen Hammond. It was slightly unclear in the reply whether there was that commitment from the Government. I would like to know whether there is a formal position of the Department for Transport on the prospect of a type-approval directive. I think that we do need to get HGVs fit for the 21st century.
As I said, TfL has commissioned a study to develop an independent testing method for vehicle safety technology. My noble friend Lord Attlee talked about the national role for the Department for Transport. I am sure that that is right, eventually; but in the mean time, it is good that TfL is doing some work on this.
I mentioned side guards, as others have. We know that among the HGVs involved in fatal collisions, construction lorries—tipper lorries, skip loaders and so on—are disproportionately represented. They are apparently exempt under the 1986 regulations because they claim to be vehicles designed and constructed for special purposes where it is not possible for practical reasons to fit side guards. TfL does not regard these vehicles as special purpose. Only in very special circumstances are they going on to such terrain where side guards would help stop people being pulled under the wheels of the lorry. The question is whether they really do need to travel around London without safeguards. I think that we are all a bit disappointed that the Department for Transport has been slow in launching its consultation on removing those exemptions from construction vehicles. Can the Minister give me a date when the consultation will be launched and a promise that it will be expedited and wide in scope, in the sense of reducing, as far as possible, any exemption?
While we wait for European and national action, I am pleased that the Mayor of London, Transport for London and London Councils have agreed on a London-wide ban on lorries not fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists and pedestrians coming into London. I think that the Safer Lorry Scheme will be launched in September, once warning signs and so on are in place. All roads in Greater London, except motorways, will be covered by this scheme. It will require vehicles of more than three and a half tonnes to be fitted with side guards to protect cyclists and class V and class VI mirrors—I confess that I do not actually know what those are—to give drivers a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicle. I saw recently that Sir Peter Hendy, the boss of Transport for London, has indicated his willingness to mandate cycle-friendly HGVs on all contracts. It has been operating on the Crossrail contract, but it sounds as though he is interested in widening that procurement role.
I conclude with some points that are unrelated to lorry design or equipment. I very much welcome, as does my colleague Caroline Pidgeon on the London Assembly, the superhighways for cycle lanes in London. I have also been asked to find out, going outside London, when the Department for Transport will empower local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences, such as stopping in box junctions and driving in cycle lanes. Apparently, some foot-dragging appears to be going on there. I must stop now. I look forward to answers from the Minister.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Attlee on securing this debate. Perhaps I may say once again in your Lordships’ Chamber how much your Lordships appreciated the noble Earl’s spokesmanship for the Department for Transport, which he discharged not only with courtesy but with tremendous efficiency and knowledge. I listened to his speech and agreed with what he said. I do not have the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, or my noble friend Lady Ludford, but my contribution is based on being a parent of a 20 year-old daughter who cycles regularly from home in Dulwich to work in Battersea and to visit her parents in Kensington. Each time she does that, particularly at night, my heart is literally in my mouth. Therefore, I have taken an interest in security for cyclists in London. Frankly, every life lost is probably a life that could have been saved and is avoidable. Some of the ideas that my noble friend Lord Attlee has mentioned need to be pursued with great vigour.
I compliment the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on what I call “the cycling revolution”. It has some penalties and downsides to it but we must congratulate him and a bank whose name I will not mention on the initiative in terms of the growth of cycling in London. One sees while travelling to and from your Lordships’ House in the morning and in the evening how many cyclists there are. However, I am an advocate of greater discipline among some of the cyclists. Whether changes come through legislation or clearer direction remains to be seen, but I often see cyclists in central London without proper lights, headgear or yellow jackets to identify them. I have heard the comments of many taxi drivers in central London who are concerned about the behaviour of some cyclists. It is not just that they go through red lights, as many of your Lordships will have witnessed, but it is sometimes difficult to see them and there is also concern about their ability to see other traffic. I am in favour of certain compulsions on cyclists, certainly in the metropolis.
