Karen Dee, the Freight Transport Association‘s director of policy blasted a huge air horn (figuratively of course) at today’s announcement by the Mayor of London and the UK’s Department of Transport about the improvement of the safety of HGVs.
This, on a day when a woman riding her bicycle in London was killed by a person driving a lorry.
In a statement titled ‘There are better ways of achieving safe roads for all road users’ by the FTA, Ms Dee is quoted saying,
FTA views the Mayor’s decision as unprecedented and authoritarian and considers it to be one that will create a mess of confused standards, leaving HGV operators not knowing what they are trying to achieve.
Ms Dee continued,
We need to see cyclists taking responsibility for their actions, obeying traffic regulations, giving space to HGVs making manoeuvres and generally riding responsibly. Unless you also improve the behaviour of cyclists, the problem will not improve in the way that everyone wants.
BLAME THE VICTIM
Ms Dee is using a classic ‘blame the victim’ approach to downplay the role the freight industry, and lorry drivers in particular, have in ensuring the most vulnerable are safe on our roads – she and the FTA should be better than this.
Everyday, there are cases of people driving their cars, lorries, and HGVs above the speed limit, whilst using a mobile phone, and not looking carefully before performing a manoeuvre. A lorry driven in a dangerous manner will do substantially more harm than someone walking or cycling poorly. Of course, everyone must obey the law and travel in a safe manner. We should all eat our vegetables too.
Until then, the safest things the Government and police can do are: ensure all HGVs comply with safety laws; are driven safely; and are equipped with the best safety equipment. But things must go further: in busy areas, Governments must consider a wholescale or peak-time ban on lorries, and they must create segregated cycle paths which will remove the conflict altogether.
People who happen to be in a dangerous part of town shouldn’t be blamed for being robed, being beat up or possibly killed; and neither should people who are squished beneath the tyres of a multi-ton lorry or HGV be prejudicially blamed for their own demise. Nor should women who choose to wear a skirt rather than loose-fitting trousers be blamed for any attack on them.
RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS THE MOST VULNERABLE
There is a responsibility on the people who drive vehicles larger than others to take extra care on our roads: this is the motivation behind the push by some political parties in the UK wanting to bring in ‘strict liability’ laws.
Stephen Hammond MP, the Transport Minister, said at the announcement,
The government is committed to improving the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
In response to the announcements today, German Dector-Vega, Sustrans’ London Director said,
This is welcome recognition from our leaders of the dangers that lorries can pose to cyclists – enforcing the use of safety equipment will make our roads safer.
But with the consultation not beginning until 2014, it could be years until this initiative becomes reality – we need urgent action now to prevent further deaths.
WOMAN ON BICYCLE KILLED TODAY IN COLLISION WITH LORRY
Sadly, on the same day as the safety crackdown announcements, a woman in her 30s who was riding a bicycle was killed by a person driving a lorry in London. A lorry which was not fitted with safety gear.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 people rode their bicycles last Monday 2 September 2013, encircling Parliament, when the MPs inside were debating and later voted in unanimous support for the recommendations of the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report.
Those protesters – and this website! – are demanding ‘Space for Cycling’ in order to prevent further loss of light under the wheels of HGV and lorries. No doubt there soon will be another protest ride following today’s tragic death, and the dispicable remarks by Ms Dee.
Let us demand that the FTA put its weight behind the recommendations in the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report – for as Ms Dee also said,
Improving road safety is a priority for FTA members and many lorry operators already work to the highest standards.