Graduate civil engineer and independent sustainability advisor Kate Cairns launched the See Me Save Me campaign in 2009 after the death of her younger sister Eilidh.
Since then See Me Save Me has featured on national and London local television, gaining media coverage alongside other similar cycle safety campaigns.
But so far the government and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have failed to act on the principal demands of the campaign.
“The wife of the driver told me she wished he had been stopped from driving years ago”
Kate Cairns, HGV victim’s sister
Cairns wants a range of measures put in place to protect cyclists and pedestrians. But the focus of her campaign is on the construction industry and the dangers presented by its HGVs.
She wants an extension of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to public roads. Cairns is also campaigning for audible detection technology to be fitted to skip, tipper and concrete lorries to eliminate blind spots. These are the vehicles that are most frequently involved in collisions with cyclists.
Cairns’ sister Eilidh Cairns was killed when run over by a tipper lorry while she was riding her bicycle in Notting Hill Gate in west London.
She was struck from behind by the right hand side of the vehicle, in front of the driver. Kate Cairns’ story of what she has endured since paints a poor picture of Britain’s judicial system.
The driver was found to have been driving with “uncorrected defective vision”. Three penalty points were added to his HGV licence and he was ordered to pay a £200 fine. He was allowed to return to work but was later jailed after running over and killing 97 year old Nora Gutman on a pedestrian crossing.
“This issue is about people being killed by entirely avoidable incidents”
“The wife of the driver told me she wished he had been stopped from driving years ago,” Cairns told NCE. “The investigation into Eilidh’s death was shambolic, the coroner was uninterested and the inquest judge found that nothing practical could have been done to prevent the collision. Ultimately, the driver ended up in jail leaving a disabled son at home and it was all preventable.”
The driver that killed Eilidh Cairns and Nora Gutman was not directly employed by a main contractor. The See Me Save Me campaign says the site the truck was delivering to should have been held responsible for ensuring the vehicle and driver were fit to be on the road.
Cairns cites the harrowing experience of fellow campaigner Cynthia Barlow, chair of the RoadPeace charity, as an example of the difficulty of trying to get a change of attitude from HGV operators.
Barlow’s daughter was killed while cycling in 2000. She was struck and crushed by a concrete wagon as it overtook her and turned left across her path along London Wall in the City of London.
Like Cairns, Barlow felt let down by the judicial system.
The driver whose vehicle killed her daughter was acquitted when a police witness admitted he could not read notes taken after interviewing the accused after the incident.
That concrete wagon was owned by RMC, now Cemex. Barlow bought shares in the company so she could attend its AGM and explain to its directors in person the dangers presented by the company’s vehicles.
“We want the HSE to widen its jurisdiction to off site reporting”
Cemex is now arguably the UK construction industry’s leading freight operator in terms of safety. Technology fitted to its fleet includes additional mirrors, proximity sensors and audible alerts that sound warnings if the vehicles are turning left. They warn the driver if a cyclist is on the vehicle’s left hand side.
There is momentum building for more HGVs to adopt measures like these.
Under pressure from British Cycling, the sport’s national body in Britain, the Department for Transport, the Ministry of Justice and Crown Prosecution Service are reviewing the way the judicial system works when people are hurt on the roads.
See me save me- aims
- HSE to widen RIDDOR to include road traffic incidents off site
- Best available technology installed on construction vehicles (especially tipper lorries, skip lorries and concrete mixers) causing greatest risk
- Best available training for HGV drivers
- Client’s stipulation of the above in CDM and contract documents
- Client audit and enforcement of the above
- Standards and audit of drivers’ competence and behaviour Legislation banning lorries which do not comply with agreed standards
In London, Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail are insisting that all HGVs delivering to sites within the Greater London Authority’s jurisdiction are suitably equipped with cycle safety equipment.
They are also promoting advanced levels of driver training, and require all operators to sign up to the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) and work towards silver and gold membership of FORS.
TfL commissioner Peter Hendy is a driving force behind London’s cycle safety work with the construction industry.
Despite these efforts, the death of Katharine Giles under the wheels of a tipper lorry in Victoria, in central London earlier this month highlighted again that more must be done to protect cyclists when they encounter HGVs, particularly those from the construction industry.
The Corporation of London is currently looking at how it can include off site cycle safety in its Considerate Constructors awards scheme, but Crossrail, TfL and the City of London still account for a minority of sites.
Critically, what is needed to bring a national step change are amendments to the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations and RIDDOR to hold construction firms responsible for planning and reporting the safety of their vehicles on the roads.
“Changes to CDM and RIDDOR are logical. It seems there is resistance to that. Lack of money and resources are blamed but this is not an excuse,” Cairns said. “We want the HSE to widen its jurisdiction to off site reporting so that companies will instantly have to do something about this issue of HGV safety.”
The HSE said it was discussing with the industry ways in which standards for construction-related logistics could be improved.
50%+ Proportion of cyclists deaths in 2011 caused by HGVs
242 Pedestrians and cyclists killed by lorries from 2000 to 2010
27,000+ Cyclists killed or seriously injured in last 10 years in UK
7 Cyclists killed in 2011 by construction vehicles in London
Cairns wants all public projects to make the same safety commitments as Crossrail. “Government and its agencies are spending public money. They should be insisting that companies have to sign up to cycle safety initiatives to qualify for work,” she said.
Cairns is now a member of the ICE’s fledgling Cycle Group, which is working with TfL and sitting with the London Cycling Campaign, Living Streets and British Cycling on a working group looking at the risks posed by HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians.
“At least 60 pedestrians and cyclists have died as a result of collisions with HGVs in London since Eilidh died,” Cairns said. “This issue is not about badly behaved cyclists, it is about people being killed by entirely avoidable incidents. The construction industry has got to take responsibility for these risks. There is currently a massive chasm between how casualties are treated on and off site.”