There's been a spate of nasty cycling accidents in London over the past few weeks – many of which have involved lorries, and some of which have sadly ended the lives of the cyclists involved. Although the local authorities are always quick to remind us at times like these that the number of cycling deaths in Britain has been falling in recent years, the latest set of Government statistics show a worrying trend.
In 2007, the number of cycling fatalities was indeed slightly down on the previous year. However, the number of cyclists who were "seriously injured" increased for the second consecutive year – up by 6 per cent on 2006, which in turn was up 4 per cent on 2005.
Although it's certainly positive that the number of fatalities is falling, there can't be any complacency as long as the number of serious accidents is going in the opposite direction. While a small number of those who end up seriously injured make a full recovery, many more – like the courier who ended up trapped under the wheels of a lorry in Kensington last month – are not so lucky.
The Government is aware of the dangerous relationship between lorries and cyclists. Last year, it brought in new legislation which forced all new goods vehicles to be fitted with wide-angle mirrors – so that the drivers have a clearer view of cyclists coming up on their inside. Some construction companies are also now putting labels on the back of their lorries, warning cyclists not to "undertake".
These are all steps in the right direction, but much more can and should be done. For a start, lorry driving tests need to be updated, with a much greater emphasis put on teaching drivers to check for cyclists before they turn a corner or change lane. Drivers also need to be taught to slow down as they overtake cyclists. A lorry passing a bicycle at 40 or 50mph can produce enough force to destabilise the rider and cause an accident. There also needs to be an investment in public safety videos – warning cyclists of the dangers of undertaking lorries.
Given the large increase in cyclists on our roads over the past decade, the rise in the number of accidents could certainly be worse. But 2,500 serious accidents each year is still far too many, and if the Government is serious about getting more people out of their cars and on to their bikes, it needs to do more to ensure that cyclists are safe on our firstname.lastname@example.org