Friday, November 23, 2012

Freight Association Backs the London Assembly on ‘Road Haulage vs Cyclists’

New Report Keeps the Dangers in the Public Eye and Presses for More Action
Shipping News Feature

UK – Earlier this month we publicised a new initiative from the Mineral Products Association to inform both HGV drivers and cyclists on how to avoid accidents between the two. With many MP’s signed up to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group getting involved in the problem and the Times newspaper’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign this week saw the publication of the London Assembly Transport Committee's report on cycling in the capital, ‘Gearing up – An investigation into safer cycling in London' and, as pressure on road haulage operators mounts to ensure all precautions are taken to maximise safety, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has also now spoken out to reinforce the message.

The new report recognises that now is the time to strike, with cycling as a sport firmly in the public consciousness following a triumphant London 2012 and with a London Mayor committed to the cause. The Committee however fires an immediate opening salvo by describing Boris Johnson’s target of lifting the 2% of journeys currently made in the Capital to 5% by 2026 as ‘unambitious’. The London Assembly feels that such a figure should be passed by 2020 with a 10% target by 2026.

The report calls on the Mayor to appoint a Cycling Commissioner to take forward this vision claiming that only 7% of potential cycling trips made in the capital are actually undertaken with the cause desperately underfunded and a request for an immediate doubling of the money available. For freight and haulage interests the concern will be the call for ‘more segregation’ taking routes from motorised traffic and passing over the space to cyclists alone. An increase in 20 mph zones (often an unachievable speed in central London).

Over half the fatal accidents involving cyclists are due to collisions with heavy goods vehicles and the report calls for minimum standards of safety equipment fitted to new trucks and retrofitting where viable. Although the report demands better safety training for truck and bus drivers it does not seem to require the same demands from cyclists, many regular road users in London will have witnessed dozens of instances of cyclists driving in a manner which would have them banned from the roads had they been in a powered vehicle. Whilst approving the expansion of the city’s cycle hire scheme and demanding better protection for bikers it seems any form of compulsory qualification, such as the stringent licensing for HGV drivers is too hot a political potato for the regulators and advisors.

The FTA takes a fairly moderate line in its response to the report replying that it reinforces the need for all road users to work together and share roads safely. The FTA is recognised in the report for its work to promote cycle safety among its members, stating: ‘The FTA has produced a ‘Cycling Code’, to help raise drivers’ awareness of cyclists and vice versa. The Codes establishes a set of ‘reasonable expectations for all road users’, and the FTA is working with a range of partners including Transport for London (TfL) to encourage more organisations to support it.’ Karen Dee, FTA Director of Policy said:

"FTA and its members take very seriously the safety of vulnerable road users and are fully alert to the concerning rise in the number of cyclists killed and seriously injured in recent years particularly in London. A lot of work has been undertaken to understand the risks and causes of collision and invest in the most effective ways of reducing those risks including for example, physical modification of vehicles, improved training and instruction of drivers and raising the level of awareness to the manoeuvring behaviours of large good vehicles.

“The logistics industry has a key role to play going forward. But as this report recognises, there is no single solution to this problem. Sharing the road safely in future will depend on an accommodation being struck between different road users respecting their rights to be there, behaving responsibly for their own sake and the safety of others and accepting some measure of individual accountability for the reputation of the profession or lifestyle they represent."

Building on its Cycling Code, produced in partnership with The Metropolitan Police, London Cycle Campaign, Institute of Advanced Motorists and TfL and published in 2011, the FTA is developing Cycle Marque, a voluntary code of practice which specifies certain minimum vehicle fixtures and standards of training that operators’ should adopt for vehicles and drivers in congested urban areas. The specification covers those aspects not already required by current legislation and are compatible with existing construction and use requirements. Attainment of the Cycle Marque will confirm a company’s awareness of vulnerable road users and commitment to reducing risk of collisions.

Strangely many of the journeys undertaken in the city by cycle are in fact freight related, cycle couriers are widely recognised as amongst the best, and the worst, of road users in terms of behaviour and safety. Despite criticism of the Mayor for underfunding cycling in the city the introduction of the congestion charge has gone some way to reducing the risks for cyclists by cutting the number of motorised journeys but the way forward would seem to be a compromise on road usage, with schemes in place wherever practical to physically protect cyclists from other road users and themselves, whilst formal training to reduce conflict between the two and better technology fitted to vehicles should be a priority – something which perhaps only legislation could achieve if the political will exists to pursue the matter.