Boris: EU membership stopped safer cabs

The UK’s EU membership prevented the mandating of direct vision cabs for London – such as the Mercedes-Benz Econic – according to the city’s former mayor Boris Johnson.

In an interview with FairFuelUK (FFUK) spokesman Quentin Willson, Johnson said: “In London we wanted to make the lorries safer on our streets to stop them from crushing cyclists – for the good of the drivers as well.

“How fantastic it would be if you could say to the truck industry, if you want a lorry going through London the cab has got to conform to certain specifications. But we couldn’t do it. Brussels says no.”

However, Johnson said that the UK being an EU member had prevented him from putting a “special tax” on foreign-registered vehicles travelling into the capital while he was mayor. “I often thought of putting a special tax on foreign-registered lorries coming into London. In the future, if we left, a mayor could say “I don’t want these international trucks – I’m going to put a charge on them”. You can’t do that at the moment because it would be held to be discriminatory.”

Boris Johnson talks to Quentin Willson of FairFuelUK about Vote Leave

The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip spoke to the campaign group in light of a FFUK poll that saw 83% of 448 surveyed HGV drivers say they wanted to leave the EU. Just 7% of the drivers said they wanted to stay in the EU, while 8% said they were undecided. The remainder said they did not plan to vote.

FFUK co-founder Howard Cox said: “Boris Johnson told us that he is in no doubt that being out of the EU will be better for UK motorists, white van men and our vital haulage industry. Cost of motoring, better emissions control and improved road transport infrastructure are the key benefits to Brexit.”

Cox added that FFUK had also approached the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for interview but had heard nothing back at the time of publication.

More protection in law urged for vulnerable road users

Cyclists and pedestrians should have more protection in law when involved in a collision, delegates at last week’s Brake Fleet Safety conference heard.

Paul Kitson, cycle injury lawyer and supporter of charity Cycling UK, spoke of the latter’s campaign to ensure that law-breaking motorists receive harsher penalties and that collisions between motorists and vulnerable road users (VRUs) are more thoroughly investigated by the police.

In the UK, roads policing numbers have fallen significantly over the years – to around 4,300 in 2013/14 compared with around 7,000 in 2002/03 – and fewer dangerous driving crimes are being dealt with, he told delegates.

In contrast, France’s zero tolerance to speeding, as well as major investment in policing and technology, has seen road deaths plummet by nearly half, and 45% of drivers say fear of punishment has altered their behaviour.

Kitson said: “Road crime is a real crime and should be dealt with seriously. Each year around 1,800 people are killed on the UK’s roads and about 30% of these are cyclists or pedestrians.”

At present, the UK is one of only five European countries that have not adopted the “presumed liability system” in relation to VRUs  – alongside Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and Romania. This means that the motorist is presumed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise.

“Two years ago, I spoke at a conference and my fellow lawyers on the Continent were aghast when I explained to them the English system. They couldn’t believe it. In the Netherlands, a VRU would not be denied compensation unless they deliberately threw themselves in front of a vehicle.”

In addition, the way motor vehicle collisions are dealt with in court can also prove problematic for cyclists or pedestrians, with a lack of witnesses often a key stumbling block to proving a case beyond reasonable doubt at a Crown Court.

“And even if the case is taken to trial, juries bizarrely are sympathetic to the motorist who’s in the dock, even when the motorist is at fault,” Kitson added.

  • See this week's Commercial Motor, out now, to see what happened when we drove a tipper through London’s busy streets.