London calling for city safety

London has made eliminating road accidents a top priority.
London calling for city safety

On London’s narrow streets, delivery vans, trucks, the city’s iconic black cabs and red double-decker buses fill the roads each morning, alongside pedestrians and the city’s growing fleet of cyclists.

With so many people and vehicles jostling for limited road space, the risks of collisions run high. The mix of trucks, cyclists and pedestrians has proved particularly risky.

Over the past three years, heavy-goods vehicles have been involved in 20 per cent of pedestrian fatalities and more than 70 per cent of cyclist fatalities in London. This is despite making up only four per cent of road miles driven in the city, according to statistics from the city’s transport authority, Transport for London.

While high, such statistics are not wholly unique to London. Research from Volvo Trucks Accident Research Team shows that in 2014 about 1,230 or 32 per cent of fatalities from accidents with heavy-goods vehicles in the EU were vulnerable road users. And while traffic safety has improved overall, accident rates for vulnerable road users have proved harder to bring down. 

To make its roads safer, Transport for London has put reducing road danger at the centre of its decision making and it is working together with vulnerable road user groups and vehicle makers, including Volvo Trucks, to find solutions. 

So what can be done? One major plan underway is to develop the world’s first Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for heavy-goods vehicles. 

Will Norman, Walking and Cycling Commissioner at Transport for London says that a direct vision from the cab has been shown to have a substantial impact on reducing danger for people walking and cycling, as blind spots are a key factor in collisions.

Under the proposal, all heavy-goods vehicles over 12 tonnes will need a safety permit to operate in London from 2020. According to Will Norman the scheme is still under consultation. But as it is designed, a permit to enter London would be issued to heavy-goods vehicles that meet the minimum requirements for direct vision or can show equivalent measures to reduce risks to vulnerable road users. The final proposal is set to include specifications such as sensors and visual warnings.

Following the developments in London closely I applaud the effort being made in London to ensure traffic safety inside the city and protect vulnerable road users by joint efforts between different parties.

Trucks that are specifically designed for maximum visibility are set to become more common on the streets of London and other cities that look to improve city safety. This includes specific equipment like extra windows and cameras, low chassis height and specific vehicle types like the Volvo FE Low-Entry Cab, which has an extra low chassis and the option of enlarged windows that cover much of the cab doors. The extra windows offer the driver direct visibility along the side of the vehicle. 

It’s the ultimate vehicle to maximise direct vision because as a driver you are almost at eye-level with cyclists and pedestrians on the road. 

As well as the work with a Direct Vision Standard (DVS), Transport for London is implementing a myriad of other measures to improve road safety, from cutting speed limits and tackling speed by redesigning streets, improving enforcement and redesigning the city’s most dangerous junctions.

So many factors – from vehicle design, to route planning, traffic awareness and street design – all play a role in making the interactions between trucks and vulnerable roads users safer.

We have a multi-faceted approach to safety. It extends from areas such as safety research, to developing safety technologies including Lane Keeping Support and Advanced Emergency Brake, to designing safer vehicles and driver training. Traffic awareness campaigns such as ‘Stop Look Wave’ and the ‘See and be seen’ initiative are also a big part of this work. 

We can expect to see more change in cities around the world soon. At Volvo Trucks we share London’s vision to eliminate accidents. Road safety in cities has lagged behind other areas. But city safety is now high on the political agenda in many places, so expect to see big changes around the world. London is leading the way.

Claes Avedal
Safety Manager Product Planning at Volvo Trucks

London’s goals for 2041

  • Zero serious accidents or fatalities on its roads.
  • 80 per cent of all Londoners’ trips are expected to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport, according to Transport for London.

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