Cynthia Barlow of Roadpeace on cuts to 'lorry police'
29.10.09 by Buffalo Bill
I asked Cynthia Barlow, of the road crash victims support charity, Roadpeace, for her comments on the cuts in funding to the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit, which I, and almost every right-thinking cyclist, oppose. I know Cynthia from when I was part of the HGV/cyclists group that was set up by Boris’ predecessor, ‘cuddly’ Red Ken, after the death of London bicycle messenger Sebastian Lukomski. She is an extremely effective campaigner, and has done more to reduce the threat from lorries to London’s cyclists than anyone else.
I am opposed to the threatened closure of the CVEU, for several reasons:
1. In many cases, when cyclists have been killed, there are no witnesses or there are other problems with the viability of a criminal prosecution. It is therefore very important that there is the opportunity for a follow-up by a police unit which also has health and safety powers.
2. The two industries which have the worst record of on-site deaths of employees are the construction industry and the waste management industry. It is therefore not a surprise that this can spill over into the figures for work-related road deaths. A unit which has powers to enforce health and safety rules as well as the criminal law is therefore very important.
3. Last year, when the CVEU was undertaking the regular checks of lorries making deliveries to the main Olympic site at Stratford, you will remember that approximately 80% of the vehicles they checked were illegal in some respect : wrong license, no insurance, overloaded, vehicle defects, no operator license etc etc. Hence the campaign by the ODA last year. But that is one building site. How many others are there in London? Taking into account the other Olympic sites, Crossrail, other public transport infrastructure projects etc, there will soon be a huge increase in the number of construction-related vehicles on our roads, often on residential roads. Somebody needs to be keeping an eye on the implications of all this, and it is a specialized area, the average PCSO will probably not know what to look out for and will need special training.
4. With the anticipated increase in cycling next year related to the introduction of the cycle hire scheme, we need to worry about commercial vehicles and make sure they are making themselves as safe as possible in relation to other road users.
A website for lorry drivers, www.truckersworld.co.uk, also currently has a petition against the ending of the CVEU.
I just want to add something to 1. Cynthia mentions that there are often no witnesses to the death of a cyclist killed by a lorry. This may seem extraordinary, seeing as they mostly occur on busy central London roads. However, I was talking to a senior collision investigator at the Met, and he said that the problem is that loads of people see the aftermath; but to determine whether the cyclist or the lorry driver were at fault (or both) one needs to know what happened before the collision. He said there are rarely credible witnesses to what happened before.
I mentioned on my Twitter feed that less than 10 London MPs have signed the Early Day Motion calling on the Mayor of London to reinstate the funding for the Commercial Vehicle Education Unit. If you haven’t already, consider using the Write to them web-site to write to your MP, asking them to sign the motion.
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