In the same week that Bradley Wiggins and British Cycling coach Shane Sutton were involved in separate accidents where they were knocked from their bikes and hospitalised, the Department for Transport has unveiled plans to raise speed limits for HGVs on single carriageways.
The current speed limit on single carriageways for HGVs over 7.5 tons is 40mph. DfT proposals have mooted raising this to 45mph or 50mph. The move will boost the economy, according to Roads Minister Stephen Hammond. Freight journey times will be reduced, the DfT said, cutting congestion and reducing costs to business – as well as the cost of goods for people to buy.
Intriguingly, the DfT press release said it "could also reduce the number of collisions caused by other road users overtaking slower moving lorries".
HGVs had nothing to do with this week’s high profile crashes, but those incidents have put cyclist safety into sharp focus across the media again. In London, around half of all cycle deaths in London involve HGVs. In the capital, rules are being tightened up to combat the statistic.
Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has condemned the move.
Policy director Jason Torrance said: “Just last week the Road Safety Minister said he would do everything needed to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
“Cycle safety is hitting the headlines as more cyclists and pedestrians are killed or seriously injured – this decision will only make our roads more dangerous for those at the greatest risk.
“Faster-moving lorries will take longer to stop and reduce reaction times for drivers. The Minister must reverse this decision immediately.”
Roads Minister Stephen Hammond commented: “The Government is committed to doing everything it can to improve conditions for economic growth. We are consulting on increasing the single carriage way speed limit for certain HGVs after listening to industry experts who say that this will boost the UK economy and businesses of all sizes.
“While this is likely to lead to more than £30 million a year in benefits for businesses through quicker journeys and reduced congestion, I want to make sure we have carefully considered the evidence of all of the effects on the economy, environment and – of course – road safety before we make a decision. I welcome views from all.”
The consultation will run until February 1st.