Government backs 'Independent' safety for cyclists campaign


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The Independent Online

The Government yesterday gave its backing to The Independent’s campaign to protect cyclists from being killed by lorries and buses on Britain’s roads.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said he would be pushing for changes to European legislation which would require hauliers to fit nearly half a million lorries in Britain with new mirrors, sensors and emergency braking systems to help protect cyclists.

He also promised to continue supporting cycling education for children with £11 million of public money to teach 11- and 12-year-olds safe principles.

Mr Hammond’s pledge came in response to The Independent’s campaign to reduce the risks faced by the country’s growing number of cyclists.

Last year, 3.1 billion miles were cycled in the UK – a 4 per cent annual increase – while cycling in the capital has increased by 91 per cent since 2000.

More than 2,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads in the year ending June 2010, according to Department for Transport figures.

Cycling groups have been campaigning to force lorries, trucks and HGVs fitted with sensors and cameras that would help drivers with their blind spots when they turn left or right or are unable to see cyclists beside them. So far the plans – which need to be approved by the European Commission – have the support of 369 MEPs.

Mr Hammond said the Government was also keen to see the measure adopted and would be pushing for it to be made law with other member states.

“We are leading discussions at a European level on further improving vehicle standards for heavy goods vehicles to help reduce accidents with cyclists and pedestrians caused by poor visibility,” he said.

“Cycling is good for the environment and can have enormous health benefits and I share The Independent’s commitment to improve cycling safety.”

In addition Mr Hammond added the Department of Transport had just authorised a trial of “trixi” mirrors mounted on traffic lights at cab level which allow vehicles a clear site of cyclists pulling up along side them. If successful they are likely to be rolled out nation wide.

He also praised measures such as the “Exchanging Places” scheme in London which gives cyclists the opportunity to sit inside a truck's cab to see the driver's limited visibility to the nearside.

“We are making progress on a number of the issues raised in the campaign. For example, we have just authorised a trial of trixi mirrors which, if successful, could be used elsewhere in the country to make cyclists more visible to drivers and we have committed £11m for Bikeability training for 275,000 children in England. This will help a new generation of cyclists gain the skills and knowledge they need to cycle safely on the roads.”

In the past few years hundreds of white bikes, dubbed “ghost-bikes”, have been chained to lampposts and railings near the spots of accidents to warn motorists approaching dangerous bends to look out for cyclists.

Tom Bogdanowicz, spokesman for the London Cycling Campaign welcomed Mr Hammond’s pledge of support but said much more still needed to be done.

“We would like to see cycle awareness included in lorry drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence,” he said. “Really their training should also include time spent on a bicycle – that would bring home the issue to them.

“Of course we welcome any support from the Government to make the roads safer for cyclists – but we want to see what is actually done.”

Government sources said next key phase in the campaign to improve cycling safety is a meeting in Brussels in October when Transport Ministers will discuss the new plans to make lorries safer and vote on introducing the new laws.