I turn to an excellent campaign article provided by the research department in the House of Lords. I again compliment it on the publications it has reviewed and the documents it has produced for your Lordships for this debate. The national cycling charity’s December 2014 briefing states:
“In London specifically, where HGVs make up around 3.5% of traffic, almost half of the 44 cyclist fatalities between 2011-13 (inclusive) were as a result of a collision with a lorry. Of these 21, ten involved a collision with a left-turning lorry”.
The statistics are horrifying just in that brief period of time. I very much compliment the charity for drawing this to our attention.
What is the solution? I find myself very much in agreement with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who I think referred to known black spots. Work needs to be done on improving visibility at certain known black spots. That is the responsibility of Transport for London and the Mayor of London. Whether it means widening the road or giving clear indications to both cyclists and traffic—heavy good vehicles in particular—depends on the precise location but work needs to be prioritised at these known black spots.
I welcome the cyclists’ designated area along the Embankment, but the implications for road traffic, let alone buses and heavy goods vehicles, remain to be properly analysed. Certainly, creating that space will better protect many cyclists heading for the City and work. In passing, I just mention the joint work that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I tried to undertake—we failed—to get more heavy goods vehicles off the road by taking freight from Felixstowe on to the railway. Much of that traffic comes into and crosses central London to go west or south.
Concrete and tipper lorries seem to be the culprits in many of the incidents that have been referred to. They in particular need a mandatory warning system in the cab. That needs to be complemented by appropriate precautions regarding cyclists. I am not familiar with all the technology but my noble friend Lord Attlee reminded me that up to 20 companies are already interested in the technology to be either installed in the heavy goods vehicles or applied to the cycle. I am not a technologist and do not understand the technical complications but there ought to be renewed enthusiasm and effort here by the Department for Transport, which is best placed to judge the right technology. If necessary, focus within the department, working with Transport for London and other transport authorities around the country in our bigger cities and conurbations, could identify what is the sensible technology to put in the cab and on the bicycle. I am not in any way competent to comment on the technology and I suspect that my noble friend Lord Attlee would not claim to have that knowledge. Someone in the department or some individuals in the department will certainly have that knowledge. Mandatory assessment and approval by the department and recommendations to the industry about what should be applied is much to be desired. I hope very much that the Department for Transport will take up that challenge.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for this timely debate, coming as it does during RoSPA’s family week. I declare an interest as a vice-president of RoSPA.
My interest in safety began while working on the factory floor. My passion for cycling, sadly now dormant, predated that; I was part of a great bunch of lads with the unlikely name of “The Eager Beavers”. With them I cycled every weekend come rain or shine. Our single claim to fame was to have cycled from Birmingham to Abergavenny and back in one day. Its connection to this debate is that I was stopped on the way back, just half a mile from my home, by a policeman who told me that my front light was not working and that I would have to push the bike the rest of the way.
For many years we never had an accident on what seemed at the time to be car and lorry-free roads. It is not now as it hath been of yore. Every year in Great Britain, around 100 cyclists are killed, 3,000 are seriously injured and 16,000 are slightly injured in reported road accidents. Lorries present a particular danger to cyclists. Although cyclists are less likely to be involved in a collision with an HGV than with a car, they are more likely to be killed or seriously injured in any collisions that do occur.
Between 2009 and 2013, HGVs were involved in 23% of cyclist deaths, despite comprising only 5% of the traffic. A disproportionate number of female cyclists are involved in collisions with HGVs. HGVs present a particular danger to cyclists when they are turning left: 55% of cases where cyclists were seriously injured by HGVs larger than 7.5 tonnes in London occurred when the driver turned left across the path of the cyclist.
So what is being done about this problem? There are many good developments, and many solutions are being developed, especially in London, by Transport for London, the Met and individual companies that use large vehicles. Of course, very significant effort and resources are being put into producing a safer road environment for cyclists, especially in London but also in many towns and cities across the country.
