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CTC & Sustrans join coalition to fight introduction of longer lorries on UK roads

Longer lorries pose danger to cyclists and won't cut carbon emissions either say opponents...

The CTC and Sustrans have combined with a number of environmental and safety organisations to fight Government proposals to allow longer lorries on to Britain's roads as a means of cutting congestion.

The move has drawn wide ranging criticism from a variety of campaigning groups who yesterday combined to back the findings of an independent review carried out by the Metropolitan Transport Research for Freight on Rail into the effect of Government Proposals for Longer Semi-Trailers. In a joint statement the the Campaign for Better Transport, Freight on Rail, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, CTC, Sustrans, Friends of the Earth and RoadPeace warned that the move to allow lorry lengths to increase by 2.05m to 18.55m would lead to six extra deaths on UK roads every year with the greatest number likely to be made up by cyclists for whom large lorries pose a disproportionate danger.

CTC’s Campaigns Director, Roger Geffen, said: “Lorries present a serious risk to cyclists – one in five of the deaths of cyclists involve lorries. Allowing even longer lorries onto our roads will mean larger ‘blind spots’, more tail swing and a greater risk of hitting other road users. Instead of increasing the danger from lorries, the Government should be working to reduce the threat that already exists.”

Left turning lorries are a particular threat to cyclists says the CTC whose anaylysis of police recordds shows that while lorries turning left account for 3 per cent of overall road fatalities they account for 30 per cent of cycling fatalities. The problem of cyclists being killed or seriously injured when trapped in the blind spots of left turning lorries is particularly acute in London where such incidents have accounted for a large number of cycling fatalities in recent years particularly of women riders - leading to the London Cycling Campaign to mount its No More Lethal Lorries campaign. Campaigners argue that longer lorries are simply too big to interact safely with other road users - particularly vulnverable road users, in an urban environment or small towns and villages.

The Government says longer trailers would have zero impact on traffic casualties, but this doesn't take account of the increased blind spot and tail swing created by longer lorries – they say a truer figure is closer to 6 extra deaths a year. The report also refutes the Government's assertion that longer trailers would lead to fewer lorry trips, if previous changes are anything to go the number of lorry trips will not fall there will simply be more lorries on the roads carrying partial loads.

The report also questions the economic benefits of the change contradicting the Government view that longer lorries would be niche vehicles – and citing the Government's own statistics the report authors say the new size would quickly become the standards thereby forcing small and medium sized hauliers out of business and costing them up to £1.8bn over five years. It would also undermine Government efforts to get more road freight on to rail and off the road.

Campaign for Better Transport's chief executive, Stephen Joseph, said: "The Government’s research is misleading and inaccurate. All the evidence points to longer lorries being more dangerous, having a negative impact on road congestion and the environment while providing very little economic benefits - in fact they could be the final nail in the coffin for smaller hauliers. The Government needs to re-examine its own figures as a matter of urgency."

Longer lorries if carrying heavier loads are also likely to have a detrimental effect on the roads themselves. Heavy lorries are already blamed for helping to break up road surfaces damaged by poor weather creating potholes and cracks and the breakdown of the edges of rural roads. Such damage to the roads particularly affects cyclists because it occurs precisely on the part of the carriageway they ride on – potholes and defective road surfaces have also been to blame for a large number of cyclists being injured this year. In March last year 29-year-old Captain Jonathan Allen was killed by a lorry when he swerved to avoid a pothole on the A338 in Wiltshire – a pothole created by a combination of poor weather and heavy traffic.

Review of Government Proposals for Longer Semi-Trailers (LSTs) - Metropolitan Transport Research Unit's founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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Littlesox | 11 years ago

Great - heavier, faster and now even longer.

Coming to an A road near you soon.

The new improved killer jugonaut.

Cheers DFT - another winner.

timlennon | 13 years ago

This is what I told the consultation - excuse the wordiness...

Dear Ms. Queen,

Thank you for your reply, and the details therein.

