Friday, 9 October 2009

Why are more women cyclists killed by lorry drivers than men?

Women cyclists make up a far higher proportion of deaths involving lorries than men. Why?

“When you look at HGV accidents there are a lot more women involved than you would expect. We don't know why that is," says Charlie Lloyd, from the London Cycling Campaign.

With this in mind, his group has organised a special women-only bike ride to the Cycle Show in London's Earls Court this weekend, a trip that ends with the chance for participants to sit in a lorry and experience the view drivers have of the road.

Of course the number of London women cyclists on that ride will only be a tiny fraction of the overall number, and this kind of consciousness-raising exercise is only valuable if such collisions are the fault of the cyclist. If the problem is negligent driving by lorry drivers, then educating cyclists is unlikely to change the situation.

However, I believe it is worthwhile letting all cyclists in London know that as far as fatalities are concerned, you are more likely to be killed by a lorry driver than any other kind of driver. BBC London News could report such deaths, but in reality repeatedly chooses not to report them, while simultaneously giving lots of attention to trivial parking ticket stories. Complain about this unbalanced reporting, and you will be told that BBC News ‘is not a journal of record’, which is a very peculiar excuse, because that’s exactly what news is.

Astonishingly, The London Cycling Campaign also blanks out all mention of cycling fatalities on its website. It won’t mention lorry deaths (or any other cycling fatalities in the capital) because it fears putting people off cycling. Myself, I think that’s a seriously flawed policy. In the past I always assumed car drivers were most likely to kill me, until I read Moving Target which alerted me to the danger of lorries. Now I give lorries a very wide berth at all times, and take every step possible to avoid them.

What is signally lacking is any analysis of London lorry/cycling fatalities in recent years, which studies each fatality, the location and circumstances, and arrives at some understanding of causation. Until we get a comprehensive study of that sort we are no nearer a solution.