Why Boris Johnson's cycling safety measures are so important

Sideguards
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter

There was amazing news in April's post this morning, that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, effectively banned heavy trucks without side guards or proper mirrors from entering the city. It's important for a number of reasons.

Nine of the fourteen cyclists killed in London last year were done in by HGVs (heavy goods vehicles). Six of those were construction dumpster trucks. According to the mayor,"There is a real problem with lorries. They make up about 4 per cent of vehicles in London and cause about 53 per cent of cycle accidents."

So Boris got together with 33 boroughs and passed the law that tickets every truck without proper mirrors or side guards a fine of £130 (US$ 211). He just did it, explaining how:

In my cycle vision I said no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with fitted with equipment to protect the cyclist. Neither I nor the boroughs have the power to ban lorries without safety equipment on our own. It is for that reason that I proposed to use the power I do have to levy a hefty charge on lorries without such equipment. But I’m pleased to say we can combine our powers to propose a simple and comprehensive ban.

© Times of London

This isn't small stuff.

The proposed ban will require every vehicle in London over 3.5 tonnes – a disproportionate cause of cyclist and pedestrian deaths - to be fitted with sideguards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels. It will also require them to be fitted with mirrors giving the driver a better view of cyclists and pedestrians around their vehicles. It will be enforced by CCTV cameras and on-street checks, subject to approval by the Department for Transport.

Cycling activists are ecstatic. Guardian cycling columnist Peter Walker explains why this is so important:

Side guards and better mirrors undoubtedly help prevent such collisions [right hooks], with one study reportedly showing they could prevent more than half of all cyclist deaths. Until now, construction trucks in London have been exempt from having to fit side guards, which push a cyclist away from the vehicle if it turns across them, rather than letting them fall between the front and rear wheels. The exemption has been on the basis that the lorries need high ground clearance to negotiate bumpy construction sites.

Not anymore. 30,000 truck owners are going to have to pay about a thousand bucks to equip their trucks if they want to work in London. None of this "it's bad for business" stuff, it's about saving lives.

Global News/Screen capture

Meanwhile, back in Canada,

The Federal Ministry of Transport says "side guards would result in decreased competitiveness for Canadian trucking companies" and wouldn't make them mandatory. Then they pass the buck and say it is a provincial responsibility. Olivia Chow continues with her petition (sign here) but nothing. ever. happens.

Perhaps it's time for Rob Ford to just pass a law for Toronto like Boris did.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | London

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