I still find myself in very definite opposition to the proposals to allow longer HGVs, on the following grounds:

1. Cyclists and pedestrians are at serious risk from HGVs, and this will only increase with larger vehicles. While HGVs may do many miles on motorways or A roads, they also enter built up areas Longer vehicles - especially in our larger cities - must inherently cause more casualties because of the difficulties of cyclists filtering down the extra length, drivers being less aware of the complete circumference of their vehicle, and the inherent presumption of much road design about size of vehicles. (In general, I strongly believe that longer vehicles will have a significant negative impact on injury and death statistics, despite what the study claims.)

2. To suggest that there will be fewer vehicles on the road ignores over fifty years of transport statistics, in which the number of trucks has grown and grown. If transport companies can transport more, more cheaply, that's exactly what they'll do: this new size will simply replace the old size, resulting in more road space taken up by his huge vehicles. (it's essentially a perfect example of Jevon's Paradox -

3. The inherent presumption in the proposal is that it is sustainable and advisable to carry on transporting huge volumes of goods in massive trucks up and down our country. In fact, if the Government is to have any hope of reaching emissions and carbon targets, both in London and across the country, we need to find a better way to move these goods. (And that's just considering the basic transportation of goods: if, as has been suggested, all hauliers end up with the new trucks, there's a massive emissions impact from all the newly manufactured trailers, and the retired older ones.)


Tim Lennon.

alotronic | 13 years ago

Tail swing is a real issue - anyone who 'shared' the road with a bendy bus in London will know they can catch you out the first time you see them. I don't know the maths but the back end of those came thundering around even when the bus itself wasn't turning any faster than an ordinary bus.

Don't know the theory but would longer trailers also cause more turbulence?

While us experienced riders could probably cope with this what worries me is the new cyclists and the families - it's just another thing that will put people off.

The only people the idea seems friendly to is, shock horror, big business.


Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

Actually Stato, that 'heavier' is a mistake - I added that in rather than the organisations campaigning against the change - I simply meant to say 'heavy' anyway think you are being unfair to the CTC & Sustrans here, it is not only cycling organisations who are against the change as the piece made clear it is opposed by the a wide array of both transport and environmental groups - if the findings of their report are correct though it is cyclists who will pay with their lives for the change. Six of them every year, okay call it five and some poor sod standing at a traffic island probably. I think that is worth 'jumping up and down about' pretty much what the CTC is for in fact.

The basic fact is that our roads particularly in towns and cities simply aren't equipped to cope with really large trucks. Every day on my commute I have lorries who use Bath as a short cut to avoid the M4/M5 junction trying to squeeze past me at speed on a bit of uphill road that the council have thoughtfully 'calmed' by adding some pinch points.

As to your point re the blind spot - well, I'm no expert but I have a limited amount of experience of driving lorries and a large amount of experience of sitting in their cabs the point here is that the blindspot near the cab will surely get bigger cos on a longer lorry your main mirror (if you have two) will have to be turned out further to see the tail. That blind spot on the inside is where cyclists die.

As for tail swing - something that is easy to underestimate, as you say that isn't going to affect someone on the left (unless you are on the outside of the lorry while it is turning) it may well though affect someone in the other lane on tight turns, and I could well see a few traffic islands taking a battering too.

giff77 | 13 years ago

As long as they are kept to Motorways and dual carriageways and that some kind of hub system is developed that the longer vehicles deliver to. Personally I do not relish the thought of an even longer vehicle attempting to pass me on a B road or even an unclassified road. Have had this experience before with an artic approaching me and my having to unclip and climb into a hedge!!

STATO | 13 years ago

Longer, heavier lorries are also likely to have a detrimental effect on the roads themselves.

Except they wont be heavier will they, the weight limit isnt changing, just length.

Also, blind spots on Left turing lorries? the blind spot is alongside the cab, driver can see the back of the trailer perfectly well when turing left. The tail swing issue is a problem, but mainly for moron drivers who you regularly see trying to squeeze inside or outside of turning lorries then acting all suprised when the obvious happens.

There are reasons not to extend lorries, but doing the usual cycling organisation response of jumping up and down and screaming bloody murder is not helpfull. Its akin to 'wont someone please think if the children'.

mad_scot_rider | 13 years ago

All of the above pressure being brought to bear on the assumption that our beloved government can be made to listen to reason ...

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