Vehicle technology is also advancing rapidly and will help to significantly reduce road crashes and casualties. HGVs are increasingly being fitted with sensors and cameras that warn the driver if a cyclist is to their nearside. This type of technology will certainly help, although in the case of cameras it still requires the driver to check the screen as well as the mirror. Sensors can often give an audible warning, but may pick up pedestrians on the pavement.
Many of the companies who enter RoSPA’s managing occupational road risk—MORR—awards are making good, innovative use of technology to reduce the risk created by large vehicles.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has given us an example of the sort of technology that is being developed to minimise cyclists’ vulnerability. Another example is a new collision-avoidance system that was presented to RoSPA’s national safety committee in October by Professor David Cebon of Cambridge University. The system uses sensors to detect the presence of a cyclist on the HGV’s near side, and software that predicts the path of the speed of the cyclist and the HGV. If it predicts that the HGV is going to hit the cyclist when it turns, it automatically applies the HGV’s brakes to bring it to a stop. According to Professor Cebon, an analysis of 19 fatal accidents involving a cyclist and a left-turning HGV concluded that 15 of these would have been completely avoided, and three would have been less severe, using the new system.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, makes a very good point about the lack of performance requirements for HGV blind-spot technology, although perhaps it would be better to put these into a standard rather than directly into regulation, at least until the point is reached where they could become mandatory in a European directive. The regulation would then require products to meet the standard. As technology develops, it would be easier to update a standard than a regulation. This should also apply to the transducer device fitted to bicycles if, of course, that particular technology is progressed.
What more can be done? We could adopt the Vision Zero approach recommended by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which principally means attempting to prevent crashes from happening in the first place and reducing the impact of those that do to a level low enough for those involved to survive without serious injury. Another would be to include a mandatory road safety objective in the certificate of professional competence—CPC—regime for large vehicle operators and drivers. Another would be a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the CPC directive, specifically of the effectiveness of both the initial qualification and periodic refresher training requirements for large vehicle drivers.
As the noble Earl suggested, making work-related road traffic accident fatalities and injuries reportable under RIDDOR is a must. Of course, with so much varied development under way, it would be very useful for the Government to review and co-ordinate all these developments to identify the best examples and then push them forward, including proposing any necessary legislative changes in the European Community.
My Lords, I welcome the debate that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has tabled. I declare that I sit on the board of Transport for London, which is listed in my interests on the register. I also chair the surface transport panel and sit on the safety, sustainability and accessibility panel, where these very tragic circumstances are discussed, as well as being reported and debated at the main board.
Being a board member has been an eye-opener in terms of the rules and regulations that govern this area. It would be easy to assume that it might be slightly simpler, but it is with a heavy heart that I hear of any tragedy on the road. As a very slow recreational cyclist when a member of Cleveland Wheelers, but also when I was wheelchair racing, most of my training was done on the roads. Two friends of mine have been killed on the roads by cars, not in the UK, and a number of friends have been injured cycling, my husband included. Perhaps very fortunately, he ended up with a spinal cord injury rather than being another of the number of fatalities.
I have been hit twice on the road while training at T-junctions when I had the right of way. I was able to recognise that the driver was not looking correctly, took evasive action and was left with nothing more than a few bruises and a couple of black eyes, but it is very shocking when it happens to you and it makes you think very carefully about everything else that is on the road.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is right about peer pressure. I have seen a change in London in the past year or so with the increased number of cyclists: when somebody jumps a light, other cyclists shout and tell them to be more careful.
In London, heavy goods vehicles are overrepresented in fatal collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. Between 2008 and 2013, 55% of all pedal cycle fatalities involved an HGV. In 2013, 20% of pedestrian fatalities involved an HGV. I would like to see more direct action to improve the safety of the most vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, but support is needed.
