Thursday, 18 October 2007

Bicycles and trucks

The tireless and all-knowing Dave Holladay asked me to co-sign a letter to today's London Evening Standard on how adding an extra set of little side-mirrors to trucks isn't going magically to stop trucks crushing cyclists with depressing regularity, as some people seem to believe. In my correspondence with Dave, I made a point about trucks which I think is important, and which I'd like to record here:

When I see vans and lorries with their "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you" signs, I am powerfully inclined to conclude that this simply isn't good enough: if you can't see me and I am in a perfectly reasonable place, your vehicle isn't suitable to be used in an urban environment. Full stop.

And this is the root of it: lorries and other large trucks are designed primarily for the motorway, and the vision they afford the driver is entirely suitable for this, as on a motorway the edges and immediate rear of one's vehicle are largely irrelevant. Lorries should therefore be seen much more like military tanks: great in the environments for which they are designed, but absolutely not suitable for coming into towns and cities. Economics notwithstanding, the "proper" arrangement should be that lorries report to distribution centres at motorway intersections and unload their goods to smaller vans for urban delivery.

So there you have it. Sorry Messrs Tesco, Spencer and Sainsbury - I know you don't like ideas like this. But you can console yourself with the fact your directors' continued affluence has vastly more influence on government policy than road safety, congestion or pollution ever will. And to head off your inevitable counter-point: yes, I will gleefully pay 3p more for each tin of beans I buy if it makes my roads better.

6 comments:

Ian Walker said...

As an addendum, the proper proper arrangement should actually involve rail or water transport of goods as much as possible, rather than road.

Mark Richards said...

Having once been run off the M6 by a Dutch artic (not a scratch on me - car crushed and smashed beyond recognition, didn't sleep properly for nearly 5 months), I don't think that it is even fair to say that they are safe on the motorway. Apparently i was in the driver's blind-spot when he pulled out. So that's ok then.

Ian Walker said...

Sorry to hear that! They really can be quite a menace. Here's a photo of my scars from when I was hit by one whilst cycling in Bristol. It could have been a lot worse...

Have you noticed how many HGVs are driving round with their "How am I driving?" phone numbers torn off? I've noticed several lately, including a Tesco lorry yesterday. That's a very worrying sign amongst a group of supposed professionals.

amoeba said...

I knew that HGVs / LGVs were dangerous, but I had failed to appreciate the full extent of the danger that they present to cyclists and pedestrians.

Some time ago discovered by serendipity, just how ignorant I was of their great dangers, principally due to their large blind-spots. There is a video titled '44 tonne articulated trucks and towns don't mix'. From the road casualty figures, it is clear that I was not alone in my ignorance, but luckily I found out the easy way. It seems that too many, if not most find-out the hard way and with an HGV there is no second chance.

This film was made by Robin Webb because his daughter was killed in just this way!
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/3219019.stm

Please note, these lorries aren't necessarily 44 tonners. But they are more than capable of killing a cyclist.

A quote from an experienced Traffic Police Officer in the film [paraphrased]:
Quote:
Accidents between lorries and cyclists are always very similar. They almost invariably involve a lorry turning left, that hasn't seen a cyclist on their near-side. The lorry will have moved-out to allow himself room to make the turn, which creates an inviting lane for the cyclist – the advice to cyclists is don't go there... There are several mirrors but the area near the cab is very hard if not impossible to see into.., There will be a gentle impact at first with the side of the lorry, just enough to knock the cyclist onto the ground. Once on the ground, the cyclist will be too close to the ground to be caught by the side protection bars...,



Article
http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/53/article4.html


Film
http://showcase.commedia.org.uk/article/articleview/390/1/13/

For those who are unaware of the article or the film, please read the article and watch the the film!

vonnie_whinging_pom said...

yes yes yes yes yes!
buses, trucks, lorries and cyclists do not mix well! I keep well clear usually...they go into cycle lanes, for what they're worth, all the time. Britain is appalling on road safety for cyclists.

you were lucky to have got away with such a small scar.

ambrosen said...

"Accidents between lorries and cyclists are always very similar. They almost invariably involve a lorry turning left, that hasn't seen a cyclist on their near-side. The lorry will have moved-out to allow himself room to make the turn, which creates an inviting lane for the cyclist – the advice to cyclists is don't go there."

Except for the fact that the cyclist isn't around any more to tell the true story (IMO, in >80% of these cases), that the truck pulled round the cyclist and then forgot they were there and turned left anyway.