How big is the blind spot for transport trucks?

blind spot
Screen capture Transport for London

We have been talking a lot about bike safety, about how many cyclists have been killed by trucks and buses recently. In London alone, six cyclists have been killed in the last two weeks this way.It seems the immediate reaction is to blame the cyclists; London Mayor Boris Johnson's response to the recent spate of deaths was to consider a ban on cyclists wearing headphones, even though the head of the traffic unit "was unable to point definitively to a single serious cycling incident where headphone use could be identified as a cause."

It's all about design.

TreeHugger emeritus Warren points to this video of a big HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) or transport truck as we call them, with a full dozen cyclists beside the truck on the side opposite the driver. (It's filmed in the UK so everything is backwards.) You cannot see any of them in the passenger side mirror.

There are a couple of lessons here. Clearly, cyclists shouldn't get beside trucks where they might get the right hook; it seems to be the most common accident. As the infographic we previously showed noted (and again, it is reversed for North America)

But as so often is the case, it all comes down to design.

  • The obvious first point is making side guards mandatory like they are in so much of the world, but not North America; the need for better driver training;
  • Better side mirrors, or perhaps now that video has become so affordable, there should be a requirement for video cameras and smart displays like there are backup cameras for SUVs and minivans;
  • road intersection design with some form of safe zone, either bike boxes in front or a section of protected bike lane to the side.

When a young Toronto mother, Jenna Morrison, was killed by a right hook from a truck (while towing a high-visibility trailer!), bike activists James Schwartz and Dave Meslin demonstrated (with a pile of garbage that there was lots of room to actually separate cyclists and trucks. Another group of activists, the Urban Repair Squad, showed the same thing with paint. The fact is that if the authorities gave a moment's thought to the issue of designing roads that are safe for cyclists, they could probably make these kind of interventions in a lot of places. But they rarely do. Instead, like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, they blame the cyclists.

Peter Walker of the Guardian is dismayed by the focus on what cyclists are wearing instead of what is doing the killing, namely big cement mixers and heavy vehicles.

This is a big economic lobby to take on, and it's probably no surprise that Johnson has been "considering" moves on HGVs for well over a year. But in the interim, it would be at least some comfort to cyclists, not just in London but around the country, if the issue was discussed more than relative irrelevances such as high vis.

Instead, Johnson and the police continue with advice roughly on a par with warning mugging victims that they should maybe consider staying indoors at night and consider swapping their watch for a cheaper model.

How big is the blind spot for transport trucks?
Even though they have those big mirrors, it is hard for them to see everything.

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