There are many issues, many of which have been most ably covered by other noble Lords in the Chamber. The first for me, though, is that some HGVs, which are overrepresented in fatalities, are exempt from basic safety features. The requirement for HGV side guards under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 does not apply to certain vehicles,
“designed and constructed for special purposes”.
Should there really be vehicles that have this special-purpose designation? Older HGVs, so pre-2007, are also exempt from close proximity class V and VI safety mirrors designed to address vehicle blind spots. In September 2015, the Safer Lorry Scheme will come into force in London. This will require HGVs registered after 1983 and driven in London to have side and class V and VI mirrors fitted.
I agree with noble Lords who say that the DfT has been a bit slow in its proposal to consult on removing side-guard exemptions for certain HGVs. Their planned consultation will cover only HGVs first registered after 2010. The proposal is also expected to consult on the retrofitting of class V and VI mirrors to all HGVs first registered from 2000. Will the Minister consider whether the consultation should seek public and industry opinion on retrofitting these safety features to vehicles registered from 1983?
Many operators are investing in vehicle safety technology and camera systems, but it is an emerging market, and an awful lot more could be done. There are many that claim to solve the problem, but I think this can be confusing for a number of operators, and I believe that the DfT should work with TfL and other relevant organisations to develop and communicate performance-based criteria for safety systems that are technology-neutral.
Other noble Lords have mentioned the European Commission and its review of weights and dimensions. Will the Minister tell us if the Government will declare their position on this proposal and actively support the Commission’s recommendation to ensure the next generation of HGVs is fit for 21st-century streets?
Under driver training, drivers have to undergo 35 hours of training over five years. This covers rationalisation of fuel consumption, and may cover first aid, manual handling and customer care. All these are very important, but a driver could achieve the full CPC qualification with no training covering driving standards and road safety. It seems crazy to me that we are not taking these seriously and are not including some of the most obvious things.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned workplace deaths and work-related road deaths. The management of work-related road risk lags behind the management of more general health and safety. I would like to see the Government review the regulations governing this. In the short term, perhaps an approved code of practice could be published on the management of work-related road risk.
Finally, a consistent national approach is needed to improve HGV/cycle safety. I have talked about London, and it is probably in London that these things are reported more often, but accidents like this are happening all over the country that might just make the local news but would not make the national news. I do not think that a lot of people are aware of the number of fatalities that happen in this way. The Government have recently announced £114 million of funding for Cycle City Ambition, in addition to the £94 million awarded in August 2013. The eight cities are Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford.
TfL has significant experience in dealing with HGV/cycle safety and has developed proven initiatives aimed at raising operator and driver awareness. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned CLOCS. There is also Safe Urban Driving, which is a driver CPC accredited course in which drivers undergo an on-cycle hazardous awareness module. That has had a great deal of success. There is also an award-winning Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, which has been recently rolled out nationally.
Does the Minister agree that we should strongly encourage Cycle City Ambition to adopt and support these existing initiatives? That will save money, not by designing new standards but by ensuring that operators have national consistency. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. A lot of good work is happening, but there is not enough awareness.
Finally, once again I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on his passion for cycling—I wish I could go at the speed he does on his bike. I congratulate both of them on their persistence in promoting safety on the roads for cyclists.
My Lords, I find it very interesting that the noble Baroness has just discussed the training of HGV drivers; I shall attack from a completely different angle.
I have observed Operation Motorwise on an Army base a few times. Essex Police hold the exercise on a regular basis on private land in various locations throughout the county, in which teenagers are introduced to all kinds of useful matters to do with driving prior to learning to drive. That includes the Highway Code, some mechanical bits and pieces, observational tests, and various other items that prepare them for when they learn to drive and warn them of some of the hazards that might well not be brought to their attention and which might go wrong during that period.
