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"In her name hundreds of lives will be saved": Cyclist safety cited as campaigner celebrates law change on lorry design

Kate Cairns' sister was killed in a collision involving an HGV being driven in London in 2009...

A campaigner has spoken of her pride that a new road safety law is set to be introduced in 29 countries, including the United Kingdom, which will see heavy-goods vehicles designed with larger windows to reduce the size of blind spots and improve visibility of vulnerable road users such as cyclists.

Kate Cairns told ITV of her campaigning journey, which began in 2009 when her sister Eilidh was killed while cycling to work in London after being hit by the driver of an HGV. The incident, reported on road.cc at the time, happened on 5 February as the TV producer cycled to work.

A coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, the driver Joao Lopes pleading guilty to a charge of driving with defective vision and receiving three penalty points and a £200 fine. Incidentally, he was jailed in 2012 after causing the death of a 97-year-old pedestrian while behind the wheel of another HGV.

> Cycling UK criticises imminent Department for Transport plan for "longer and more hazardous lorries" on Britain's roads

Since the fatal collision 14 years ago, Eilidh's family has been urging the government to take action to improve safety for cyclists around large vehicles through their See Me Save Me campaign.

Now, with the law change requiring new HGV designs to meet Direct Vision Standard (DVS) from 2026 and all HGVs from 2029 set to be implemented, Eilidh's sister Kate says she is "proud to think that in her name hundreds, if not thousands, of lives will be saved".

The rule change will see lorry cabs designed with larger windows, improving visibility of vulnerable road users and reducing blind spots.

"It's a huge achievement done in Eilidh's name because she was such an amazing person," Kate continued. "I had such love for her. It was so unacceptable and tragic that the world lose a person like her who had so much to give.

"That's what drove my tenacity to continue. It's because of what a wonderful person Eilidh was. I am proud to think that in her name hundreds, if not thousands, of lives will be saved with this new regulation."

Working as a civil engineer, Kate reported being "astounded" by the number of deaths caused by construction industry vehicles being driven on UK roads.

"On-site we have huge safety regulations and measures," she said. "Beyond the site boundary, we are grossly disproportionate in killing cyclists and pedestrians so I felt I was well-placed as a professional to be able to create change within my industry. The main issue being — one of the main issues being — the huge blind spots around vehicles.

"This has affected my professional life as well as my personal life. I have campaigned for over a decade but now I am actually a professional speaker, a trainer and advisor in construction logistics and managing out this risk because these are not accidents. They are crashes. They are avoidable and they are preventable. There are many many ways we can avoid these collisions.

"People who come on my training say their eyes are opened; they feel empowered; they feel educated; they know how to implement changes. This is part of my profession now."

In 2019, we reported the shocking news that a woman speaking out against a cycleway on the route where Eilidh was killed was falsely claiming to be the cyclist's aunt.

Notting Hill Gate with Eilidh Cairns' ghost bike on the central reservation (via Google Street View).PNG

[Notting Hill Gate with Eilidh Cairns' ghost bike on the central reservation]

At the time, Kate said the woman had told a meeting at Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall that Eilidh would have opposed the scheme, but that no such relative exists.

As per the Department for Transport's casualty statistics for 2021, the most recent year available, 40 per cent (543) of the 1,353 reported cyclist casualties involving a collision with an HGV being driven on Britain's roads resulted in the rider being killed or seriously injured.

Six per cent of reported collisions involving a cyclist and the driver of a heavy goods vehicle resulted in a fatality, far higher than the 0.4 per cent of collisions involving the driver of a car.

 
 

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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15 comments

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the little onion | 9 months ago
4 likes

I'm not knocking this development - well done to Ms Cairns, and undoubtedly this is a positive outcome that will make the roads safer. 

 

However, it is frankly tinkering around the edges. Two major changes would be:

- some proper investigation and enforcement against the unacceptable fringes of the haulage industry, especially tipper trucks. There is a LOT of frankly illegal and dodgy practices, unlicensed drivers, long shifts, overweight loads and the lot.

-infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Now that Rishi Sunak has declared the end of the 'war on motorists', we can expect fewer 20mph zones, LTNs, protected cycle ways, and even bus-only lanes. The insanity of this, the cost in pollution and the lives of pedestrians and cyclists, is frankly immoral.

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Oldfatgit | 9 months ago
1 like

When I was an agency driver back in the 90s, I regularly drove Volo FL6 and FL7 as both rigids and artics.

The FL6 and the FL7 were Volvo's urban trucks ... low, rectangular cabs with extended drop kerbside windows in the passenger door.
The FL6 kerbside window went from the bottom of the normal window to level with the top of the wheel arch, and was about 150-200mm wide ... plenty wide enough to be able to see a cyclists or a pedestrians head if they were level with the front of the truck.

