Campaigners and cyclists have condemned the Freight Transport Association's stance on cyclist safety and accused the organisation of "victim blaming" after its Director of Policy said cyclists should take more responsibility for their own safety around lorries.
The FTA's Karen Dee's comments followed yesterday's announcement on London and UK-wide measures intended to crack down on lorry danger for cyclists and pedestrians.
The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said the FTA's remark that there are better ways of achieving road safety and cyclists should obey the rules of the road, "inaccurately sought to apportion blame to cyclists for the deaths and injuries they suffer in collisions with lorries".
LCC Chief Executive Ashok Sinha said, "This is an unfounded exercise in victim-blaming by the FTA.
"There's clear evidence that cyclist competence and behaviour is not the chief contributory factor in the majority of deaths and injuries caused by collisions with lorries.
"It's extraordinary that someone as senior at the FTA as Policy Director Karen Dee would not be aware of the relevant statistics, or would choose to ignore them.
"Rather than inappropriate and tasteless victim-blaming, the FTA should focus on its work with freight operators to bring the rest of the industry up to the safety standards of the best." In the FTA's statement, Karen Dee said: "We need to see cyclists taking responsibility for their actions, obeying traffic regulations, giving space to HGVs making manoeuvres and generally riding responsibly.
Unless you also improve the behaviour of cyclists, the problem will not improve in the way that everyone wants." She added the Mayor's calls for a safer lorry charge "will create a mess of confused standards, leaving HGV operators not knowing what they are trying to achieve."
Yesterday, another cyclist was killed on London's roads after being in collision with a lorry in West Dulwich. The 40-year-old driver of the HGV was arrested and bailed.
CTC's Chief Executive, Gordon Seabright, said: "CTC is appalled that yet another cyclist has been killed in London. Incredibly, the Freight Transport Association said after the announcement that HGV operators don't know what they are trying to achieve.
They should be doing everything in their power to stop killing cyclists, and if they find that too difficult they have no place in our cities." A CTC spokesperson added in cyclist-HGV crashes, the HGV driver is twice as likely to have not looked properly. They said: "The danger is entirely one way - in 2011 there were 350 crashes between lorries and cyclists; 6 lorry drivers were slightly injured; 345 cyclists were casualties, including 19 deaths and 94 serious injuries."
The FTA, whose members number 220,00 vehicles, represents the interests of road freight companies, and half of all lorries on UK roads. The FTA have agreed to respond to a number of questions put to them by Cycling Weekly. We are currently awaiting that response.
Update Friday September 6, 2:20pm.
The Freight Transport Association has this afternoon issued the following response:
In reply to an article published on the ‘Cycling Weekly' website accusing the Freight Transport Association (FTA) of "victim blaming", FTA is surprised at how widely its original press release (dated 4 September 2013) has been taken out of context in that article, without including a reply from the Association.
Sadly, it appears that our comments were misrepresented.
To reiterate - the initial statement made by FTA was in reaction to an announcement made by the Mayor of London's Office regarding the introduction of a ‘Safer Lorry Charge; comments included within the FTA response were not made in reference to (and never meant to refer to) any collision or tragic circumstances surrounding accidents involving cyclists and lorries.
Having worked very closely with Transport for London (TfL) on the important issue of improving cycle safety in London, FTA was simply voicing its concerns in its press statement as to the measures Boris Johnson was proposing to introduce and the comments within that reflected that the Association believes there are better ways of achieving safe roads for all road users.
FTA cannot stress enough that improving road safety for all is a priority for its members, and that many lorry operators are already doing much to improve road safety by installing additional equipment, training drivers and making changes to the way they operate.
FTA has requested a meeting with the London Cycling Campaign to discuss how we can work together on the issue.
FTA's message is that all road users must work together to make our roads safer; and that includes freight operators, drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists - who all have a responsibility and a part to play in improving road safety."
The original Cycling Weekly article that the FTA refer to remains unchanged at the top of this story.
Questions Cycling Weekly put to the FTA yesterday prior to publishing our article were as follows.
-Campaigners are calling the response victim blaming and point out that in the majority of cases cyclists involved in collisions are found not to be at fault by police. Could you answer why, given this evidence, the FTA believes 'cyclists now have an increasing part to play' as the vulnerable road user?
-Cities like Paris and Dublin have successfully reduced fatalities by implementing city center lorry bans. Why do you feel this won't work in London?
-Undoubtedly safety has improved in many areas, but by all means not all. There are still known rogue operators and HGVs are involved in half of cyclist fatalities in London, despite only being 5% of traffic. How will the standards be confused, 'leaving HGV operators not knowing what they are trying to achieve'?
The initial statement made by the FTA, titled There are better ways of achieving safe roads for all road users reads as follows.
The Freight Transport Association has voiced its disappointment at today's announcement (Wednesday 4 September) by the Mayor of London's office, asking whether it is the 'thin end of the wedge'?
Responding to Boris Johnson's intention to call for a 'Safer Lorry Charge' across London, FTA said that it was surprised as it had thought it was working closely with TfL and the Mayor's Office on the subject of improved road safety and added that it believed there were better ways of achieving safe roads for all road users.
In joint announcements (but separate press statements), the Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and London's Transport Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, announced a series of measures to improve cycle safety in London.
In reply, FTA stated that HGV operators are already doing a lot to improve safety by installing additional equipment, training drivers and making changes to the way they operate. The majority of HGV operators are already working to the highest safety standards. The association added that there has also been huge investment by the freight industry to ensure that vehicles are fitted with basic safety equipment, with many going above and beyond the legal requirements.
FTA Director of Policy, Karen Dee said:
"FTA views the Mayor's decision as unprecedented and authoritarian and considers it to be one that will create a mess of confused standards, leaving HGV operators not knowing what they are trying to achieve.
"Improving road safety is a priority for FTA members and many lorry operators already work to the highest standards. A huge amount of investment has been made by responsible operators who have gone over and above the minimum legal requirements to ensure that safety equipment is fitted to their vehicles. There are better ways of achieving safe roads for all road users."
FTA is also calling for all road users to take responsibility for their actions, stating that if London is to be declared a safe cycling zone, then tougher standards for cyclists' behaviour should be introduced, and that they now have an increasing part to play in improving road safety.
Ms Dee added:
"We need to see cyclists taking responsibility for their actions, obeying traffic regulations, giving space to HGVs making manoeuvres and generally riding responsibly. Unless you also improve the behaviour of cyclists, the problem will not improve in the way that everyone wants."
FTA now calls on government and cycling groups to work together in order to ensure that current and future cyclists obey the rules and share the road co-operatively and responsibly.