Cycling safety: Campaigner helps change law on HGV blind spots after sister's death

27.09.23 Eilidh Cairns Credit: Family
Eilidh Cairns, 30, was killed by an HGV while cycling to work. Her sister's campaign for stricter safety regulations will now become law in 29 countries. Credit: Family picture

A campaigner whose sister was killed by an HGV while cycling to work has said thousands of lives could be saved by a road safety law set to be introduced in 29 countries - including the UK.

Kate Cairns has been campaigning for the law change since the death of her sister Eilidh Cairns in 2009.

Eilidh, 30, had been cycling to work in London on 5 February 2009 when she was hit by an HGV.

Kate, from Alnwick, in Northumberland, a road risk expert, has been fighting for stricter safety standards for heavy goods vehicles through her campaign, See Me Save Me.

The new law will see cabs designed with larger windows at the front and side of HGV vehicles in order to reduce the number of driver blindspots.

All new HGV designs will have to meet the Direct Vision Standard (DVS) from 2026, and all HGVs from 2029.

Kate Cairns has been fighting for years for stricter safety standards for heavy goods vehicles through her campaign, See Me Save Me. Credit: ITV

Kate said: "It's a huge achievement done in Eilidh's name because she was such an amazing person. I had such love for her. It was so unacceptable and tragic that the world lose a person like her who had so much to give.

"That's what drove my tenacity to continue. It's because of what a wonderful person Eilidh was. I am proud to think that in her name hundreds, if not thousands, of lives will be saved with this new regulation."

Eilidh worked as a television producer in London and every day, for three years, she cycled the 20 miles to and from her office.

She knew how dangerous heavy goods vehicles could be for cyclists and took a course to understand how HGV drivers have blind-spots hiding other road users.

Following her death, Eilidh is remembered in London with a ghost bike. It is one of many in the capital which mark where a cyclist has lost their life on the road. It is hoped the new law will lead to fewer ghost bikes in the future.

Eilidh Cairns is remembered in London by a ghost bike as are many others who have also lost their lives in similar road collisions. Credit: ITV

Kate, who works as a chartered civil engineer, said she was "astounded" by how many deaths occurred caused by construction industry vehicles working off sites.

She said: "On-site we have huge safety regulations and measures.

"Beyond the site boundary, we are grossly disproportionate in killing cyclists and pedestrians so I felt I was well-placed as a professional to be able to create change within my industry. The main issue being - one of the main issues being - the huge blindspots around vehicles.

"This has affected my professional life as well as my personal life. I have campaigned for over a decade but now I am actually a professional speaker, a trainer and advisor in construction logistics and managing out/designing this risk because these are not accidents. They are crashes. They are avoidable and they are preventable. There are many many ways we can avoid these collisions."

"People who come on my training say their eyes are opened; they feel empowered; they feel educated; they know how to implement changes. This is part of my profession now."

Kate, who took her campaign to the European Parliament in 2010, said the new law is a lasting legacy for her sister who she described as "intelligent, witty, funny, beautiful, kind."

She added: "Everyone who met her immediately loved her. She was my confidante, my best friend and my little sister."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...