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Chinese whispers - female cyclists killed by HGV/LGVs in London 1999 - 2004
24.03.07 by Buffalo Bill

As I mentioned in previous posts, a lot has been made of the stat that 85% of cyclists killed in London as a result of collisons with HGVs in the period 1999 – 2004 were female. It seems that this stat is incorrect. I emailed the MP for Islington South. Emily Thornberry, who is on the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, on the issue, and received the following reply:

Thanks for your message. You may know that the London Road Safety Unit report was originally quoted in the Islington Tribune states in its preface that the study was carried out under pressure from LBMA.

Unfortunately the statistics have suffered from the usual Chinese Whispers.

The real statistics are:

from 1999 - May 2004:
87 deaths of cyclists of which 21 were female, 66 male.

Of those 21 females an astonishing 18 (85%) were killed by HGV drivers.

Another 28 of the males (around 50%) were also killed by HGVs.

Which gives a new figure of of 46 London cyclists killed by HGVs in the period 1999 – May 2004, with females making up 43% of the total. I think this figure is still wrong, as the London HGV/cyclist working group were told by the London Accident Analysis Unit in November 2004 that 49 cyclists had been killed by HGVs in London in the period 99/May 04. It may be that other categories of Goods Vehicles were included in this total. Probably the most reliable figure is 60 London cyclists killed by Goods Vehicles between Jan 99 and November 2005, quoted in a London Road Safety Unit submission to the European Commission consultation on blind spot mirrors for HGVs

The 85% figure for females, mis-quoted by the Islington Tribune and velorution, but not by Matt Seaton in the Guardian, is that 18 of the 21 female cyclists killed in London between 1999 – May 2004 were killed by an HGV.

Another piece of information to further confuse: Heavy Goods Vehicles (ie those over 7.5 tonnes) have recently been re-classified as Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs). More details on Wikipedia.

Thanks to Caspar and Chris Peck of the All-Parliamentary Cycling Group Secretariat.

The Secretary of State for Transport the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander was to be asked what steps he is taking to reduce the disproportionately high number of cycling fatalities involving heavy goods vehicles. Emily Thornberry MP had been due to ask a question during Transport Questions on April 17th, according to Cycling Weekly. However, having looked at Hansard’s official record for that date I find no record of the question being asked.

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  1. putting aside all the stats, its still horrific that anyone gets killed on the road when on a bike… perhaps they should make riding a bike compulsory before taking a driving test?

    — lucky_7    25 March 2007, 00:08    #
  2. The figures are old and this has already triggered action one detail not apparent is that the dominant type of HGV in the killer group was one used in the construction industry – a concrete mixer or skip truck.

    Cynthia Barlow whose daughter was killed on London Wall in 2000 bought shares in RMC and forced the company to face up to their role in this issue. She now works with Roadpeace. I was on the scene minutes after the 2000 crash – the bike was still lying on the road, and the truck was just being reversed back out of the narrow lane into which it had turned, along the track it had taken, by the Police investigation team. The cyclist had been on the nearside BUT in a good position in the nearside lane. This truck driver took a lazy (and possibly fast) swing in from the right hand limit of the road – right across the cyclist’s path. Worse though and a reason that the City of London Police called in all the operators was the sheer number of concrete mixers involved in these incidents at that time – the truck that killed Cynthia’s daughter had been involved in the killing of 1 other cyclist and put another girl in a wheelchair over a very short period, and twice with the same driver. The owner was one of the myriad of 1-2 truck contractors who drive the liveried vehicles for the big companies (who don’t own the trucks)

    RMC produced a driver training video for all construction vehicle contractors, and had to look very closely at how their haulage contracts dealt with a company which had a poor road safety record. The pressures of construction sites accessed via narrow lanes and demanding an uninterrupted pour of concrete, and other time sensitive deliveries with HGV’s also needs to be watched – some parts of the construction industry – demolition springs to mind – are not focussed on risk management. We’ve watched an adjacent site which has coated our garden and neignbours cars with dust, and small pebbles, due to failure to damp down and contain the debris, and had a few near misses with bits falling onto passing traffic. Guys swinging 14lb hammers horizontally and upwards on scaffolding towers which are rocking on just their 4 wheels is hardly good practice.

    What I think really shows crap thinking is the ‘victim blame/bully blame’ posters used most notably telling cyclists not to ride up the nearside of a bus or truck. IME the issue is when the driver cuts in on you (like at a bus stop and you have to punch the side of the bus or stick the bar-end into the side and score a line down the bodywork) The answer is to encourage eye contact and some tankers have a nice poster with a cartoon of a driver’s face in a mirror to emphasise this. Lets also keep making the references to cyclists and bus/HGV drivers, and as the wheelchair users keep saying “See the person not the chair” when you talk about it.

    The higher incidence of female victims may have one answer in the research done across 5000 cyclists in Oxford & Cambridge. Female riders reported that they found it harder to look back and observe vehicles coming up behind, and this was matched by a higher rate of incidents where poor rearward observation was a factor involving the same group. This prompted a safety campaign focussing on the rearward look (rather like the m/c look back campaign) and also gets one to wonder if it may be that bikes set up for male proportions (with longer arms relative to the torso) create the problem for females who may often simply use a standard cycle.

    — Dave Holladay    1 April 2007, 04:31    #
  3. Dave,

    thanks for the helpful and instructive post.

    — Bill    1 April 2007, 19:11    #
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