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Eilidh Cairns campaigners still waiting for European Commission report on safety of cyclists around HGVs

Ten months after MEPs in Strasbourg vote to adopt written resolution, there's still no report from Brussels...

The family of Eilidh Cairns, killed by a lorry in London’s Notting Hill in 2009, have urged the European Commission to speed up a report into the safety of cyclists around lorries to help prevent other bike riders throughout Europe suffering death or serious injury.

The 30-year-old’s family, supported by MEP Fiona Hall which represents the North East constituency which includes Eilidh’s home village of Ellingham, near Alnwick, where her mother still lives, launched a campaign called See Me, Save Me that called for lorries across Europe to be equipped with cameras and sensors to help make drivers aware of cyclists in their vehicles’ blind spots.

The campaign was supported by the charities Sustrans and Brake, as well as celebrities including Olympic individual pursuit champion Rebecca Romero and former Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher.

Last March, more than half of the MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg supporting a written declaration on the issue that had been tabled by Ms Hall.

That meant that the European Commission was obliged to respond to the declaration and make recommendations to the European Parliament and subsequently to the Council of Ministers.

According to a spokesman for Ms Hall at the time, it is “very rare” for written declarations to gain sufficient support to move on to that stage.

However, nearly a year on, there is still no sign of the European Commission’s report on the issues involved, with the anticipated publication date pushed back several times.

The Journal reports that European Commission vice president Siim Kallas has written to Ms Hall to tell her that the report “will only be finalised in the coming days” and as a result it will “be delayed by a few months”.

Mrs Hall told The Journal: “The delay is very disappointing. We had initially hoped for a response after the summer break, and that was pushed back to Christmas time.

“Now we will have to wait until the spring at least. While I appreciate the commission’s desire to evaluate all the available data, I would have hoped for them to have done so by now.

“The sooner we can get cameras and sensors in HGVs, the sooner we can cut the number of deaths and injuries they cause.”

Eilidh’s sister Kate, who along with her mother Heather travelled to Strasbourg to lobby MEPs ahead of the vote on the written declaration, added: “We went there in February so it is going to be a year.

“The longer they do nothing, the more people die.

“It is very disappointing that the commission have not come back with anything yet.”

In November, a High Court judge rejected the Cairns family’s call for a fresh inquest into Eilidh’s death, saying that he was "a long way from being satisfied" that a different verdict to accidental death would be returned.

That decision came just a fortnight after the magazine Private Eye had revealed that the driver involved in Eilidh’s death, Joao Lopes, had been behind the wheel of a lorry that killed 97-year-old pedestrian Nora Gutmann on London’s Marylebone Road in June last year.


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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Paul M | 11 years ago

You are quite right that stricter enforcement is required and that Thames Materials and Eddie Stobart, to name but two at opposite ends of the spectrum, cannot be compared in this way, however, human behaviour only responds to influence to a limited extent - why otherwise would the USA have a higher murder rate than us despite capital punishment?

What we really need is concrete (literally) physical measures, road engineering, which reduces or removes the risk of an HGV coming into contact twith a cyclist wherever possible - starting with junctions, bit not ending there.

A V Lowe | 11 years ago

Equally, Old Ridgeback, a review of the fatal and life changing injuries inflicted on cyclists by HGV's in London seems to point to a disportionate involvement of construction site vehicles (the ones which are exempt from the requirement to fit lifeguards down the sides) and a significant number involve drivers who have significantly failed to drive (and equally operators who acquiesce to this) with any consideration of their duty of care to other road users. Check back on Eilidh, Katriona and others and read of defective eyesight, unfit through drink, using a mobile phone etc.

I was at the scene of one crash shortly after the incident, the cyclist in the nearside lane had been driven through by the truck turning left across from the offside lane to illegally use a narrow side street (from which HGV through traffic was banned) as a short cut. That truck (operated by a small company in livery for a major construction company) had killed another female cyclist and put a third in a wheelchair twice apparently with the same driver.

It is thus not an unreasonable hypothesis that nailing the very small number of drivers who should never be controlling machines with such potential to kill and removing them from the roads will have a far greater impact than any fiddling piece of technology, and as many in safety-critical industries will tell you, it is frequently a greater hazard to rely on the technology, which may fail or false-read. The human ability to verify false readings and equipment failure needs to remain engaged.

OldRidgeback | 11 years ago

It's interesting really. The European Commission is driving changes to all powered two wheelers in Europe on the grounds that this will increase safety, despite a raft of evidence that that the safety benefits will be so miniscule as to be microscopic. And at the same time when there's an acknowledged safety risk to vulnerable road users such as this posed by HGVs, the European Commission drags its feet.

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