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Time for construction to act and save cyclists’ lives

“The industry must take action through technology and process reforms to limit the dangers posed by its activities”

The last two issues of NCE have highlighted the real and growing dangers facing cyclists as they compete for space on the UK’s increasingly congested streets.

The very personal and harrowing stories featured demonstrate the trail of death and destruction wreaked by construction traffic as it mixes with the increasing number of commuters embracing the bicycle.

The message is simple - the time for action has come and construction must step forward and take the lead.

In these austere, cash-strapped times, growth in construction and infrastructure activity across the UK is seen as critical to driving growth in the wider economy.

It is hugely welcome, therefore, to see so many cranes on the horizon, holes in the ground and construction sites active across the nation’s major cities. As NCE has stated so often over the last couple of years, without this public and private sector investment the nation will struggle to regain its economic strength.

Yet, as we see every day, this increased activity has the downside of boosting the number of large construction-related vehicles on our city roads. And that puts additional pressure on already overcrowded transport corridors, raising the risk of collisions with cyclists and pedestrians.

Of course, anyone using the UK’s highways, be they cyclists, pedestrians or motor vehicle drivers, has a duty to take responsibility for their own safety. But equally, there is a responsibility for other people’s safety. And clearly the larger your vehicle, the greater your potential to inflict harm.

Construction must therefore step up to the challenge. Health and safety legislation and practice already places a strict duty of care on the industry to protect its workforce and the public during construction activities. This duty of care must now be extended to cover activities outside construction site boundaries.

And while no legislation can ever make the use of the nation’s highways completely safe for any user, there is an incredible number of highly effective measures that can be employed - and which in some cases are already being used - to actively manage this risk and save lives.

Certainly these must start with increasing awareness of the dangers, not least as more inexperienced cyclists take advantage of the summer weather. But the industry must also take positive action through both technology and process reforms to ensure that it is doing all it can to limit the dangers posed by its actions and activities on the streets.

As Transport for London transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy told NCE this week: “Nobody has pushed back against what we want to see happening. Everyone has a role to play.” We know and agree that one site death is too many. It is time to extend this mantra beyond the site gate.

Readers' comments (2)

  • I would like to congratulate the NCE for stimulating the debate. I have discussed this issue with a great many number of clients in the private and public sector who are fully supportive and recognise action is despirately needed. I believe we could, with the NCE's assistance, establish and as suggested implement a common code that for adoption by the industry within weeks.

    You have the the support of Mace to ensure the highest possible standards are established and implemented in the very near future.

    Mark Reynolds
    Cheif Executive, Mace

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  • Here at Able Piling we advocate the use of spoil free Auger Displacement Piles - our Atlas and Omega systems. By not creating pile spoil we achieve piled foundations without the need for trucks removing the said material from site to tip.
    Reducing the number of truck movements directly reduced road traffic risks but we agree that the remaining necessary trucks should be configured to be as safe as practically possible for other road users. Also however other road users - such as cyclists - should be aware and take action to avoid danger areas.

    David Wandless
    Able Piling & Construction Ltd.

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