Over the last decade cycling in London has increased by 117% and throughout that period the numbers of casualties and fatalities amongst cyclists has steadily decreased. However the number of cyclists killed by heavy goods vehicles has not decreased. In fact in London some 43% of all cycling fatalities involve heavy goods vehicles, yet HGV’s make up only around 4% of the capitol’s traffic. By far the main killer of cyclists is when lorries turn left, trapping a cyclist between kerbside railings and their vehicle. In light of this, some long vehicles are being fitted with sensors to alert them of cyclists undertaking them on their nearside. Many lorries in the UK now have signs on the rear nearside warning cyclists not to undertake them, especially when turning left. This is an important step forward in helping to reduce cycling fatalities.
In order to further reduce cycling fatalities, some London Boroughs have adopted ‘on bike’ driver training as part of the Driver CPC training courses in an attempt to raise awareness of the more vulnerable road users. By putting drivers of heavy goods vehicles in the saddle gives them first-hand experience of just what it’s like to ride a bicycle amongst the traffic on London’s busy streets. The move has been backed by the London Cycling Campaign and is one of their appeal aims for the ‘No More Lethal Lorries’ campaign; the others include that drivers must take more responsibility and not blame the blind spot, safer design for lorries with lower cabs, larger windows, better mirrors and sensors fitted; and of course, better education for cyclists. The latter probably being the most important point as this writer, also a keen cyclist, sees so many other cyclists dangerously undertaking long vehicles on a regular basis.
At the time of writing, six London boroughs have already given their drivers of heavy goods vehicles ‘on-bike’ cyclist awareness training. However this had to be provided as an extra top-up to the CPC courses as ‘on-bike’ cyclist awareness training is not currently CPC UK approved. Transport for London is helping to fund the cyclist awareness training in some cases and should the ‘on-bike’ cyclist awareness training gain CPC UK approval, could become a fundamental part of all driver CPC courses.
This initiative has gained positive feedback from the HGV drivers who’ve already taken part in the ‘on-bike’ cycle awareness training. Of course the major blind spot on the nearside of HGV’s turning left is still present, but by making both drivers and cyclists aware of the potential danger will hopefully have a positive impact on cycling fatalities. As mentioned, altering the design of heavy goods vehicles which drive on our city streets would also be beneficial, however this is a longer term goal. In the short term the best policy is education and training and adding cycle awareness to drivers CPC training courses is the logical move in the short term. It just needs to nationwide and compulsory rather than taken up by a handful of London boroughs.