Sunday, 9 January 2011

HGVs - Time to make common cause with pedestrians and motorcyclists?


London: Where all vulnerable road users must keep out of the way
I reported last month here on a police local community partnership meeting near the Barbican.

The next one of these meetings is in fact tomorrow Monday 10 January at 6pm. They're open for anyone to attend. If you cycle through here or work in the northern part of the City and want the police to do more to look after cyclists and pedestrians, you might want to pop along. All the details are here.

More broadly, there's something interesting about the local community partnership meetings, which is that people in the City appear to think bicycles are a major threat to their safety. Much more of a threat than HGVs, for example.

The reality seems to be somewhat different.

Cycling through red lights is a BIG issue for residents at these meetings. And, as a result, one of the two priorities of the police in the area around the Barbican is to "Address poor road user behaviour at Beech Street/Aldersgate Street and South Place/Moorgate". In reality, poor road user behaviour sometimes seems to mean only stopping people on bicycles. For example, the only data recorded on the target at that meeting was the fact that "Between 19-29 July - 323 Fixed Penalty Notices were issued to pedal cyclist within the city of London." No mention of whether there were any other sorts of poor road users targeted, say, taxis running red lights, faulty HGVs or motorists on mobile phones. Just naughty cyclists.


Anyhow, I decided to take issue with one point raised in the meeting, namely, the fact that the minutes note that: ""A member of the meeting gave the following statistics: One thousand pedestrians had been injured within the city of London in the past nine years. 6% were injured by motorised cycles Taxis injured 11% Pedal cyclists injured 28%"


It's not the job of the police to spend hours fact-checking spurious statistics. And so I don't mean by any means to criticise the City of London Police in this post. But I did want to ask whether the local partnership police in that meeting where aware of the fact, as I posted here a couple of weeks ago that, across London as a whole, "there were 138 collisions in which a pedestrian was injured by a pedal cyclist – these collisions resulted in 139 pedestrian casualties (1 fatal, 30 serious and 108 slight injuries)." That means that bicycles accounted for 0.3% of all pedestrian casualties in London in that period. I know this thanks to another City of London cyclist who asked that question of the City's London Assembly Member, John Biggs. The question was duly asked and this was the Mayor's official response.

What bothered me was the fact that many of the residents of the Barbican who attended that police liaison meeting may have the perception that cyclists present a particular threat to them getting around the City. And as a result, the topic of people who use bicycles becomes very very lively indeed in these local partnership meetings.

So I entered into discussion about cycling with the City of London Police. Who, very helpfully, went off and dug out the real statistics.

The statistics they sent me and that they will distribute to the residents of the Barbican area tomorrow show that in three years (September 1 2007 to end of August 2010), there were 332 pedestrian road casualties and, despite the fact that far far fewer people cycle in the City than walk, there were a similar number of cyclist road casualties.

What's interesting is where those road casualties come from:

Pedestrian Casualties

Own actions 66%; HGVs 11%; PSVs (buses, coaches etc) 8%; Car 6%; Cyclist 5%; Motorbike 3%; Taxi 2%

Cyclist Casualties

Cars 28%; Own actions 25%; Taxis 16%; HGVs 16%; PSVs 6%; Pedestrian 6%; Motorbike 2%

So it turns out that, if you're a pedestrian in the City of London, the most likely cause of becoming a road casualty is own behaviour, followed by an HGV or a bus. So, if it's not being a threat to yourself, it is large motor vehicles that present the greatest threat to pedestrians.

Handily, HGVs are not things that most of us like to mingle with when we're on bicycles either. And people on motorcycles don't like them either. 17% of motorcycle casualties are caused by HGVs, 27% by private car and 12% by taxi.

Perhaps it's time that the people in these meetings looked at these sort of facts and thought about what they really want the police to do when they select a local policing target. At the moment, the target around the Barbican states the police must "address poor road user behaviour" in the area. And, in reality, to many of us, that target seems to mean stopping lots of people on bicycles. But it's HGVs that are causing road casualties among pedestrians, people on motorcycles and on bicycles.

And we're not hearing much about City of London Police stopping HGVs these days. They may be on the case but they're certainly not being pushed about it by residents or the people who work here.

Which is surprising, really, because if Jack Thurston of The Bike Show is right in this article here, the last time that City Police took a serious HGV safety initiative, every single vehicle was breaking the law. Stopping 12 HGVs at random, the police found: "The offences range included overweight loads (2 cases), mechanical breaches (5 cases), driver hours breaches (5 cases), mobile phone use while driving (2 cases), driving without insurance (2 cases) and no operator license (1 case)."

Maybe it's time to focus on road safety in a different way for a while and take a long look at HGVs and whether they might be the cause of some of the danger on the City's roads .