While many cycle advocates are understandably keen to stress the positives of cycling rather than the perceived dangers, recent events in London have led to calls for the government and local councils to take urgent action to protect cyclists.
Five cyclists have died in just nine days in the capital, bringing the yearly total of cyclists killed in London up to 13, eight of which in collisions with lorries.
London Cycling Campaign held a protest at Bow this week – and were joined by 1,000 Londoners – saying cycling deaths in the city are unacceptable and junctions like Bow roundabout must be redesigned with safe space for cycling.
The tragic news has led CTC to call for major changes to be made to lorries and driver training to stop more unnecessary deaths.
The Government is due to publish a green paper on the training and testing of drivers by the end of the year and CTC wants cycle training for new drivers to be integral to this paper. CTC especially wants drivers of large vehicles (lorries, buses and coaches) to be required to complete cycle training before obtaining their commercial licences.
CTC policy director Roger Geffen said: “We will investigate further options for reducing the number of large vehicles in urban centres at busy periods. Options that the organisation has considered in the past include banning lorries from city centres at peak periods and locating distribution centres on the outskirts of cities.”
The charity said all lorries should be designed with cycle safety in mind – blind spots should be eradicated; cabs should be lowered to give drivers a better view of the road; and the sides of cabs should be made transparent. Lorries are involved in far more cyclists’ deaths than buses because the position of the driver high up in the cab considerably reduces visibility of the road, whereas bus drivers have greater vision through transparent doors and because of the lower position of the driver’s seat.
CTC chief exec Gordon Seabright said: "CTC and all cyclists are sickened by the continuing failure to protect cyclists, in particular from the dangers caused by lorries in our towns and cities. We want to see The Mayor of London and all those responsible for the safety of our streets living up to their promises.”
British Cycling has responded to the news with a call for urgent action for the government and councils to ‘design roads that address cyclist needs’.
British Cycling’s campaigns manager Martin Key said: "While cyclist deaths are rare, it is clearer than ever that national government and councils must take urgent action on designing roads that address cyclists’ needs. The fact that five cyclists have been killed in London in the last nine days is shocking news and an urgent investigation needs to take place into what could have been done to prevent these deaths.
"Clearly, cycling is becoming a more and more popular way to get around and local authorities need to respond to that by prioritising it as a legitimate form of transport, including urgently tackling the most dangerous roads and junctions and banning HGVs that aren’t fitted with the latest safety features.
"We have to do a better job of looking after each other on the roads. That includes significant investment in a nationwide cyclist awareness campaign rather than a few posters in a handful of cities. This is about changing the culture of how people get around, making cycling a more attractive and safer option for millions of people across Britain."
British Cycling also went into depth about the dangers of HGV, calling on the government to take urgent action to remove dangerous HGVs from our roads.
Key said: “We need to see immediate changes to the law so that from now on heavy goods vehicles are designed so that drivers have much better direct line of sight. We are also calling for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with appropriate mirrors before being deemed roadworthy, with absolutely no exceptions. Britain can learn lessons from Paris and Dublin too – where lorries are banned from city centre roads during peak commuting hours.”
HGVs currently account for approximately 20 per cent of all cycling casualties with this figure rising to a staggering 50 per cent in London. This is despite the fact that lorries account for just five per cent of traffic on the roads.
Key added: “Despite the tragic events this week, cycling remains a safe activity. However, we know that for many people safety concerns are their main barrier to getting on a bike. This will remain until we have roads and junctions that suit the needs of cyclists rather than prioritising motorised vehicles. We’d urge local authorities throughout England to look at the most dangerous streets and junctions and redesign them to accommodate people on bikes.”