Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry, has been given a national road safety award by the charity Brake and Direct Line Group for his efforts to highlight the issue of cycle safety in parliament, particularly relating to large vehicles in urban areas.
Chris was first made aware of the issue in February 2012 when he was contacted by his constituents, Peter and Barbara Helliwell, whose daughter Jayne was killed a road crash in April 2010. Jayne, aged 25, was knocked down and killed by a bus while cycling on Oxford Street in London. The driver had a history of sciatica, a condition that can cause involuntary leg movements. This contributed to Jayne's death by causing the driver to press the accelerator instead of the brake.
Chris was moved to raise the issue in parliament, successfully securing an adjournment debate on 25 June 2014. Chris was able to address his concerns directly to road safety minister Robert Goodwill MP. Chris urged the minister to consider a range of measures to improve the safety of cyclists around buses and HGVs. Due to the role of a medical condition in Jayne Helliwell's case, strengthening guidelines for employers on ensuring their drivers are medically fit to drive was a key concern.
In Jayne's case, the driver had been involved in a number of previous incidents and received 'corrective training' from his employer years before the crash. This led Chris to question whether such training is adequate, and call for the introduction of compulsory cycle safety training for all bus drivers, as well as compulsory extra safety features such as sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors, and safety bars for HGVs driving in city centres.
These calls echo those made by Brake through its safer fleets campaign. Chris also echoed the call of the GO 20 coalition for a default 20mph speed limit on residential streets to make walking and cycling safer. He also proposed greater investment is needed to redesign dangerous junctions and introduce more safe cycle routes to create 'cities fit for cycling'.
Chris will be taking part in this year's Road Safety Week, coordinated by Brake, 17-23 November, helping to spread the message for road users to Look out for each other, and is urging other MPs to do the same.
Brake campaigns for safer roads for cyclists and pedestrians through the GO 20 campaign. Brake also helps employers with drivers, including bus companies, minimise their risk through its Fleet Safety Forum and safer fleets campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, #GO20, #SaferFleets.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Employers with staff who drive for work have a duty of care to their staff and everyone else who shares the road with their vehicles. Brake works extensively with such companies to help them do all they can to protect people on the roads. However, we agree much more can be done to ensure all organisations with fleets are doing their bit, to help prevent devastating deaths and injuries involving at-work drivers. We greatly appreciate the efforts of MPs such as Chris to press the government for more effective measures to protect cyclists and pedestrians from the dangers they face, including from large vehicles. We are pleased to give him this award, and hope he will continue to work in future to help ensure that everyone can get about by bike and on foot in safety."
Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry, said: "As a recreational cyclist, I have some personal understanding of the dangers faced by vulnerable road users. However, for the tens of thousands who cycle to work or study, the danger is ever present. When this leads to tragedy, as it did for Jayne Helliwell, the effect is devastating, as I have seen first-hand through my work with her parents. Peter and Barbara have greatly valued the support provided to them by Brake in the wake of their daughter's death. I thank them for their support, and this award. I will continue to take forward the case to make our streets safer for cycling, to prevent more tragedies like this in the future. I urge all my fellow MPs to take an active part in this year's Road Safety Week, and spread the 'Look out for each other' message, emphasising that drivers, especially those of large vehicles, need to be aware of other, vulnerable, road users."