Longer lorries coming to Britain’s roads?

There’s an interesting article in the current issue of Private Eye (Eye 1292) about the government’s apparent willingness to allow longer articulated trucks onto our roads.

It asks the rather pointed question

Why is a Tory-led government considering letting even longer lorry trailers roam Britain’s roads while a Tory mayor, Boris Johnson, kicks bendy buses out of London for hitting cyclists?

At least bendy buses are confined to routes their drivers know well. Longer lorry trailers, if approved, will turn up anywhere, including places their drivers have rarely or never navigated before. Lorries are already involved in most fatal cycling accidents in London, with left turns the most common factor.

Quite so, and the length of these trucks – 18.75 metres – will be in excess of the length of bendy buses, with the added difficulty that instead of being jointed at the centre, like a bendy bus, the trucks will have an enormous fixed length of 15.65 metres, which will created tremendous difficulties both for the driver in negotiating some of our urban streets – especially those they are unfamiliar with.

Here’s a video of the difficulty a bendy bus caused me recently while I was cycling in London, on a route the driver should know well –

To think that even longer, and less flexible, vehicles will be on unfamiliar roads should make any cyclist’s blood curdle.

Private Eye notes, with some justification, that

Cyclists, motorists and pedestrians waiting to cross a road could be in for a nasty, or fatal, surprise.

Additionally, the government hasn’t factored in the cost to local councils that these longer lorries will undoubtedly impart on the street environment, on the grounds that these longer lorries will be same weight. Current articulated lorries already destroy signs and barriers in my town as they attempt to manoeuvre – something any Horsham resident who knows the back area of Waitrose will be fully aware of – so this damage can surely only get worse with greater length. Unlike changes to planes, trains and ships – which have to factor in costs to the public infrastructure they use – the road haulage industry seems to have been given a free pass.

What is worse is that the government even accepts that the new lorries will be more dangerous, but, according to Private Eye

it brushes the problem aside by saying that the number of lorry accidents “is expected to fall” because longer trailers would result in fewer lorry “movements”. Yeah, right. Truck journeys were expected to fall after previous lorry enlargements, but increased instead (Eye 1206).

Indeed.

So it looks like we are going to have plenty more behemoths on our roads, many of which will often be running around empty, or near empty – it is going to be very difficult to fill their vast capacity all the time – which will cause increased danger to vulnerable road users, and increased damage to our infrastructure.

This is to say nothing of the probable changes to the road layout which will undoubtedly occur at a later stage, as councils make adaptations – most of which will, again, undoubtedly be detrimental to cyclists and pedestrians. Wider radius bends are not friendly to these road users, given that they inevitably result in higher vehicle speeds, and greater crossing distances.

Not good news.

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