Slow down in London05 May 2017

The mayor of London’s proposals to restrict the use of some N3G off-road style heavy goods vehicles in 2020 based on direct vision criteria (that still remain to be published) are too much, too soon, and he’s trying to shut down reasonable debate by talking tough.

At the policy launch in September 2016, Sadiq Khan said: “I’m not prepared to stand by and let dangerous lorries continue to cause further heartbreak and tragedy on London’s roads.”

While Khan’s comments are hard-hitting, his emotive tone creates a sense of urgency. It drives an aggressive timetable that doesn’t give hauliers a chance to adapt in a normal refresh cycle, much less develop a new cooperative design standard in Europe for direct vision cabs. That means they will be forced to bear extra costs to upgrade their lorries to work in the capital.

His tone also calls into question the degree of meaningful effect industry will be able to have during the legislation consultation process when the full policy consultation begins in the autumn.

And it brooks no argument about whether direct vision is indeed the best technical solution. What about lower chassis heights, bird’s eye view 360° camera technology, or ‘city safe’ radar and laser systems that automatically brake trucks?

The impassioned appeal also masks two political realities: that there’s a mayoral election in 2020, and that cyclists – for whom most of the direct vision standards are geared – have become a powerful lobby and voting bloc.

In fact, as victims of London road accidents, pedestrians and motorcyclists outnumber cyclists in almost all measures of accident severity in 2014, 2015 and the 2005-2009 average, taken from the most recent collisions and casualties data published by TfL. And although they’ve been on the roads, and at risk, long before the recent cycling boom, pedestrians and motorcyclists lack a common voice.

The pressure to change the rules now that London is cycle-friendly implies that their lives matter less than those of the cyclists. Pushing through a rushed law increases the risk that what is adopted will not meet the needs of everyone involved.

Will Dalrymple


Will Dalrymple

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