I used to do a lot of flat bed work - which meant roping and sheeting, ratchet straps, lever tensioners and ratchet load binders for chains.

Almost every single passenger footwell had a box, and this box would have all the load restraint stuff that you wouldn't leave on the loadbed as it's expensive, doesn't like getting wet or difficult to use when wet.

This box would be some size ... and almost always block the kerbside window.
Cabs were always supposed to be for people, however, not all haulage companies viewed their drivers with the same worth. You used to be able to spot a reasonably well thought of driver force if the flatbeds had GRP kit boxes.

The other problem with the kerbside window was curtains. They were difficult to block light out or provide privacy. Not too much of an issue in a daycab, but when you are sleeping in it 4 to 7 nights a week, it'd bloody important. So drivers would cover the kerbside in cardboard, blocking the window totally.

Lower cabs with increased window and visibility is great ... but for daycabs. For sleeper cabs, its a very fine line between providing sufficient visibility during the day, and privacy during the night so the driver can get their rest.

When then takes us back to changing the distribution model to freight centres on the outskirts of cities and handling final phase delivery with daycabs or alternative vehicles.

Don't forget ... a single 45ft trailer will carry the same physical size load as 4 Jumbo and 1 short wheel base Transit van (22 standard pallets), however the Transit may only have a max load of 1.1 tonne .. so you'll need 19 Transits to empty 1 x 20 tonne truck.

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bikes replied to Oldfatgit | 9 months ago
0 likes

What makes the kerbside window difficult to block compared to all the other windows?

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brooksby | 9 months ago
1 like

Does this mean only that new HGV will have to have these larger windows etc?  I wonder how long it will take for all HGV on the roads to be this new safer design?

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
2 likes

Thank you Kate, and surely some sort of award is deserved?

I have to be concerned that a basic safety measure like this takes over a decade to be achieved.  What on earth takes so long when lives are being lost regularly?

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I wonder if this will post at the third time lucky try?

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Robert Hardy replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
4 likes

An improvement reducing the 'in my blind spot excuse, but it doesn't address the problem of drivers just not looking and being given relatively trivial punishments such as in the Cambridge fatal case a couple of years ago case where the tanker driver had hung his jacket over the nearside warning camera screen.

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
1 like

Thank you Kate, and surely some sort of award is deserved?

I have to be concerned that a basic safety measure like this takes over a decade to be achieved.  What on earth takes so long when lives are being lost regularly?

Save............Please wait

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I wonder if this will post at the third time lucky try?

No.  Let's try four.

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
0 likes

Thank you Kate.  Surely some sort of award is deserved?

I can't help but be concerned that in a matter of road safety, where people are being killed regularly, it takes so much effort and time to achieve change.  Should things like this really take decades?

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Sriracha replied to eburtthebike | 9 months ago
3 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

Thank you Kate.  Surely some sort of award is deserved?

I can't help but be concerned that in a matter of road safety, where people are being killed regularly, it takes so much effort and time to achieve change.  Should things like this really take decades?

But they already had a far more convenient solution - the stickers on HGVs basically telling vulnerable road users to watch out because the driver can't see front, back, left or right. Who'd have thought fixing it so they could see where they were going was actually necessary once they had the stickers to protect people?

Avatar
eburtthebike | 9 months ago
2 likes

Thank you Kate.  Surely some sort of award is deserved?

I can't help but be concerned that in a matter of road safety, where people are being killed regularly, it takes so much effort and time to achieve change.  Should things like this really take decades?

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SimoninSpalding | 9 months ago
8 likes

Whilst this is good news, and I don't wish to underestimate the value of the work done by Kate, the fact that the driver involved killed another vulnerable road user 3 years later points to driver behaviour also being a key issue.

I think there are about 270,000 HGV drivers in the UK, so if it was purely design issues that was causing deaths, we would be seeing 90,000 deaths a year.

Better visibility will never be a bad thing, but if the driver doesn't look people will still die. I still clearly remember a few years back seeing a low entry tipper (Mercedes Econic) on Kingsway in London heading towards the infamous Holborn Gyratory, driver with his mobile to his ear and thinking proper enforcement with real penalties strictly applied is the only way our raods are going to get safer.

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billymansell | 9 months ago
3 likes

There are better solutions are already out there* for up to18 tonne lorries that go much further on pedestrian/cyclist safety then these plans will ever go.

Have a look at VoltaTrucks who've placed the driver centrally with a  220° view and at head height to pedestrians and cyclists.

https://voltatrucks.com/

 

*Volta Trucks was built from scratch and has been beset by delays so as of yet no trucks are in operation as far as I know.

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billymansell | 9 months ago
0 likes

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billymansell | 9 months ago
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HoldingOn | 9 months ago
11 likes

Kate Cairns - well done and thank you.

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