Northumberland campaigner joins Olympic cyclist in Brussels ahead of safety vote

The sister of a Northumberland cyclist killed by an HGV has joined forces with Chris Boardman at the European Parliament ahead of a safety vote

Fiona Hall and Kate Cairns, who lost her sister Eilidh while cycling to work
Fiona Hall and Kate Cairns, who lost her sister Eilidh while cycling to work

The sister of a Northumberland cyclist killed by an HGV five years ago has joined Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman at the European Parliament ahead of a safety vote.

Kate Cairns, whose sister Eilidh died in London in February 2009, was with the cyclist at an event in Brussels organised ahead of a vote in the European Parliament next month on proposals which would see lorry cabs redesigned to eliminate their blind spots.

Kate, whose family’s campaigning together with North East MEP Fiona Hall has helped inspire the proposals, last night said she was “encouraged by the momentum” building around the issue of cyclist safety.

Eilidh, 30, from Ellingham, near Alnwick, died in the capital where she lived and worked for a television production company, after being knocked off her bike on February 5, 2009.

The driver of the HGV which hit her claimed he had not seen the former pupil of Alnwick Duchess’s Community High School.

Eilidh’s mother Heather, Northumberland county councillor for Alnwick, who still lives at Ellingham, and Kate, who lives in Newton-by-the-Sea, began campaigning with Mrs Hall for all HGVs in Europe to be fitted with cameras and sensors to remove their blind spots.

Eilidh Cairns who was killed whilst cycling to work
Eilidh Cairns who was killed whilst cycling to work
 

They got the support of more than half the total number of MEPs for a written declaration to the European Parliament, calling for a change to continental law.

As a result the European Commission had to come up with proposals based on their wishes.

Its response eventually concluded that further research was needed to assess the potential and cost-effectiveness of such technology.

In April last year, the commission published proposals for changes to the design of cabins of HGVs, partly in response to the family and Mrs Hall’s campaign.

Part of the proposals was the introduction of new rounded cabins, which the commission says “have the potential to save 300-500 lives per year across Europe of vulnerable road users – cyclists and pedestrians.”

On Wednesday, Kate and Mrs Hall attended an event at Brussels with Mr Boardman and MEPs, at which prototypes of the new rounded cabs were on show, ahead of the vote on the proposals on February 11.

Eilidh’s sister also addressed international transport representatives.

Kate, an independent sustainability adviser, said: “It is exactly five years since we lost my sister, Eilidh, after she was run down from behind by a tipper lorry. The driver didn’t see her. The See Me Save Me campaign calls for mandatory elimination of lorry blind spots.

“It’s a painfully slow process with much tragedy in the meantime but I am encouraged by this momentum and welcome the opportunity to join forces to continue the fight to reduce such violent death and injury on our roads.”

Mrs Hall added: “Improving the design of lorries will help save lives. Redesigned lorry cabs with a curvy nose, a crash box and better vision for drivers could drastically improve lorry safety and prevent hundreds of fatal collisions every year.

“The lorries on our roads come from all over Europe so it is particularly important that we act at the European level on this issue.”

Mr Boardman added: “By adopting these recommendations the EU could play an important role in changing our transport habits to benefit us all.

“It would be criminal for us to know how to save lives and then choose not to take action.”

Figures show lorry crashes cause 4,200 road deaths in Europe every year, many of which are pedestrians and cyclists in cities.

Department for Transport statistics show that cyclist deaths in the UK rose 10% during 2012 to 118, with serious injuries rising to 3,222.

A number of high profile tragedies have occurred in London in the last year.

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