Cycling Embassy objects to increased speed limits for HGVs

The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has responded to the Department for Transport's consultation, strongly rejecting its proposal to increase the speed limits for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes on single carriageway roads. The Department for Transport had argued that this would increase safety by reducing 'platooning' whereby lorries bunch up on single carriageway roads, making drivers of faster vehicles take risks in overtaking them. They had also argued that the existing 40mph speed limit was widely flouted anyway, so there would be no impact on safety. Setting aside the question of whether widespread lawbreaking should be rewarded in this way - and indeed whether both arguments can simultaneously be true - we have argued strongly that such a step would in fact have a detrimental effect not just on the safety of existing cyclists, but in making our roads more hostile to those who might otherwise ride a bike. 

Rural single carriageway roads are an important part of the UK's existing cycle network, and are often favoured as a less hostile environment for families and novices to cycle than in towns and cities. Unfortunately, because of higher traffic speeds and the general complete lack of separation between motorised vehicles and either cyclists or pedestrians, they are actually more dangerous than their town centre equivalents. At the same time, HGVs are a disproportionate threat to cyclists, being responsible for a far higher proportion of fatalities than any other kind of vehicle. Increasing their speed by even a few miles per hour is therefore likely to have serious consequences. We would like to see the problem of speeding tackled by better enforcement (such as through average speed cameras) and the issue of platooning through  generally lower speed limits for all traffic, particularly on minor rural roads.

The only exception to this would be on routes where proper, high quality segregation had been put in place for both cyclists and pedestrians, of an equal quality, directness and convenience to the road. In such cases, higher speed limits for HGVs might be acceptable, but as no such routes currently exist in this country, we reject the proposal.

You can read our submission in full here.