Family of Eilidh Cairns force cycling safety review

THE family of a Northumberland cyclist killed by an HGV have recorded a victory in their fight to change European safety laws.

Kate Cairns whose sister Eilidh was killed in a cycling accident.

THE family of a Northumberland cyclist killed by an HGV have recorded a victory in their fight to change European safety laws.

Relatives of Eilidh Cairns have enlisted the support of more than half of Euro MPs in their battle to reduce road risks for cyclists across the continent.

Their success means the European Commission must now come forward with proposals to the continent’s lawmakers designed at improving cyclist safety.

Eilidh, 30, who was brought up at Ellingham, near Alnwick, and went to the town’s Duchess’s High School, died after being knocked off her bike by an HGV in London, where she was living and working as a television producer, in February 2009.

The driver later said in court he had not seen Eilidh.

Working with North East Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall, the Cairns family put together proposals to fit out HGVs with cameras and sensors to remove the driver’s blind spot, and prevent thousands of collisions each year. The written declaration was formed last November and the campaigners had until last month to get half the total number of MEPs to sign it, in order for the proposal to be looked at by the European Commission.

They sent a circular letter to friends across Europe, translating it into all 23 languages spoken across the continent, encouraging people to write to their MEP and asking them to support the declaration.

Ahead of the deadline, Eilidh’s mother, Heather, and sister, Kate, led a group which travelled to the European Parliament’s base at Strasbourg in France, where they spent three days lobbying MEPs in a bid to get the required number of supporters.

The campaigners got over 300 backers which allowed them to apply for an extension of three weeks, just before the deadline expired.

A small group, which included Heather, a retired headteacher and former leader of the defunct Alnwick District Council, who still lives at Ellingham, returned to Strasbourg on Monday in a bid to win the support of enough MEPs to reach the target figure.

Eilidh Cairns

They clinched the 369th signature hours before the extension was to run out on Wednesday night, and now have over 400.

As a result of their efforts, the Commission must now come up with proposals based on the declaration to put before the parliament and then the Council of Ministers.

Kate, an independent sustainability advisor who lives at Newton by the Sea, near Alnwick, said: “I hope that Eilidh’s legacy will be to save the lives of vulnerable road users right across Europe through the creation of safer roads.

“It has been fantastic to see so many people rally to the cause over the past four months and for their hard work to be rewarded.

“I want to thank every individual who has responded to our plea for assistance. Their action has brought about this result.

“The reckless stupidity of having huge lorries ‘share’ road space with pedestrians and cyclists without the simple and inexpensive warning systems available must now end.”

A spokesman for Ms Hall said it is “very rare” that written declarations get enough support to be considered by the Commission.

The MEP said: “This is fantastic news. Persuading so many MEPs to back a campaign is no easy feat and it would not have been possible without the dedication of so many committed volunteers.

“We have the opportunity to save thousands of lives and prevent many serious injuries each year. The European Commission are now obliged to come forward with proposals in response to the Parliament. I am meeting with the Commission officials next week and will be pressing for changes to be forthcoming as soon as possible.”

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