In his contribution, my noble friend Lord Jordan referred to a new collision avoidance system being developed. There was an indication that an analysis of 19 fatal accidents involving a cyclist and a left-turning heavy goods vehicle concluded that 15 of those would have been completely avoided, and three would have been less severe, with this new collision avoidance system. In view of those figures, it would be helpful if the Minister could say what the Government know about this new system and what role they are playing in encouraging its development.

We need to further improve cycling safety if we are to encourage more people to make the switch and increase the number of journeys made by bike in the UK from its present figure of just 2%. The recent RoSPA-commissioned poll indicated that one-third of people think that cycling safety is one of the biggest transport issues we face, with more than 100 cyclists a year being killed.

When in government, we made real progress on cycling, with cycle use growing by 20% and casualty figures falling significantly. These increases in cycling numbers and casualty reductions did not happen by chance but through decisions we made, with ambitious road safety targets, increased use of speed cameras, road safety awareness campaigns, traffic calming measures and new home zones, which have introduced 20 mph limits in residential areas. What we have seen since then, from 2010 to 2014, is half of all local authorities feeling that they have had no alternative but to reduce

5 Mar 2015 : Column 429

their investment in cycling, and no long-term certainty to enable local authorities to plan ahead and invest in the infrastructure they need, which is so important for increasing cycling usage and improving cycling safety.

This situation was highlighted by the fact that the Government’s Cycling Delivery Plan, published recently but more than a year late, contains no specific targets on increasing the percentage of journeys undertaken by bike from the current level of 2%, and no specific long-term funding targets for cycling. The Government’s strategic framework for road safety, published in May 2011, contained no specific goals for making cycling safer, and targets to cut deaths and serious injuries on roads have been axed, with heavy goods vehicle speed limits on single-carriageway roads being increased from 40 mph to 50 mph on a highly questionable evidence base. Cuts to front-line policing, which the Government said would not happen, have made, as my noble friend Lord Berkeley, said, enforcement of road traffic offences more difficult, with some 23% fewer traffic police patrolling the roads, and a very much higher figure in, for example, Essex, where there has been a reduction in traffic police from 257 in 2010 to 76 in 2014.

Cycling safety clearly remains an issue of concern, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has drawn our attention in this debate to what is far from the only cause of concern affecting cycling safety but certainly the one that receives the most publicity. That is no doubt in part because of the number of collisions between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles occurring in London, on the doorstep of the national media and Parliament, and because, in proportionate terms, such collisions result in more fatalities and serious injuries than any other single form of collision or incident involving cyclists.

I hope that, in his response, the Minister will include firm assurances and evidence that the Government are actively engaged in ensuring that HGV operators will have vehicle safety technology that is effective and fit for purpose, and will enable us to reduce still further the number of fatalities and serious injuries involving cyclists and heavy goods vehicles.

5.33 pm

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to respond to this Question for Short Debate on technologies for reducing the number of collisions between heavy goods vehicles and cyclists. It is a privilege, admittedly a daunting one, to respond to my noble friend Lord Attlee. When I became a Whip, he was the lead spokesman for transport matters in this House, and was kind enough to mentor me in these matters. He speaks not only with great passion and knowledge on these matters but upholds the finest traditions of this House when doing so.

Moving to the matter in question, I would like to assure your Lordships’ House that the Government are fully committed to creating a safe environment for all road users. As I will set out, advancements in technology will play a vital role in this. All of us who use a car know how much technology is advancing, and improving both the driving experience and safety—and the same is true for HGVs. However, it is not just about technology. Everyone has a part to play: central

5 Mar 2015 : Column 430

and local government, manufacturers of technology, the police and of course road users themselves. This is an important matter, as can be seen from the four tragic fatal collisions to cyclists involving heavy goods vehicles already this year in London.

Britain’s roads are among the safest in Europe, but we cannot be complacent: we can and will do more. Following the successes of our Olympic team, cycling has become increasingly popular, and we wish to build on that excellence. Cycling can contribute to keeping you healthy and we want to encourage more people to get on their bikes. The first step is ensuring that they feel that it is safe to do so. The Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety event last week at the ExCeL centre, attended by my noble friend Lord Attlee, gave 200 delegates the opportunity to view 10 new HGVs fitted with the latest technologies to detect cyclists.

Some of these technologies, such as “tag and beacon”, can be fitted to bicycles and would alert the driver of an HGV of their presence. However, there is a risk either that this may provide a false sense of security for both the cyclist and the driver—as neither of them can rely on the other having the equipment—or that the driver suffers from overload because of repeated warnings. The existing sensor-detection technologies are not connected to the vehicle controls. The combination of the detection time, the reaction time of the driver and the operating time of the braking system means that a cyclist moving at moderate speed could have travelled the length of the HGV after being detected, which makes it very difficult for the driver to avoid a collision.

I turn to other matters. I can report that the Government have secured improved requirements in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe regulations for mirrors on the passenger side of vehicles, which will mean that drivers have a better view of the area adjacent to the cab, and should improve safety for cyclists. The European Union has now mandated these improved mirror requirements for new HGVs registered after 30 June 2015.

Department for Transport officials are continuing to work in the UNECE to develop the technical requirements for camera monitoring systems that replace existing mirrors and enable the driver to have a better view of other road users. Although we cannot be certain how quickly these discussions will progress, it is possible that such systems could be on new HGVs by 2017.

