Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Allister Carey

Background

On behalf of my family in Guernsey I have become involved with the issue of cycle safety because our younger daughter Ellie, aged 22, was killed by a left turning HGV whilst cycling to lectures at London Met University on 2 December 2011. The crash took place at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Abbey Street. The police investigation into this fatality continues. As so many people in a similar situation have written in the past, it is impossible to describe adequately the devastation and grief that is felt not just by her family but also by all of her friends not just in Guernsey but elsewhere.

Ellie was studying International Development and her burning desire was to work for charitable and aid organisations in the developing world and to do her bit to help the disadvantaged and under privileged. She had already worked as a volunteer at an aids orphanage in Southern Africa, Her death means that all her promise and potential will, so sadly, be unfulfilled.

Observations

Since December I have been made aware of the whole issue of cycle safety/danger, of the attitude of authority and the many short comings, in my opinion, in the way that death and injury not just in the case of cyclists but also pedestrians is regarded and dealt with.

In terms of cycle safety the statistics demonstrate that collisions with HGVs are the single biggest cause of death and injury to cyclists (55% in London) and that of these deaths a high proportion involve a left turning vehicle. In other words the cyclist is caught in the vehicle blind spot and is largely invisible to the HGV driver. There have been many attempts over the last few years to alleviate this problem in the form of extra mirrors, Fresnel lenses and so on, but it must be remembered a driver has only one set of eyes and is arguably on visual overload. There has also been a concerted effort to improve driver training and also to educate the cyclist. All of this is positive but is not enough. The current policy, in my opinion, of expecting cyclists to share the road with HGVs, especially at junctions, is a toxic mix and the evidence supports my view. My belief is that the use of sensor and camera technology will be a major factor in reducing the risk posed by the blind spot. Procurement policy, as is currently the case with Crossrail, is welcome but I would argue that if we are seriously committed towards reducing the risk of blind spot incidents, the use of sensor and camera technology by HGVs should be mandatory.

The recent campaign by The Times and indeed those of other organisations has brought the issue of cycle safety much more into focus and this is to be welcomed. Unfortunately and in terms of casualties there seems to be an acceptance within not just within government but more widely that people get killed and injured as a result of collisions and there is not much that can be done to alter the fact. It must be understood that there are reasons why these tragedies take place and that they are not inevitable. Indeed, and I stress, many are avoidable. This is in sharp contrast to the reaction to other incidents such as train or plane crashes and other similar disasters. These, quite rightly, attract enormous public interest and are the subject of detailed analysis and action to prevent repetition. This sadly is not the case for cyclists and indeed pedestrians. For the public to have confidence and to help increase the number of cyclists on the roads, we need to see that the threat to cyclists is being taken seriously. What we have experienced so far is much hand wringing, admissions that much more should be done and a multitude of reviews and initiatives. What we haven’t seen and what is required is firm and decisive action.

Recommendations

In the short term I would urge government at a national and local level through its procurement policy to require HGVs to be fitted with sensor and camera technology. In the longer term this requirement should be mandatory. The effect would surely be to reduce the number of killed and seriously injured cyclists and pedestrians. In addition such a move would be welcomed by the drivers of HGVs for whom the trauma of being involved in a collision where an individual is killed or injured must be very damaging. Thirdly the savings to the economy at large would be significant.

There needs to be a fundamental change in the general attitude towards cycle injuries. A change from the belief that these are just accidents over which we have little control or influence, I don’t for a moment regard what caused the death of my daughter as an accident. Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, it was a crash that occurred for a reason and one that was unnecessary and avoidable.

The Coalition Government has an objective of getting more people cycling, more safely, and more often and I support that principle whole heartedly. The benefits in terms of improved health and long term cost savings for the NHS not to mention the environmental impact are obvious. We all know it makes sense. It is time to urge the government to take the required action to enable their objective to be achieved.

March 2012

Prepared 18th July 2012