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No to higher lorry speeds

Roger Geffen's picture
CTC has voiced its opposition to Government proposals to raise the speed limit for goods vehicles on rural single-carriageway roads, saying this would worsen cycle safety on rural lanes.
HGV on a narrow rural lane
HGV on a narrow rural lane

The Government is proposing to increase the speed limit for lorries on rural single-carriageways to either 45 mph or 50 mph. The national speed limit for cars on these roads is 60 mph, but with a 40 mph limit for lorries.

The Government argues that this difference in speed limit results in queues forming behind slower-moving lorries, thus tempting drivers to overtake dangerously. It also states that 70% of lorries break the current limit, so believes that there would be little or no safety disbenefit from making it higher.

However, the consultation document does not propose any increased enforcement of the new limits - yet alone the existing limits - leading to concern that they could be as widely flouted as the current ones.

CTC has objected strongly to these proposals, arguing that lorries are already involved in 19% of cyclists’ deaths despite accounting for just 5% of motor vehicle mileage on Britain’s roads.

CTC also points out that about half of all cyclists' deaths from lorry collisions on non-built-up roads already occur on non-A-roads, and that these mainly involve the cyclist being hit from behind (n.b. unlike cyclists' lorry deaths on urban streets, those in rural areas generally do not occur at junctions). Motor traffic tends to concentrate on main roads, but 82% of cycle traffic is on minor roads, particularly in rural areas.

CTC has therefore urged the Government to support greater enforcement of existing speed limits instead, using area-wide camera systems to detect average speeds across networks of rural lanes.

CTC has also argued that the national speed limit for single carriageway rural roads could be lowered to 50 mph (n.b. we have also supported calls for 40 mph or lower limits on rural lanes). CTC thinks 60 mph limits should be permitted exceptionally, i.e. only on the rural single carriageways designed to the highest standards, including wide, smooth and well-surfaced parallel cycle tracks.

CTC's Senior Campaigner Chris Peck said:

“People often think that cycling on rural lanes is safe compared with riding in urban traffic. In fact, the risk of a cyclist fatality is nearly 3 times higher per mile cycled on rural minor roads than on urban ones."

If the Government is serious about enabling and encouraging more people to take up cycling both for transport and for leisure, it has to take steps to improve cyclists’ safety, not do things that will make it worse.”

Chris Peck
CTC Senior Campaigner

CTC has previously objected to Government plans to allow an increase in the maximum length of lorries permitted on UK roads, on a trial basis. The trial has gone ahead, but the Government halved the number of lorries permitted to take part. CTC pointed out at the time that the Government had failed to consider the trial's impact on safety for cyclists, despite Ministerial claims to the contrary.

CTC has calculated that there are 22 cyclist fatalities on minor rural roads per billion km cycled, compared with 8 per billion km cycled on minor urban roads.

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