Of those latter hazards, they are shown some emergency braking distances taken by HGVs at increasing speeds, and they all seem to be shocked by the results. They are also invited to sit in the driver’s seat to observe where cyclists can be seen in the numerous mirrors. So far, so good—they learn from that. However, when an HGV begins to turn, the mirrors will also turn, and the cyclist who was clearly visible a few seconds earlier might well have disappeared from the view of the driver. There is nothing the cyclist or driver can do to resume sight, irrespective of the number and construction of the mirrors.
The noble Earl suggested some very interesting technology that might well overcome this problem and, having chatted with him recently, it sounds well worth developing. He mentioned some companies that have developed various systems: a company in Braintree has fitted alarms along the side of its HGVs, which make a sound when anything gets too close to the sides of the vehicles and which alert both the driver and the cyclists or pedestrians. That is really good news, and it is a start on the part of that company to address the problem. As the noble Earl has suggested, there must be other such companies.
What can we do to reduce deaths and injuries in the mean time? Both cyclists and HGV drivers are aware of the problem facing them, and it would be wonderful if all cyclists wore high-visibility clothing, crash helmets and good lighting fitted at the front and back of their cycles. It would also be wonderful if they obeyed the traffic lights and other legislation. However, the initial manoeuvrability of a cyclist exceeds that of an HGV, which can lead the cyclist into a sense of false security—but an HGV turning left at a slow speed can kill or seriously injure that cyclist.
Is there, therefore, stalemate? No. It might seem very heavy-handed, but at least it would stop the deaths and injuries to cyclists if they were encouraged not to be alongside a stationary HGV or one turning left until such a time as suitable safety technology is fitted to all HGVs. I am afraid that the cyclists would not like it, but in the interim, would that not be nicer than adding more deaths and seriously injured cyclists to the figures of STATS19, which is currently the position?
My Lords, as everyone else has done, I extend my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on securing this debate on cycling safety and heavy goods vehicles. Not everyone has necessarily agreed with the specific proposal he highlighted as one way of addressing a very serious problem. However, there certainly has been agreement on the need to take action to reduce the number of collisions between heavy goods vehicles and cyclists. If today’s debate contributes to realising that objective, it will certainly achieve its purpose.
The Transport Committee in the other place issued a report last July on cycling safety which included information highly relevant to this debate. Transport for London has also provided some relevant statistics. Heavy goods vehicles are disproportionately involved in fatal collisions with cyclists. Some 20% of cycling fatalities in the last five years have involved HGVs, even though such vehicles account for only some 5% of motor traffic. As has been said, in London the situation is even worse, since between 2008 and 2013, some 55% of all pedal cycle fatalities involved a heavy goods vehicle despite HGVs accounting for less than 4% of London’s road miles. Indeed, in 2013, HGVs were involved in nine out of 14 cyclist deaths on London’s roads.
Reference has already been made to construction vehicles. Construction vehicles, and particularly concrete or tipper lorries, are most likely to be involved in collisions with cyclists, with seven out of nine fatal collisions in London between cyclists and large goods vehicles in 2011 involving construction vehicles. There has also been an issue with vehicles that carry stone, sand, cement and water in compartments and mix the concrete when on site, known as volumetric mixers, and which are classed as plant and not goods vehicles and are thus exempt from a number of regulations in place for goods vehicles, meaning that operators of such vehicles do not require an operator’s licence, and are not required to subject the vehicles to annual roadworthiness inspections. It seems that the Department for Transport found that targeted vehicle inspections led to five out of six volumetric mixers that were stopped receiving immediate prohibitions for mechanical defects, and that in addition three of the stopped vehicles were also prohibited because of either overloading or an insecure load. No doubt those who believe that regulations represent red tape and a burden will see no need for action, but what is alleged to be a so-called burden for one person is the potential difference between life and death for another.
