New lorry design is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

New lorry design is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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British Cycling has described a new 'cyclist-friendly' lorry design as a wolf in sheep's clothing, following another fatal incident in London involving a cyclist and an HGV, once again calling into question lorry design and the use of HGVs in crowded urban centres.  

Above: MAN Concept-S lorry design is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

This week news outlets ran stories about how the new lorry designs have the potential to save cyclists lives, However, many did point out that there are major flaws in the design. Videos and photography show a futuristic cab with curved edges and low profile wheels.

What many didn’t show was that the back half of the lorry which, if this legislation is passed, would extend to 25 metres. This is 8.5 metres longer than current lorries – further than Greg Rutherford’s winning jump at the Olympics.

Any improvement in driver’s visibility would be cancelled out by longer trailers at the back.

British Cycling's Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, Martin Gibbs, said: "Longer lorries are bad news for cyclists, pedestrians and roads. The biggest safety issue is when lorries turn, unlike cars they need to take a big ‘arc’ where cyclists can become trapped. The longer the lorry, the bigger the arc and the greater reduction in visibility. Longer lorries may also cause greater turbulence and stress effects when overtaking cyclists. Increased weight will also cause roads to crack and create potholes."

The European Commission has tabled proposals to amend Directive 96/53/EC which covers vehicle weights and dimensions. It places restrictions on the type of vehicles allowed on the road across Europe. The new proposals would allow mega-lorries (25m long) to be used across Europe.

The proposals also talk about improving safety for cyclists but so far the tests only show improved visibility of pedestrians in front of the cab. There is nothing about improved visibility of cyclists at the side which is the cause of so many deaths on our roads. There are also no details about how much the driver’s visibility would be improved under new cab design – will it be 1% or 10%? These designs will also take years to reach our streets but longer lorries could arrive immediately.

The Department for Transport told the BBC that it has no intention to allow these mega lorries in the UK. But they said the same thing in about 2m longer lorries but have since reversed this and are now conducting a trial of 900 in the UK after pressure from haulage companies despite objections from organisations, including British Cycling. The fact is if longer lorries are used in Europe the UK will be under pressure to adopt them to remain competitive.

On Friday we were shown again why lorries are unsuitable for cities. A 20 year old student from France was killed while cycling on one of the Mayor’s cycle superhighways near Aldgate. The incident took place at 6pm on Friday during rush hour. Reports suggest that the lorry involved was a 6-axle (16.5m) container lorry.

If the student had been cycling in Paris or Dublin on Friday at 6pm this lorry would not have been there because both cities place strict controls on large lorries - effectively stopping them from using the road at busy times. In London we encourage lorries to deliver during the day and mix them with cyclists on a high speed route. This is wrong.

Improved cab visibility is essential for all lorries but longer lorries are bad news for cyclists. Too many people are being killed on the road. This legislation needs to be stopped and the Mayor of London also needs to act on his promise to learn from experience of cities like Paris. Back in March, whem he launched his 'Vision for Cycling in London' he said that he would study the experience of cities like Paris and Dublin where there are restrictions on lorry movement. We look forward to rapid progress on this front.