Another Cyclist Gets the Right Hook: It's Time for Sideguards on Trucks in North America

toronto cyclist killed

Dave Meslin/ / yfrog

It is one of the most common ways of dying on a bike: The right hook, where a cyclist gets drawn under the wheels of a truck turning right. The woman killed yesterday in Toronto was on a recumbent bike, towing a kid's trailer; fortunately her child wasn't in the trailer. According to the National Post:

The woman was travelling alone and inching up to the intersection at Sterling and Dundas to make a right-hand turn on Dundas, just as the truck was doing the same. Mid-turn, the two came into contact, said Constable Hugh Smith, with Toronto police’s traffic services division. The cyclist fell, and her bike got caught under the rear passenger side wheel of the truck. “She became trapped and run over by the tire, sustaining massive injury, and massive trauma to the head,” said Const. Smith.
Bike activist Dave Meslin was on the scene:
Meslin, with the Toronto Cyclists Union, said the death was avoidable. The Union has been calling for side guards for large trucks that could stop a cyclist from getting caught under the vehicle.
Brazilian sideguard
Brazilian sideguard protects cyclist. Randon Companies

Every time an accident like this happens, cyclists have the same question: Why aren't side guards legally required on trucks in the City? Europe has them. The UK has them. As of January 1, 2011, even Brazil has them! The Brazilian side guards have to withstand a load of 500 kg to save motorcyclists as well as cyclists. There have been private members bills and coroners reports, going back years, but the trucking industry always protests, saying that they will cost too much, are too heavy, and will hurt gas mileage. The war on cyclists isn't just a local Toronto thing, but extends right up to the Provincial and Federal authorities responsible for transportation. As Dave Meslin said in a tweet:

Media asked me if the truck driver should be charged. I said I'd rather see all 3 levels of gov't charged w/ negligence.

It's not like these are inexperienced cyclists who don't know any better and don't understand how trucks go around corners. I lost a rowing buddy, a very experienced cyclist a few years ago to a right hook; Given than she was riding a recumbent and towing a trailer, yesterday's victim was probably pretty experienced on the road.

It is also not like a driver of a long truck has perfect visibility through a right hand mirror; a cyclist can be hard to see. This is a design flaw , a situation that happens over and over for the same reasons, and for which there is a recognized remedy.

With industry or construction, there are guards on machines and safety rails on construction sites, even though they cost businesses a few bucks and a bit of time. But sideguards? The price of saving a few cyclists is just too high.