I'm with Chris Boardman. Control lorries, save lives. Simple.

The dangers that larger vehicles pose to people on our streets were in the news again, following the terrible spate of deaths in London where 6 cyclists were killed in just 14 days.  Amongst the outrage, anger and finger pointing, the idea of a peak hour lorry "ban" in central London has again emerged as a front-runner for improving safety.


As you'd expect, the Freight Transport Association has come out swinging with a rather baseless article on website Road.cc  In it, they claim a peak time ban would lead to a deluge of lorries just before and after the ban operating times, and that bakeries would run out of food just at the time they need them...

Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of Urban Logistics Policy said:
“The reality is that the city authorities recognise that goods deliveries are essential to the efficient functioning of the city and permit them round-the-clock access.”

What Mr Snelling is choosing to conveniently ignore is that there is already a lorry control scheme in place in London.  (And let's call it Lorry Control, too, and not a ban, as that is what it is.)  The London Lorry Control Scheme restricts the movement of vehicles weighing more than 18 tonnes, aiming to limit noise pollution in residential areas between 21.00 hours and 7AM Monday to Saturday and 13.00 to 7AM at the weekend.  There are exempt roads and, terrifyingly, certain types of construction traffic are also exempt, but the scheme exists none the less.  There is, as Mr Snelling would put it "a deluge of lorries" just after the operating times; namely, lorries come roaring out of their yards on the edge of the city heading for the centre during the weekday AM peak.  The very time that children are walking and riding to school, people are making their way to Tube stations and waiting at bus stops and of course the moment when there are the most cyclists on the road.  Cottenham Cyclists blog has computed the STATS19 collision data from the Government between 2005 and 2012 to see when the most cycling fatalities occur in London, and what kind of vehicle was involved.  It is clear to see that there are a disproportionate number of cyclist's deaths during the AM peak, and a disproportionate number of deaths caused by Heavy Goods Vehicles.

Table: cyclist deaths in London by time and vehicle caused, 2005 - 2012, Cottenham Cyclists blog. 

A recent study shows that HGVs in London make up only 4% of traffic, yet are involved in 43% of London's cycling deaths.  The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 53% of cyclists killed by trucks were run over by lorries turning left over the top of them.  Similar EU studies concluded the same. 
"Trucks with high cabs are designed for motorway driving and should not be allowed inside city limits," said Dr Andrei Morgan, whose department led the research at the LSHTM.

A similar, earlier study published in the British Medical Journal in 1994 found the same shocking problem with lorries and came to the same conclusion;

"Primary prevention of accidents involving cyclists could be achieved by reducing dangers from high risk vehicles"
"In inner London, in relation to their traffic volume, HGVs are estimated to cause 30 times as many cyclists deaths as cars and five times as many as buses. Until the factors leading to this excess risk are understood, a ban on HGVs in urban areas should be considered."

You'll note that these are recommendations coming on the back of important and thorough academic studies, as oppose to loosely formed ideas about the importance to the nation's economy of lorry loads of plastic spoons being driven around London at peak time, as seems to be the position of the FTA.  (In terms of alternatives to trucks, this interesting video from the Port of London authority shows how freight can - and should - be moved more by the river than our roads)


1992 Olympic cycling champion and campaigning supremo Chris Boardman has called on Boris Johnson to honour the verbal promise he made at the launch of his cycling vision to seriously consider a peak time lorry ban.  In an open letter to the Mayor, Boardman wrote;
"When I rode alongside you to help you launch your vision for cycling in March this year, you made a verbal promise to look at the successful experiences of Paris and many other cities in restricting the movements of heavy vehicles during peak hours.
"London has an opportunity to emulate and surpass Paris and to lead the way for the other ambitious cycling cities across Britain.
"Let's not waste this opportunity to do something now."

