Lorries and cycle safety

Exchanging placesA group of us went to Guildhall Square in Portsmouth to visit the 'Exchanging Places' event organised by John Gosling, Managing Director of TJ Transport Limited, working with Portsmouth Council and the Police.

It allowed us to see a driver's view of cyclists and to discuss safety issues directly with HGV drivers and operators.

Exchanging PlacesThe picture on the right was featured in the Portsmouth News and shows: me, Tony Light and John Gosling.

Click any heading below to find out more. Note you can click any picture in this article to see a larger image.

We saw a lorry parked in Guildhall square with a black sheet marking the most serious blind spots...

DSCN1620Note that the blind spot area closely matches the area used by cycle lanes and advanced stop lanes.

The problem is more visible (or not) from the cab of the lorry. Here's the view from the nearside wing mirror...

View from the nearside wing mirrorNote that the two bikes are completely invisible. There is a similar problem on the right hand side of the lorry, but not quite as bad since the driver has a better view outside his window.

And this is the view looking over the dashboard...

View over the dashboardAgain, no sign of the bike positioned in front.

Mirror at the top of the windscreenNow a legal requirement for all lorries, this mirror positioned over the top of the windscreen gives a view to the immediate front of the lorry. The driver gets to see all the blind spot at the front of the vehicle including the bike.

Fresnel lensA simple fresnel lens fitted to the left-hand window gives sight of the blind spot down the left hand side. The image is blurry, but gives the driver a chance to spot someone - especially if they are moving.
In cab cameraMore sophisticated is this camera system. It shows the left-hand side of the vehicle when the driver signals left, the right-hand side when signalling right and the rear of the vehicle when reversing. In the picture, the driver is signalling left and the two bikes are both visible.
Protective barsThese bars are designed to protect against cyclists going under the wheels of the lorry.

There was a notice at the back left of the lorry warning cyclists of the potential danger. I didn't take a photo, but it wasn't one of the controversial 'stay back' notices.

In addition to the gadgets, TJ Transport has a driver training programme that includes explicit awareness of the risks inherent in sharing the road with cyclists. Drivers are constantly monitored by: logging equipment; GPS; and TV recordings showing both the driver and the view from the cab. This monitoring is used to determine the circumstances of a collision but also provide an opportunity to detect and correct bad driving habits.

The EU has voted to implement radical changes in lorry design. Unfortunately, the proposals will take up to eight years to come into force. Worse, it seems that a moratorium on implementing the new regulations for 5 years means that manufacturers can't implement some of the safety features early - even if they want to!

Fortunately, we don't have to rely on the goodwill of transport companies towards cyclists. Implementing safety features gives a number of benefits:

  • They protect pedestrians (especially those walking out in front of lorries) and other vulnerable road users such as motorbike riders and horse riders.
  • Collisions can be extremely traumatic for the driver, safety features seek to protect drivers as well as other road users.
  • Visibility-enhancing equipment helps drivers when maneuvering.
  • A culture that seeks to protect and help drivers can create a positive view of an employer allowing it to attract and retain good drivers.
  • Companies that implement safety programmes are more likely to win work from companies that treat safety seriously (and many do).
  • Fewer collisions mean lower overheads, including the cost of insurance.

The Exchanging Places was a fascinating opportunity to see what safety-conscious vehicle operators are doing to try to protect cyclists. It also brought home how - even with all the gadgets and training - it takes just a second or two's lapse of concentration by a driver to result in a cyclist being killed or seriously injured. The driver needs to be looking at the right piece of equipment at the right time if it is to be effective - and drivers are fallible.

So, we still face significant risks when maneuvering around well-equipped lorries operated by well-trained drivers. We face even greater risks when dealing with the less well-equipped lorries and drivers.

It's obvious that we need to take responsibility for ourselves. For example:

  • We need to be visible - especially at night.
  • We should avoid undertaking or overtaking lorries if there's a chance we will have to stop in a blind spot. The adage "if you can't see me in my mirrors, I can't see you" is less applicable with the introduction of external cameras - but it's still a good rule of thumb.
  • If a lorry is indicating left, don't undertake.
  • If a lorry is indicating right, don't overtake.
  • Take special care when a cycle path rejoins the road near a lorry.
  • When using an advanced stop lane, position yourself as far forward in the box as possible. Try to get eye contact with the driver. Personally, I don't intend to use an advanced stop lane if a lorry is at the head of the queue.

The CTC continues to campaign to improve cyclist safety where lorries are involved. It deserves our support beyond the contribution we make through our annual subscriptions.

2 thoughts on “Lorries and cycle safety

  1. Andy,
    This is extremely valuable. Having recently had to drive a long, large Mercedes van, one forgets that most vans/HGVs don't have the benefit of a rear view through the rear windscreen and are solely dependent on wing mirrors for rear/sideways views. Although the van I drove had twin lenses in each wing mirror, to improve visibility along the sides and reduce the blind spots, I felt very anxious about the lack of visibility particularly when turning left -it's almost impossible to see cyclists who are positioned on the left, particularly the closer they are to the front of the vehicle. Following this experience I have much more sympathy for the difficulties van/HGVS drivers have seeing us, and now take even greater care if a van/HGV is just ahead of, or alongside me, at a junction where there is the potential fo it to turn left. One MUSN'T assume that one can be/ has been seen.
    Although it wasn't a problem with the van I drove, I didn't realise just how limited forward visibility can be, if the cab is very high, and thus how advanced stop lines may not offer us enough protection, so thank you very much for this.
    I think all of us would benefit from experience of even just sitting in the cab of such a vehicle.
    It's just a thought but might TJ transport be willing to offer the CTC such an experience eg at their depot?


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