The Government published their response to the Transport Committee’s report on 31 October last year, and the Minister’s reply may draw quite heavily on that response. However, I hope that he will also reply to the specific points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, since I for one will be interested to hear where the Government now stand in relation to encouraging or promoting the effectiveness and practicability of HGV blind-spot safety technology, and in their response to his point made on lack of specifications in terms of performance for what this equipment and technology should achieve and lack of independent evaluation and testing. Indeed, on those specific points made by the noble Earl, Transport for London has said that while many HGV operators are investing in vehicle safety technology and camera monitoring systems to protect cyclists, the effectiveness of some of the products is questionable and HGV operators need independent product information to inform their purchasing decisions.
Of course, steps are being taken to try to improve cycling safety in the important area we are discussing. London Councils is working with Transport for London to implement a new London-wide Safer Lorry Scheme from September, which will require the fitting of extended view mirrors and side guards to all heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
Transport for London has also called on the Government to review the driver certificate of professional competence syllabus to ensure that the European regulation requiring HGV drivers to undergo 35 hours of training over a five-year period with,
“specific emphasis on road safety”,
is fully satisfied. Under the UK’s application of the driver certificate of professional competence, it is apparently possible for a driver to achieve the full driver CPC qualification with no training covering driving standards and road safety. Transport for London has said that the Government should introduce a mandatory and more prescriptive road safety objective which should include minimising the road risk for vulnerable road users. Like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, I ask the Minister to comment on this in his response.
In his contribution, my noble friend Lord Jordan referred to a new collision avoidance system being developed. There was an indication that an analysis of 19 fatal accidents involving a cyclist and a left-turning heavy goods vehicle concluded that 15 of those would have been completely avoided, and three would have been less severe, with this new collision avoidance system. In view of those figures, it would be helpful if the Minister could say what the Government know about this new system and what role they are playing in encouraging its development.
We need to further improve cycling safety if we are to encourage more people to make the switch and increase the number of journeys made by bike in the UK from its present figure of just 2%. The recent RoSPA-commissioned poll indicated that one-third of people think that cycling safety is one of the biggest transport issues we face, with more than 100 cyclists a year being killed.
When in government, we made real progress on cycling, with cycle use growing by 20% and casualty figures falling significantly. These increases in cycling numbers and casualty reductions did not happen by chance but through decisions we made, with ambitious road safety targets, increased use of speed cameras, road safety awareness campaigns, traffic calming measures and new home zones, which have introduced 20 miles per hour limits in residential areas. What we have seen since then, from 2010 to 2014, is half of all local authorities feeling that they have had no alternative but to reduce their investment in cycling, and no long-term certainty to enable local authorities to plan ahead and invest in the infrastructure they need, which is so important for increasing cycling usage and improving cycling safety.
This situation was highlighted by the fact that the Government’s Cycling Delivery Plan, published recently but more than a year late, contains no specific targets on increasing the percentage of journeys undertaken by bike from the current level of 2%, and no specific long-term funding targets for cycling. The Government’s strategic framework for road safety, published in May 2011, contained no specific goals for making cycling safer, and targets to cut deaths and serious injuries on roads have been axed, with heavy goods vehicle speed limits on single-carriageway roads being increased from 40 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour on a highly questionable evidence base. Cuts to front-line policing, which the Government said would not happen, have made, as my noble friend Lord Berkeley, said, enforcement of road traffic offences more difficult, with some 23% fewer traffic police patrolling the roads, and a very much higher figure in, for example, Essex, where there has been a reduction in traffic police from 257 in 2010 to 76 in 2014.
Cycling safety clearly remains an issue of concern, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has drawn our attention in this debate to what is far from the only cause of concern affecting cycling safety but certainly the one that receives the most publicity. That is no doubt in part because of the number of collisions between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles occurring in London, on the doorstep of the national media and Parliament, and because, in proportionate terms, such collisions result in more fatalities and serious injuries than any other single form of collision or incident involving cyclists.
I hope that, in his response, the Minister will include firm assurances and evidence that the Government are actively engaged in ensuring that HGV operators will have vehicle safety technology that is effective and fit for purpose, and will enable us to reduce still further the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving cyclists and heavy goods vehicles.