The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and my noble friend Lady Ludford mentioned side guards. Since 29 October 2014, most new HGVs have had to comply with revised European rules on side guards which permit fewer exemptions than the current domestic legislation. Changes to domestic legislation are also being prepared for consultation which will reduce the number of exemptions for existing vehicles. More vehicles will be fitted with side guards.

The noble Baroness also asked about the Cycle City Ambition and whether such cities should follow some of the initiatives that Transport for London has undertaken. These decisions are a matter for individual local authorities. However, I am sure that many cities—not just the eight mentioned—see the work done in London as a benchmark for which to aim.

5 Mar 2015 : Column 431

The Government, along with European Union member states, have developed the proposal to amend the general circulation directive, in particular to allow extra length for HGVs in order to enable more aerodynamic and safer cab designs. These negotiations were successful and formal approval will follow shortly. Officials are continuing to work closely with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that type approval legislation is amended quickly, so that the benefits of these improved designs are on the road as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked what research the Government are doing on this. The Department for Transport is working with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Transport for London and other stakeholders on HGV safety, including manufacturers of sensor technologies. As part of this, Transport for London has contracted the Transport Research Laboratory to test a range of products to identify ones that may provide an improvement in safety. Although all vehicles meet minimum safety standards, hauliers can fix additional equipment if this would be beneficial for their specific operations.

I mentioned earlier the role of local authorities. They have the flexibility to introduce 20 miles per hour speed limits in residential areas, which could have a significant effect on cyclist safety. The Secretary of State issued two special authorisations on traffic signing in 2011 to enable all English local authorities to provide Trixi mirrors at road junctions to make cyclists more visible to drivers and “no entry except cycles” signing, which can facilitate overflow cycling.

I am pleased that a number of initiatives have emerged on the role that hauliers have in improving safety. These include the construction-industry-led CLOCS initiative and the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme, which encourages good practice for road freight operators. They are now both supported by more than 3,000 operators nationally. The CLOCS standard is being used in major transport construction projects in London and across the UK, including Crossrail and Network Rail, and it is intended for HS2. The Department for Transport has also been providing advice to road users through the THINK! campaign, with the most recent launched on 2 March.

Compliance rates with legal requirements for HGVs in use have been nearly constant nationally over the last few years. For the construction and waste sectors, an interagency HGV taskforce has been in operation in London over the last 17 months. It involves the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and police to carry out highly targeted enforcement to crack down on non-compliant and unsafe HGVs. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I can say that, in its first year or so, the 16 officers from the DVSA and the police have made about 4,000 highly targeted stops, issued about 2,000 roadworthiness prohibitions and more than 1,000 fixed penalty notices, detected 1,500 drivers’ hours offences and seized nearly 50 vehicles. Furthermore, enforcement officers report better load security on scaffolders’ HGVs.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned a report, the draft Cycling Delivery Plan, which was heavily discussed and debated in the other House. It was published on 16 October 2014 for informal consultation.

5 Mar 2015 : Column 432

It includes action on justice, sentencing and cycle-proofing to ensure that cyclists are considered at the design stage of new and improved road infrastructure, which in turn benefits pedestrians too. Responses are currently being analysed and should be published shortly.

The DfT continues to monitor the number and rate of all road casualties, including cyclists killed or injured in incidents involving HGVs. This evidence base will be used to assess progress in improving road safety.

My noble friend Lord Attlee raised the issue of the HSE and being interviewed under police caution. It has been the rule ever since the HSE was set up that it does not duplicate the work of other enforcement bodies. The police are responsible for road traffic legislation, but the HSE works with the police on cases where unsafe working practices appear to be implicated in a road traffic incident, and employers can be, and have been, prosecuted by the HSE following incidents on the road.

My noble friend Lord Attlee mentioned that some TfL staff, including highways engineers, had been interviewed under caution by the police. I have been advised that this was as part of a corporate manslaughter investigation. In these circumstances, it is appropriate that people are interviewed under caution so that they have all the legal rights and safeguards that that process brings, including having a solicitor present.

I hope that noble Lords can see that this issue is complex and that there is no single solution that will provide the outcome that we are all seeking: to stop these terrible collisions. I trust that this has sought to clarify the actions that the Government have taken and the areas where we will continue to focus our efforts in collaboration with other cycling interests.

Lord Berkeley: Could the Minister possibly write to noble Lords on some of the questions that he has not had time to answer, including, for example, whether there is a specification from the department about the near-side equipment that we have all been debating, and also how many convictions there have been for employers whose vehicles and things have contravened the legislation that we have been discussing?

Lord Popat: As time is a limiting factor I cannot answer all the questions now, but I am happy to write to noble Lords, and I will go through the Hansardreport.

This is a very serious issue. There is cross-party agreement that we are very concerned about the incidents happening. Week after week we hear of injuries because of cycling and we want to minimise them. If we can bring them to zero that would obviously be much better. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Attlee raised the very important issue of whether technology can help to reduce the numbers. It is a tragedy when any cyclist dies and my heart goes out to all the families who have had to cope with such terrible circumstances. This Government will not be satisfied until our roads are safe for all users—more especially cyclists. I hope that advancing technologies can help to make this a reality.

House adjourned at 5.46 pm.