Saturday, 1 August 2015

Opinion: we all have a part to play in preventing accidents . . .


Opinion: we all have a part to play in preventing accidents

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Cyclists should be subject to regulation as well as HGVs, argues Kevin Buchanan, group managing director at freight distribution network Pall-Ex

Since the start of the year, eight cyclists have died in collisions in our capital city, all of which have involved lorries. This is completely unacceptable.

Accidents like this are incredibly tragic for the family and friends of the cyclist, as well as harrowing for the HGV drivers and onlookers. In this day and age, we shouldn’t fear being on our roads – regardless of how we get about. A death toll should be completely avoidable, with measures in place to keep our road users safe.

Recently, various pro-cycling campaigners have rallied on the government to introduce new 24-hour safety guidelines. These are great ideas in theory: especially sideguards on vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, designed to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision, and additional mirrors.

They of course come at a financial cost to haulage firms (particularly smaller hauliers) who do not already have these measures in place. But the alternative of just banning lorries in London is completely nonsensical. Shops, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and many other businesses would struggle to stay open.

Despite these steps forward, it’s still important to recognise that the responsibility lies on both sides. We’ve all seen the odd cyclist who defies danger, weaving in and out of lanes and not taking adequate care and attention in congested traffic. I should stress that of course, they are the minority of a population of cyclists who share our roads, and this small proportion does not by any means reflect the whole.

The vast majority of cyclists are unregulated. Cycle laws need to be more robust – whether that’s an insistence on protective headgear, or an outright ban on wearing music headphones.

But maybe we could go even so far as introducing cycling licences and road tests for everyone who is using the road – regardless of whether or not they rely on an engine? One group is no more entitled than another to use our networks, so the onus must be on both parties to be safe and knowledgeable about the dangers of using roads, particularly in busy urban centres.

Pall-Ex is highly committed to exceptionally high standards, whether that’s of customer service or driving ability. We’ve already seen new, strict criteria in place to ensure that only the most qualified and reliable members are part of our group – for the benefit of the end customer, as well as pedestrians and other road users.

Any steps that reduce the number of fatalities and serious accidents on our roads should be embraced. But there is no one simple solution to the problem, nor is it exclusively the duty of the logistics firms. It’s an educational challenge to improve the skills, technology and equipment of all road users – rather than laying the blame wholly at the door of the HGV driver on every occasion.

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