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to respond to this Question for Short Debate on technologies for reducing the number of collisions between heavy goods vehicles and cyclists. It is a privilege, admittedly a daunting one, to respond to my noble friend Lord Attlee. When I became a Whip, he was the lead spokesman for transport matters in this House, and was kind enough to mentor me in these matters. He not only speaks with great passion and knowledge on these matters but upholds the finest traditions of this House when doing so.
Moving to the matter in question, I would like to assure your Lordships’ House that the Government are fully committed to creating a safe environment for all road users. As I will set out, advancements in technology will play a vital role in this. All of us who use a car know how much technology is advancing, and improving both the driving experience and safety—and the same is true for HGVs. However, it is not just about technology. Everyone has a part to play: central and local government, manufacturers of technology, the police and of course road users themselves. This is an important matter, as can be seen from the four tragic fatal collisions to cyclists involving heavy goods vehicles already this year in London.
Britain’s roads are among the safest in Europe, but we cannot be complacent: we can and will do more. Following the successes of our Olympic team, cycling has become increasingly popular, and we wish to build on that excellence. Cycling can contribute to keeping you healthy and we want to encourage more people to get on their bikes. The first step is ensuring that they feel that it is safe to do so. The Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety event last week at the ExCeL centre, attended by my noble friend Lord Attlee, gave 200 delegates the opportunity to view 10 new HGVs fitted with the latest technologies to detect cyclists.
Some of these technologies, such as “tag and beacon”, can be fitted to bicycles and would alert the driver of an HGV of their presence. However, there is a risk either that this may provide a false sense of security for both the cyclist and the driver—as neither of them can rely on the other having the equipment—or that the driver suffers from overload because of repeated warnings. The existing sensor-detection technologies are not connected to the vehicle controls. The combination of the detection time, the reaction time of the driver and the operating time of the braking system means that a cyclist moving at moderate speed could have travelled the length of the HGV after being detected, which makes it very difficult for the driver to avoid a collision.
I turn to other matters. I can report that the Government have secured improved requirements in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulations for mirrors on the passenger side of vehicles, which will mean that drivers have a better view of the area adjacent to the cab, and should improve safety for cyclists. The European Union has now mandated these improved mirror requirements for new HGVs registered after 30 June 2015.
Department for Transport officials are continuing to work in the UNECE to develop the technical requirements for camera monitoring systems that replace existing mirrors and enable the driver to have a better view of other road users. Although we cannot be certain how quickly these discussions will progress, it is possible that such systems could be on new HGVs by 2017.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and my noble friend Lady Ludford mentioned side guards. Since 29 October 2014, most new HGVs have had to comply with revised European rules on side guards which permit fewer exemptions than the current domestic legislation. Changes to domestic legislation are also being prepared for consultation which will reduce the number of exemptions for existing vehicles. More vehicles will be fitted with side guards.
The noble Baroness also asked about the Cycle City Ambition and whether such cities should follow some of the initiatives that Transport for London has undertaken. These decisions are a matter for individual local authorities. However, I am sure that many cities—not just the eight mentioned—see the work done in London as a benchmark for which to aim.
The Government, along with European Union member states, have developed the proposal to amend the general circulation directive, in particular to allow extra length for HGVs in order to enable more aerodynamic and safer cab designs. These negotiations were successful and formal approval will follow shortly. Officials are continuing to work closely with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that type approval legislation is amended quickly, so that the benefits of these improved designs are on the road as soon as possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked what research the Government are doing on this. The Department for Transport is working with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Transport for London and other stakeholders on HGV safety, including manufacturers of sensor technologies. As part of this, Transport for London has contracted the Transport Research Laboratory to test a range of products to identify ones that may provide an improvement in safety. Although all vehicles meet minimum safety standards, hauliers can fix additional equipment if this would be beneficial for their specific operations.
