Suffolk cyclists and pedestrians will be delighted to hear that new regulations on lorry design were adopted by the European Parliament on Tuesday with a huge majority.
Inadequate HGV design has been implicated as a significant factor in the deaths and injuries of pedestrians and cyclists. Lorries are involved in almost one in five cycle fatalities in Britain.
Under changes pushed by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed. Crucially they will have larger windows to the front and side – which will increase the driver’s field of vision and reduce blind spots. New vehicles would also have a crumple zone and a rounder front, with the intention of reducing the severity of injuries to vulnerable road users – in a collision the design would allow a cyclist or pedestrian to be deflected away from the lorry rather than being dragged beneath it.It is thought the proposal could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.
Although the vote was 606 – 54, embarrassingly, more MEPs from the UK than any other country voted against adopting these new rules and half of the 12 were from UKIP , including UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Another vote against was from the BNP’s Nick Griffin.
“This vote show how divorced UKIP MEPs are from any activity except that of claiming expenses, ” says LibDem Transport spokesman Caroline Page.
“I have twice been very nearly killed by a lorry when cycling. In both cases, poor visibility from the cab was the key issue. I am sure that lorry drivers will welcome these proposals as fervently as cyclists and pedestrians.
Lorry drivers don’t want to become killers, any more than cyclists want to be killed. How hard is that for UKIP to understand?”
Suffolk’s Annual Public Health report 2013 – Moving forward? concerns itself with travel and health and recommends a move to ‘active travel’ – and a wholesale transfer of many journeys or parts of journeys to the bicycle or foot.
In supporting the report, Lib Dem leader Cllr David Wood urged the administration to look again at its public transport policy. “We need to see see buses in rural areas in the evening on Sundays and Public Holidays once more, enabling rural Suffolk to be open again for business and not totally reliant on the car,” he said.
He pointed out that vast areas of Suffolk’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty prime land for cycling an wakling, cannot be accessed by any other means than car – a frankly ludicrous anomaly!
Lib Dem spokesman for Transport, Cllr Caroline Page, is a committed cyclist, pedestrian and bus user. She was also enthusiastic about this report, but has reservations about its chance of implementation.
“Sadly there seem to be many councillors who are converted to active travel in theory but not at all in practice. At the full council debate on the subject last Thursday, I heard a stream of excuses, exculpations and explanations from individuals who are compensated by the Council Tax payer at 44p per mile to remain in their cars at no cost to themselves – and so don’t have to make the same choices as others they represent.
While there remains such a clear gap between what councillors think is a good idea for others and what they are prepared to do themselves, we are not going to progress as far or fast as we would like,” she says.
On a happier note, it looks as if the Suffolk train services are becoming more proactive on the subject of cycles. After introducing many more cycle parking spaces and introducing ‘Boris bikes’ on its routes, Greater Anglia has now formally launched its new cycle strategy with a consultation. You can find further details and a link on Caroline Page’s blog