The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced plans which could see trucks entering the capital being mandatorily fitted with devices to protect cyclists, restricted to operating at specific times and areas, and driven only by those trained in cycle awareness.
The proposals, which form part of a £913 million plan to boost cycling in the city, are contained in a recently-published document, The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London – An Olympic Legacy for all Londoners.
In it Johnson states: “The main cross-London physical legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games will be a proper network of cycle routes throughout the city, a substantial increase in cycling, and all the benefits – fitness, enjoyment and easy travel for millions, cleaner air and less traffic for all – that will follow.”
Transport for London (TfL), the body which implements and manages the Mayor’s transport strategy, will aim to create two networks of cycling routes – high-capacity Superhighways for fast commuters (one of which is described as a “Crossrail for the bike”), and more leisurely Quietways (“making London cycling calmer, less Darwinian”).
In the process, TfL proposes to create what would in effect be a new and unique set of Construction and Use Regulations for trucks used in the capital.
“No lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists, and driven by someone fully trained in cycle awareness,” the document states.
While many aspects of transport policy in Greater London are devolved to the Mayor and TfL, their powers relate mainly to public transport such as buses, taxis and the London Underground.
In most respects – the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and congestion charge being notable exceptions – they do not have carte blanche to legislate for truck operators, which largely remains the preserve of Westminster and Brussels. However, there is nothing to stop the Mayor asking for extended powers, or petitioning central government to change laws on his behalf.
As such, the Vision document announces the Mayor’s intention to lobby the Department for Transport, UK government and European institutions for changes in the law in several areas: namely, to ensure that guidance exempting vehicles from fitting sideguards, mirrors and other safety devices is more stringent; that all commercial vehicles used in urban areas are designed to give the driver maximum visibility all around the vehicle; and that safety devices designed to reduce collisions with cyclists, such as side cameras and proximity sensors, “are fitted to all new vehicles and retrofitted wherever practical.”
The document also advocates changes to driving tests and Driver CPC.
“We want the government to be more specific on the content of driving tests for all drivers to maximise cycle awareness training,” it says.
“They should also ensure Driver Certificate of Professional Competence training includes a mandatory element addressing cycle safety. Currently there are no definitions as to content of training and our view is very clear: training must include much greater awareness of cyclists and other vulnerable road users as a basic part of the DCPC for any driver in urban areas. The Safe Urban Driving training developed by TfL, with on-bike training for drivers, is a practical example of what good training can look like.”
Meanwhile, the document additionally states that TfL will “work out how we can get HGVs out of traffic at the busiest times of day, when they are most likely to come into conflict with cyclists,” drawing on the policies of cities such as Paris and Dublin, where trucks over a certain size are restricted from certain areas or at particular times.
On top of the additional cost of safety equipment and driver training that fleet operators could incur should the Mayor’s vision be realised, attempts to restrict trucks from accessing London during peak times would be likely to cause some concern for fleets – particularly given the existing constraints imposed by drivers’ hours rules and the difficulty for drivers from ‘out of town’ of taking a rest or break in the capital.
Furthermore, trucks are already restricted from entering London at night, and added limitations would narrow the window during which the capital could be supplied.
Ian Wainwright, TfL’s head of freight and fleet, told Transport Operator: “There are over 280,000 freight journeys carried out in London each day. Transport for London aims to ensure the correct vehicle is used in London at the right time of day and that drivers are trained in safer urban driving.
“Reducing the number of freight vehicles travelling during peak periods by encouraging more out-of-hours deliveries is one option that TfL is looking at with industry representatives as part of a range of activity to reduce the impact of freight on London’s road network.”
Christopher Snelling, head of urban logistics and regional policy at the Freight Transport Association, said: “FTA welcomes the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London – as if it gets motorists who currently drive in London to switch to bikes that would be good news for everyone, but it must be remembered that some users, including freight, have no choice but to use the roads, so enough space must be left so that traffic can still flow, and HGVs can still use the roads safely.
“We were pleased to see that the report reflects the successful work of TfL with the haulage industry and that there are plans to continue the work in encouraging out-of-hours deliveries, as FTA sees this as a key way to improve the use of London’s roads for all types of traffic.“
In order to implement his plans in full, Johnson will need not only to persuade UK and European government of the merits of tighter regulation for trucks and their drivers, but also London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation – which between them still own the lion’s share of the capital’s road network – as regards the new cycle routes.
Nonetheless, London is regarded by many in the corridors of Whitehall and in local authorities up and down the country as a pioneer in transport policy. Given the keenness of other UK cities to replicate initiatives such as the LEZ, and European policymakers’ emphasis on road safety, should the Mayor’s plans come to fruition it is not unthinkable that they could be replicated on a far wider scale.