A modest proposal to save lives: extend the lorry ban by three hours

Here’s an idea to make London safer for cyclists: keep the biggest lorries off the streets during the morning rush hour. If enacted I am confident it would save lives. It can be done by tweaking existing legislation.

Since 1985 the London boroughs, and latterly TfL, have operate the Lorry Control Scheme somewhat misleadingly known as the ‘lorry ban’. The powers derive from the GLC Traffic Management Order 1985 No. 343 and apply:

– between midnight and 7.00am and between 9.00pm and midnight on Monday to Fridays inclusive;
– between midnight and 7.00am and between 1.00pm and midnight on Saturdays; and
– at any time on Sundays;

During these hours lorries over 18 tonnes must obtain a permit to drive through central London (map). Permits are free but issued at the discretion of the authorities who must judge whether the journey is really necessary at that time. The aim is to limit noise pollution in residential areas.

But why not apply the Lorry Control Scheme to make central London’s roads safer?

8 out of the 10 London cyclists killed on the roads this year were killed by lorries. From my recollection of cases over the past few years, by far the most dangerous time is the morning rush-hour. Statstics from the City of London Police back this up. Why not extend the Lorry Control Scheme by three hours from the current 7am to 10am? This would make London’s streets safer at the most risky time of the day.

As well as extending the Lorry Control Scheme into the mid-morning on week days, the authorities should tighten up the permit-granting criteria so that only absolutely essential journeys are allowed and that companies with recent convictions for breaking safety laws (e.g. mirrors, sidebars, load limits etc) are automatically refused permits. And while they’re at it, they might lower the weight limit from 18 tonnes to something like 7.5 tonnes – still a very big vehicle.

This is the kind of measure I’d like to see being discussed alongside all the educational and voluntary measures set out in TfL’s draft Cycle Safety Action Plan. It may sound radical to some but it’s less severe than the lorry bans in Paris and would be a good first step towards safer streets. Legal eagles might like to read the Greater London (Restriction of Goods Vehicles) Traffic Order 1985, below.