I mentioned earlier the role of local authorities. They have the flexibility to introduce 20 miles per hour speed limits in residential areas, which could have a significant effect on cyclist safety. The Secretary of State issued two special authorisations on traffic signing in 2011 to enable all English local authorities to provide Trixi mirrors at road junctions to make cyclists more visible to drivers and “no entry except cycles” signing, which can facilitate overflow cycling.
I am pleased that a number of initiatives have emerged on the role that hauliers have in improving safety. These include the construction-industry-led CLOCS initiative and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, which encourages good practice for road freight operators. They are now both supported by more than 3,000 operators nationally. The CLOCS standard is being used in major transport construction projects in London and across the UK, including Crossrail and Network Rail, and it is intended for HS2. The Department for Transport has also been providing advice to road users through the THINK! campaign, with the most recent launched on 2 March.
Compliance rates with legal requirements for HGVs in use have been nearly constant nationally over the last few years. For the construction and waste sectors, an interagency HGV taskforce has been in operation in London over the last 17 months. It involves the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and police to carry out highly targeted enforcement to crack down on non-compliant and unsafe HGVs. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I can say that, in its first year or so, the 16 officers from the DVSA and the police have made about 4,000 highly targeted stops, issued about 2,000 roadworthiness prohibitions and more than 1,000 fixed penalty notices, detected 1,500 drivers’ hours offences and seized nearly 50 vehicles. Furthermore, enforcement officers report better load security on scaffolders’ HGVs.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned a report, the draft Cycling Delivery Plan, which was heavily discussed and debated in the other House. It was published on 16 October 2014 for informal consultation. It includes action on justice, sentencing and cycle-proofing to ensure that cyclists are considered at the design stage of new and improved road infrastructure, which in turn benefits pedestrians too. Responses are currently being analysed and should be published shortly.
The DfT continues to monitor the number and rate of all road casualties, including cyclists killed or injured in incidents involving HGVs. This evidence base will be used to assess progress in improving road safety.
My noble friend Lord Attlee raised the issue of the HSE and being interviewed under police caution. It has been the rule ever since the HSE was set up that it does not duplicate the work of other enforcement bodies. The police are responsible for road traffic legislation, but the HSE works with the police on cases where unsafe working practices appear to be implicated in a road traffic incident, and employers can be, and have been, prosecuted by the HSE following incidents on the road.
My noble friend Lord Attlee mentioned that some TfL staff, including highways engineers, had been interviewed under caution by the police. I have been advised that this was as part of a corporate manslaughter investigation. In these circumstances, it is appropriate that people are interviewed under caution so that they have all the legal rights and safeguards that that process brings, including having a solicitor present.
I hope that noble Lords can see that this issue is complex and that there is no single solution that will provide the outcome that we are all seeking: to stop these terrible collisions. I trust that this has sought to clarify the actions that the Government have taken and the areas where we will continue to focus our efforts in collaboration with other cycling interests.
Could the Minister possibly write to noble Lords on some of the questions that he has not had time to answer, including, for example, whether there is a specification from the department about the near-side equipment that we have all been debating, and also how many convictions there have been for employers whose vehicles and things have contravened the legislation that we have been discussing?
As time is a limiting factor I cannot answer all the questions now, but I am happy to write to noble Lords, and I will go through the Hansard report.
This is a very serious issue. There is cross-party agreement that we are very concerned about the incidents happening. Week after week we hear of injuries because of cycling and we want to minimise them. If we can bring them to zero that would obviously be much better. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Attlee raised the very important issue of whether technology can help to reduce the numbers. It is a tragedy when any cyclist dies and my heart goes out to all the families who have had to cope with such terrible circumstances. This Government will not be satisfied until our roads are safe for all users—more especially cyclists. I hope that advancing technologies can help to make this a reality.
House adjourned at 5.46 pm.