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Lorries should be banned from cities to save cyclists' lives, say researchers

Call follows study of cyclists' deaths in London over 15-year period...

A new study into the death of cyclists in London has called for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to be banned from the streets of Britain’s cities after researchers found that although only accounting for 4% of road journeys in the capital, they were involved in more than four in ten of fatal accidents.

The research team, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), studied police road casualty data covering a 15-year period from 1992 to 2006.

They discovered that over that period, 242 cyclists lost their lives in the capital, an average of 16 each year, with HGVs involved in 103 – or 43% – of those accidents.

According to the report, published in this week in the BMC Public Health journal and available to read online here, “Despite evidence for increases in the amount of cycling in London over the last 15 years, the number of cyclists who have been killed has remained constant.

The study adds: “The biggest threat remains freight vehicles, involved in more than 4 out of 10 incidents, with over half turning left at the time of the crash.”

Researchers say that they “did not find any difference in the number of fatalities in central London following the introduction of the congestion charge [in 2003], although the majority of deaths overall occurred in inner London.”

Lead author of the study, Andrei Morgan of the LSHTM’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said: “This unnecessary death toll cannot be ignored any longer. Our research, combined with that carried out previously, reveals that there has been no reduction in cycling fatalities in almost a quarter of a century.

“At a time when we are seeking to encourage more people to cycle, both for health and environmental reasons, this is not good enough. Measures are required to make cycling safer and to reduce the number of people dying so needlessly on our roads,” he continued.

“Heavy goods vehicles are involved in a disproportionate number of cycling fatalities on the capital’s roads. It is for this reason that we are calling for all freight vehicles over 3.5 tonnes to be removed from urban roads, and for safer, alternative solutions to be sought for transporting essential goods,” Mr Morgan added.

Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who is a keen cyclist, added: “If the streets of London were safer for cyclists, many more people would cycle, thereby improving their own health and reducing pressure on the capital's transport system. Not only should we be taking freight vehicles off the roads, but we should also be investing in cycle lanes that are separate from motorised traffic”

Mr Morgan said in conclusion: “Earlier this month, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, proposed a ban on the most heavily polluting HGVs in central London. If it makes sense to do this for environmental reasons, then it makes even more sense to do so in order to prevent people dying and being seriously injured on the capital’s roads.”

Quoted in The Guardian, Roger Geffen, campaigns director at national cyclists’ organisation CTC, said: "This research is absolutely correct, although cycle use in London is up 117% in the past 10 years, and the total number of cycling fatalities has been going down, the number of cyclists killed by trucks has not."

While the data on which the research is based may not be the latest available, and the study itself was submitted 12 months ago, it is published at a time when the relationship between cyclists and lorries is in the headlines.

Earlier this week, tipper lorry driver Dennis Putz was jailed for seven years and received a lifetime ban from driving after killing cyclist Catriona Patel, as reported on

We also reported on efforts by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to have the wording of a Transport for London (TfL) safety poster changed, saying that it reinforced the misconception that lorries have a “blind spot” that prevents drivers from seeing cyclists or pedestrians who are alongside the vehicle.

LCC has also been heavily involved in getting TfL and London boroughs and HGV operators to introduce safety measures such as Fresnel mirrors and cycle awareness training for drivers, and is also running a ‘No More Lethal Lorries’ campaign.

The past few days have also seen the revelation that a cyclist has won £280,000 in compensation after she was seriously injured when she was crushed between two lorries on North London’s Holloway

Doris Barrera-Torrico, a student from Chile who lives in Gipsy Hill, South London, suffered multiple fractures and other injuries to her right leg during the accident which happened while she was riding her bike to a charity she volunteered at.

It has taken the cyclist, now a student at the University of Roehampton, three years to obtain compensation following the accident, which took place in 2007.

Paul Kitson, head of personal injury at Russell Jones and Walker, the firm of solicitors that acted for Ms Barrera-Torrico and which also represents national cyclists’ organisation CTC, including running its accident headline, welcomed the resolution of the case.

“After a long and hard battle the case settled out of court, shortly before trial when blame was apportioned at 70:30 in Doris’ favour. She has a permanent disability which has restricted her mobility and has also prevented her pursuing her sporting activities.

“Before the accident she was an accomplished triathlete. The settlement provides compensation for Doris’s severe injuries, the nine operations she has undergone, as well as compensation for her past and future care requirements and loss of earnings.”

He continued: “Doris’s case highlights the need for cycle awareness on our busy streets. Earlier this year RJW launched the 2 Way Street campaign with the help of Gail Porter to increase motorists’ awareness of cyclists.”

Ms Barrera-Torrico added: “I fully support the 2 Way Street campaign, lorry drivers as well as car drivers need to be aware of cyclists on city roads. Safer, more aware driving will prevent other people suffering serious injuries like I did.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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