HGVs v cyclists

Materials World magazine
3 Oct 2016

Mark Godden looks at how responsibility for the safety of HGVs extends from the quarry to drivers and cyclists. 

The UK consumes a staggering 200 million tonnes of aggregates each year – this equates to around four tonnes of aggregate for each and every citizen.

Aggregates are essential for the construction of roads, railways, housing and other infrastructure, and as such are vital to the UK’s economy. Aggregates tend to be sourced away from population centres, but it’s within the towns and cities that most are used. This inevitably leads to the need for bulk transportation, which typically involves heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) for at least part of the journey. Moving aggregates, and the products made using them, requires many thousands of HGV movements every day.

Cycling has hugely increased in popularity in the past 20 years, with more cyclists than ever before using the roads. According to the Office for National Statistics, sales of UK manufactured bicycles increased by 69% in 2014. British Cycling, the UK’s governing body for the sport, supports this figure with its estimate that two million people now cycle at least once each week in Britain. 

This increase in cycling has been actively promoted by the UK Government, with initiatives such at the Cycle to Work Scheme, which by its nature encourages cyclists onto the roads at peak times. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and the number of cyclist deaths caused by HGVs has sadly also escalated in recent years. Transport for London has calculated that a cyclist is 78 times more likely to be killed in an accident involving a lorry than with a car. During 2015, of the nine road accidents that killed cyclists in London, seven involved an HGV. 

The UK quarrying industry is well aware of the immiscibility that exists between bicycles and HGVs and has responded with various initiatives. 

Since 2012, the Mineral Product Association’s Cycle Safe Scheme has been proactive in raising awareness among both HGV operators and cyclists. One very astute tactic has been to make HGVs available at various cycling events across the country. Cyclists are encouraged to sit in the driving seat in order to appreciate how limited the lorry driver’s field of view can be and understand where the dangerous blind-spots are likely to be. The MPA has also introduced its Vulnerable Road User Safety Policy, which calls for improved driver training and the use of appropriate technological adaptations to members’ HGVs with the aim of reducing the risks to cyclists and other vulnerable road users. 

Beyond what is already being done, it is difficult to see how the dangers posed to cyclists by HGVs can be quickly and meaningfully reduced. I think that consideration should be given to a change in the way HGV drivers are rewarded – at the moment, many drivers are paid per load as opposed to being paid by the hour. This proactively encourages risk taking. More and better cycle lanes should be created to keep cyclists safely away from other road users. Stronger law enforcement and restrictions upon HGV movements during peak periods probably have parts to play as well. Finally, there seems to be no doubt that better education leading to increased mutual-understanding between HGV drivers and cyclists is urgently needed to stop this on-going carnage on our roads.  

Mark Godden is Mine and Quarry Manager at Albion Stone, UK. With more than 30 years’ experience in the sector, Mark has developed new underground dimension stone mining techniques and modern open quarrying methods, been involved in the supply of Portland Stone for Buckingham Palace, and worked on the refurbishment of Green Park Tube Station.

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