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End this 'slaughter' of cyclists by construction lorries, says Murray


Cycling safety campaigner and NLA boss Peter Murray says vast majority of cycling deaths caused by construction industry HGVs

New London Architecture chairman and cycling safety campaigner Peter Murray is demanding action from the whole construction industry after it emerged that four of the five cyclists killed this year on the capital’s roads were involved in accidents with heavy goods vehicles from the sector.

Last week Moira Gemmill, best known for her work at the V&A, died after her bike was hit by a tipper truck operated by Potters Bar-based subcontractor JSM at a notoriously dangerous junction near Lambeth Bridge.

Gemmill was the fifth cyclist killed on London’s streets in 2015 and, according to Transport for London (TfL), all five accidents have involved HGVs with four of these vehicles working in construction.

Murray, the organiser of the recent 2013 London Cycle Summit and founder of the annual Cycle to Cannes ride said architects could help educate contractors about the dangers.

He told the AJ: ‘It is very shocking that construction is responsible for so many deaths. It behoves all those involved in the industry to make greater efforts to reduce this slaughter. Architects should make sure that clients and contractors are fully aware of the issues and that only lorries with properly trained drivers and the necessary safety equipment should be employed on their sites.

‘The Construction Industry Cycling Commission, set up after the death of Francis Golding (AJ 11.11.13), is carrying out research to ascertain the reasons behind the statistics and is working with other safety organisations to reduce these appalling numbers to zero.’ 

Director of the UK Contractors Group (UKCG) Stephen Ratcliffe said: ‘We share the concerns over the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users, particularly in relation to what the construction industry can do to eliminate the toll of death and injuries, particularly evident in London.

‘Through our members, and more directly, we have been working with a variety of interested groups to improve the situation.  We particularly support the standard on construction logistics and cycling safety. It covers issues including advance planning, managing the logistics of deliveries, safety equipment for vehicles, training and traffic control around sites. The standard provides a common industry framework.’

Meanwhile TfL said it remained ‘committed to improving road safety for all’ and had a dedicated ‘range of schemes and programmes’ in place to address the issues including a £4 billion ‘road modernisation plan’ featuring upgrades to 33 of London’s most dangerous junctions.

In September TfL also said it was introducing a new Safer Lorry Scheme which will ‘ban lorries from entering the capital without safety equipment’.


Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council (CIC):
‘The CIC absolutely affirms its support for Peter Murray’s campaign, which is of a significance equal to that given to the industry’s concerns about site health and safety following the Prescott Summit all those years ago.   
‘These deaths are attributable to the construction industry and the industry has to address the matter with urgency.’


Readers' comments (9)

  • As much as I agree that cycling needs to be safer on the capital's streets, we simply cannot lay blame in it's entirety onto the construction vehicles and other traffic. Cyclists themselves need better education on how to use the streets especially in regards to dealing with HGV's and how to pass them etc. I've seen countless times when a cyclist will take a huge risk with their life by passing an HGV on the left, close to junctions without paying any attention on what that vehicle is about to do. Other examples of careless behaviour such as, cyclists jumping red lights, filtering dangerously through traffic, listening to music through headphones whilst cycling, riding up onto pavements when they cannot filter, blatantly ignoring pedestrian crossing points etc etc are all too common occurrences on a daily basis in every part of the city. Tighter rules and regulations and sanctions need to be enforced on cyclists who take such disregard to theirs and others lives.
    As a road user with both car and bicycle I am all too familiar with both sides of the story, and they both need actions to change the situation!

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  • You have a point Andrew but I think most people accept that cyclist training has a part to play. I think the point Peter is making is that architects are part of the construction industry and these vehicles are from that very industry. Therefore there is something architects can do in their day-to-day jobs to improve matters.

    Will Hurst
    Deputy Editor

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  • I don't think it is useful pointing the finger - There are idiots in cars and idiots on bikes. The difference is if you get hit on a bike you are far more likely to die. Busy roads simply are not safe for cycling, and they aren't going to get any safer with more and more people using them. Proper bike routes AWAY from the road are inevitable, so we should be designing them into our cities and towns as much as possible now.

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  • Many people may be unaware that there was legislation proposed in the EU parliament for mirrors on HGVs giving them better visibility for cyclists coming alongside. This was voted out by UKIP & their allies on the doctrine that they could not tolerate more EU legislation controlling UK vehicles. Hoe nutty is that!

