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Insight

Jennifer Buchanan asks where are the promised direct vision HGVs to keep cyclists safe?

Most cyclist deaths in London involve large lorries, mainly contracted to the construction and related industries, where drivers sit up high with limited view of the road and anyone near their vehicle.

Despite the challenge from the London Cycling Campaign to the construction industry to adopt 'direct vision' lorries (DVL) more than four years ago, and the European Commission acknowledging  the importance of safer cab designs, direct vision lorries are still not commonplace on the roads and we as personal injury lawyers still see too many cases of serious injuries to cyclists involving HGVs.

It's not as if the technology and design for safer lorries are not readily available – they are. Mercedes-Benz produces a tipper, a skip lorry and concrete mixer, all with direct vision and low cabs. Most new refuse lorries in the UK now have low cabs with good visibility as do most lorries used at airports.

The main safety advantage of the DVLs is the full-length windows on the passenger side and that the driver sits lower, creating improved visibility, eye-contact with other road users and virtually no blind spots.

So where are all these revolutionary lorries designed to keep cyclists safer? At the beginning of last year, Transport for London considered making it compulsory for all lorries to be fitted with a transparent panel in the passenger side door, but the Freight Transport Association objected to the cost.

But, as the LCC points out, the estimated cost of a single road death is £1.7m and clearly the health and safety benefit to all road users, including the drivers likely traumatised by causing such an accident, are obvious.

During his election campaign, London mayor Sadiq Khan signed the pledge to make DVL the norm on London roads and the second phase of consultation to develop an HGV safety standard permit scheme is ongoing. The third and final stage of the consultation will consider statutory proposals to create a direct vision standard in London.

The design and the capability to improve lorry and cyclists' safety already exist. It's time for the construction industry to step up and implement change across the board.