Photo © Mike Bamforth. Used with permission.
We’ve just passed the second anniversary of the death of Eilidh Cairns. Eilidh was a cyclist, and died when she was crushed under the wheels of a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) traveling down a road it was too wide for. The road was Notting Hill Gate, the road I grew up on, and the collision occurred next to a crossing I must have used thousands of times. The building I lived in as a child is just about visible in the background of the photograph above, through the front wheel of the ghost bike placed at the site in her memory.
Eilidh’s friends and family, and their MEP are running a campaign called See Me Save Me. The campaign is supporting European Written Declaration 81, which urges the European Parliament to pass legislation making it mandatory for HGVs to be fitted with technology that eliminates the driver’s “blind spot”.
I didn’t know Eilidh, but I did have a friend from school, Jonathan Allen, who was killed by a lorry while cycling. So the issue is a personal one to me. And, naturally, as a cyclist myself I’m concerned for my own safety as well as that of others on two wheels.
Here’s the text of the letter that I sent to my MEPs a few days ago.
Dear Gerard Batten, Syed Kamall, Charles Tannock, Jean Lambert, Claude Moraes, Mary Honeyball, Marina Yannakoudakis and Sarah Ludford,
I’m writing to you because I believe you can make a positive change to the safety of cyclists on roads in Europe, and hopefully, by acting now, prevent many unnecessary deaths.
You may well be aware that despite their small share of traffic on European roads, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) account for a disproportionately high share of yearly collisions, and are a major cause of the estimated 2000 cyclists that die on European roads every single year. This is largely due to the fact that HGVs have front and side blind spots that often prevent their drivers from seeing cyclists and pedestrians.
For this reason, I would be very grateful if you would sign European Parliament Written Declaration 81 on improving road safety through the elimination of blind spots around HGVs.
Written Declaration 81 urges the Commission to give urgent consideration to the installation of sensors and cameras on lorries and to the fitting of advanced emergency braking systems and lane departure warning systems.
Please sign the Declaration as soon as possible – it lapses on February 17th.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I’ve had email replies from Claude Moraes and Mary Honeyball (Labour Party), Syed Kamall (Conservative Party, who was nice enough to also include the text of a relevant written question to the European Commission), Marina Yannakoudakis (also Conservative, who says “I have contacted Ms Jacqueline Foster MEP, who is the Conservative Transport Spokesman in the European Parliament. Ms Foster informs me that she has voiced her concerns by not only signing written declaration 81, but seeking reform on this issue.”), Jean Lambert (Green Party) and Sarah Ludford (Liberal Democrats – a perfunctory one-sentence email from a secretary, which surprised me slightly for a “justice and human rights spokeswoman”, but that’s beside the point). All have signed the declaration.
However, I also received an email from Gerard Batten of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and I’d like to share it with you in full.
Thank you for your email.
I agree that this is a serious and pressing issue but one that should be addressed only by democratic national parliaments.
I have not signed the Written Declaration because I was elected on the basis of advocating Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union; the European Union is undemocratic and indeed anti-democratic. Therefore on a point of principle I never sign Written Declarations where they call for more EU legislation. I would like to emphasise that Written Declarations have no legislative effect. [emphasis in original]
I always vote against EU legislation, believing that the governance of countries should be by their accountable and directly elected governments. It would therefore be inconsistent to sign a Written Declaration calling for further EU legislation. Please see the attached copy of my Personal Declaration that states the basis on which I hold my seat in the European Parliament.
I appreciate that you may be disappointed by my response but I hope you will appreciate that I am maintaining a consistent stance for those who elected me on the principles on which I stood.
Gerard Batten MEP
The UKIP. Always ready to do nothing in the name of “principle”. Even if doing something could contribute to preventing people from having entirely preventable and worthless deaths.
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