There were no cycle deaths in the Ville de Paris in 2011, and only 5 in 2012;  an area roughly similar to London's zone 1 and a large chunk of zone 2; roughly a circle from Charing Cross incorporating Holland Park in the west, Tufnell Park in the north, Limehouse in the east and Herne Hill in the south: an area of 105 square kilometres.  In that busy and important area of central Paris, there are very severe restrictions on the movement of lorries; to me the correlation seems obvious.

The London Lorry Control Scheme was brought in 30 years ago over concerns about the noise that large vehicles make.  In 30 years the noise-limiting technology employed on trucks has increased massively, as has the insulating qualities and widespread nature of double glazing in windows.  We do not live in the same city that we did 30 years ago, we should not be relying on the same solutions.

The CTC have written to the DfT expressing their desire to see fewer lorries at the busiest times, and British Cycling have led the calls for an explicit peak time ban.  Writing in The Guardian, the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, says they are considering the idea.

To me, the death toll should be enough to force action.  The solution is clear; amend the already existing lorry control scheme so that it runs from midnight to 9AM instead of 9PM to 7AM, and ensure that killer construction vehicles are not exempt.  

People can still sleep at night, freight operators actually only loose one hour of time on the road, rush hour becomes less congested for people who really have to be at work for 9AM, and we achieve separation of cyclists and the biggest vehicles on the road at the busiest time without having to lay a single kerb stone.  It's cheap, quick and is statistically guaranteed to be effective and save lives.  
What is the Mayor waiting for?

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Andrea said...

In most European countries, bakers bake the bread at the back of the shop, not in an oven in an industrial park and then transported in the morning. As a result, if you walk in an European city in the morning, you smell bread, not diesel.
We have to question why there are so many lorries and vans in London and take measures that put quality of life above financial returns which are skewed by miscalculation of externalities.

dave lambert said...

The main reason for so many lorries is that it's cheaper to carry stuff around than to do stuff in situ. If the true cost of the transportation were passed onto the companies rather than born by the general public, the economics would change.

Thom said...

Has legislation to encourage a transition to bin lorry style cabs, which are designed to ensure the safety of their staff, been looked at in any depth? (either research or comment)

This would massively improve visibility and send a message to construction and haulage that cycling is being promoted in London, without necessarily restricting their activities.

Charlie said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, but it's not at all clear to me that your chart demonstrates that a lorry ban is a good idea since it's not scaled by flow. It's definitely noteworthy that more cyclists get squashed in the morning compared to the evening (when the flows would be expected to be similar), but I'd hardly call it conclusive evidence that it would save lives. Gilligan has said that he wants to investigate whether extending the ban might cause other problems (e.g. intimidate or endanger OAPs, who tend to go out later).

Much as I want quick solutions to cycle safety in London, I'd prefer authorities to experiment with temporary cycle lanes in the way that Jon Irwin suggests, rather than going for a lorry ban right away. Ideally, you'd experiment with lorry bans on some days, and not on others, but I think this would be very difficult to do.

Charlie said...

Hmm, the data from this site gives "morning peak", "evening peak" and "all day". It might be possible to normalise the Cotteham Cyclist figures with this flow data. Not sure, will let you know if I have any luck.

Charlie said...

Must have forgotten to post link. Here it is:


Blaise said...

Really agree with comments that say that we should pass the true cost of transportation on firms. That would already solve part of the problem. We need to have a tax for lorries to operate in London with higher rates for peak hour and higher rates for larger vehicles.

One Girl, Two Wheels said...

Completely agree with Blaise.

There should be more taxes on lorries if they have to travel at peak hours, but ideally they should be kept out of London at peak times. It's ludicrous that we have massive vehicles sharing roads with cyclists and traveling through pedestrian crossings.

The Ranty Highwayman said...

You are aware (probably not) that the London Lorry Control scheme is becoming shaky as many boroughs have pulled out to save their annual subscription payments to London Councils which run it?

It is true that the 18 tonne overnight, Saturday afternoon and Sunday ban is still in force, but it will be rare for the non-paying boroughs to get any enforcement visits. One for a FOI perhaps?