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  • I am a pedestrian and motorist, a former cyclist. I agree that cyclists take too many chances, and seem not to be mindful of the fact that in any collision with a motorised vehicle, they are bound to come off worst. The last three times I have seen red lights broken have all been by cyclists: twice in Dublin, once in Brighton. There is a fairly widespread tendency for cyclists to switch from behaving like motorised vehicles to behaving as pedestrians-on-wheels when it suits. I've heard a cycling campaigner boast about cycling across London drunk. Great. No doubt if he had been involved in a fatal accident, there would have been cries of 'murder'. I'm also surprised that no motorist has sued for being publicly labelled by campaigners as a 'murderer'. The term implies intent. When I cycled, and it looked too dangerous, I dismounted and observed rules of the road as a pedestrian. because that was the safe thing to do. And no, they're not at all inclined to give way to pedestrians. If motorists treated cyclists as I have seen cyclists treat pedestrians, especially in parts of London, there would be even more fatalities. It's not a perfect world, and all road users could benefit from an awareness of how other users make mistakes. (e.g. that when overtaking on the inside, you are not easily visible). Accidents are generally exactly that. Very busy roads are not going to become safe overnight.... and voting against inside mirrors is just crazy. Will, I fail to see how architects can affect the conduct of construction truck drivers....our remit doesn't extend past the site. We're free to voice an opinion, of course.

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  • I've always thought that being a pedestrian is a basic human right, whereas being a motorist is a privilege - but I can't decide where being a cyclist should be, between these two extremes, and I can't help feeling that the daft behaviour of a minority of cyclists encourages some drivers to treat them with contempt, and some pedestrians to have no sympathy for them - despite the obvious hazards that they face in most British city streets.

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  • There should be no heavy good vehicles between 8.30-9.30am and 5-7pm easy

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  • Chris Roche

    CDM 2015 provides an opportunity for every architect to increase contractors awareness of the risks posed by Construction Vehicles on route to site, as well as at the point of entry and departure from site.
    Not every death on the road is avoidable, but many are, and society as a whole has a responsibility to lobby our elected representatives for change. I lobbied Islington Council for years to introduce a 20mph limit, which has now been adopted and is being considered by the mayor of London. A 20mph limit on Construction Vehicles may not be the solution, but it may help - anything and everything which can be done, should be done. I support Peter Murray's initiative and I encourage everyone within the Construction Industry and beyond to do so also.
    Chris Roche
    Founder 11.04 Architects

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  • As part of the construction industry we should employ the change of attitude we have seen effective in the construction sites within the wider built environment. For example Why is the Highway Code not enforced?

    The Highway Code rule 163 states:
    'Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should….
    give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 213) and 214 to 215).' Pasted from

    The illustration of this rule shows a car overtaking on the right hand side of the road, away from a roundabout, whilst leaving the entire left lane for the cyclist. The photo is subtitled 'Rule 163: give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car'.

    The reality we face is Roman, Medieval and Victorian road widths and on-street parking results in insufficient space for vehicles to pass cyclists safely and this results in many cyclists and motor cyclists near misses, casualties and fatalities. Of course other rules such as not using mobile phones and driving without due care are also reasons. So why don't we see more cracking down on this?

    The reasons might be lack of political leadership, cost or laziness, too big a problem, not my problem and lack of accountability. I would say with the high level of casualties and deaths on the roads there is evidence of a systemic complacency and failure in for those who manage our roads including the Police, and directors of TfL, local authorities, haulage, bus, coach, taxi, construction company directors and developers. Do we need a royal commission to look into this or could technology such as video evidence enforce the Highway Code too?

    We could learn from other examples how to overcome systemic failures and improve attitudes and behaviours to improve safety. The construction industry learnt to improve construction site safety by improving attitudes with strategies such as 'target zero' and 'everybody gets home safe'. Such high level ambitions were supplemented with training, adopting processes and work practices that are costly to implement. Nevertheless, the cost of an accident and death is massive to the families and people involved. Also, legislation, such as corporate manslaughter may be appropriate for those who are found to be complacent or negligent in conducting their duties. Moreover, attitudes of road users need to change to be cautious, anticipate and tolerate vulnerable road users.

    The end result could be drivers will wait until there is space to pass vulnerable road users. Traffic speeds will reduce however the average traffic speed is low anyway, not much more than 11mph or average cycling speed. Surely that is a better scenario than present?

    I suggest we need more effective enforcement of the Highway Code with a 'target zero' and 'everybody gets home safe' culture. Jailing those who have failed to uphold their duty in managing and policing the roads or their employees using existing corporate manslaughter legislation could be one way to ensure that change in attitude is effective and implemented quickly.

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