The head of a London university attended by a cyclist killed in a HGV crash today said the UK’s record on road safety was damaging the nation’s ability to attract foreign students.
Professor Aldwyn Cooper has written to Mayor Sadiq Khan about the danger posed by lorries in the wake of the “absolute tragedy” of the death of Italian prince Filippo Corsini in Knightsbridge in October.
Professor Cooper, vice chancellor of Regent’s University London, warned there was global awareness of the number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths – adding to fears about post-Brexit changes to visa rules.
He told the Standard: “This is making London bad news for students, bad news for parents, bad news for tourists. This last year we have had [almost] 20 people in London, on bicycle or foot, killed by lorries.
“If you look at universities at the moment, we are under such considerable pressures, due to concerns about immigration and visa controls. A lot of people in other countries around the world are starting to see Great Britain as a less attractive place to come and study. Anything that diminishes that motivation is very bad news.
“We are the gold standard for higher education in the world. It’s not just in London where this problem exists. Leeds, Manchester, Bristol – they have all got these kinds of problems.”
At least 13 pedestrians and three cyclists have been killed in HGV collisions in London this year, according to the Vision Zero London road safety campaign. A total of 409 pedestrians and 100 cyclists were killed in UK road crashes last year.
Mr Corsini, 21, who was studying for a BA in international business, was on his way to the university, in Regent’s Park, when he collided with the HGV on October 31. He died at the scene from “catastrophic injuries”.
Professor Cooper said he was an “amazing young man”. He said: “Filippo was a very highly-qualified cyclist. He trained under one of the top cycling coaches in Italy. He spent a lot of time cycling. The day before he was killed, he had cycled from Brighton to London for fun. Almost the last words he had for his sister were: ‘I love cycling.’”
The 42-year-old lorry driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and was bailed until early December. His bail has been extended until late February while investigations continue, a Met police spokesman said.
Last week the university was contacted unexpectedly by City Hall asking it to endorse the Mayor’s part-shelved plans to route the CS11 cycle superhighway on the park’s Outer Circle to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
Professor Cooper replied by urging Mr Khan to bring forward plans to introduce a “star rating” for lorries based on the driver’s view of cyclists and pedestrians.
He also wants speed restrictions – enforced by police – for all road users in the park, saying two students were hurt by “speeding” cyclists who ignored red lights last year.
He said in a statement last week: “I have been in correspondence with the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, since the tragic death of one of our students six weeks ago while cycling to the university. I know that the Mayor is committed to making London a far safer city for cyclists and pedestrians. Cycle Superhighway Route 11 should facilitate this. Of equal importance are controls on lorries. There are plans for this by 2020, but the sooner such limitations are imposed, the better.”
A spokesman for Mr Khan said: “Every time someone is killed by a lorry on London’s roads it is an appalling tragedy. That’s why the Mayor is introducing a world-first ‘Direct Vision’ standard for lorries in the capital, banning the most dangerous HGVs from London’s roads completely by 2020.”
- An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard.