In New York City, Trucks make up just 3.6 percent of vehicles on New York City streets, according to U.S. DOT, but are involved in 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist deaths. This summer, (I apologize for being so late to this story) as part of its Vision Zero drive, Mayor De Blasio signed a bill making side guards mandatory on all trucks by 2024. This is longer than it should be, being based on the average life cycle of a truck, but an important step. According to Streetsblog:
“[The Department of Citywide Administrative Services] has already begun installing side guards on over 200 city trucks already on the job,” de Blasio said “This bill takes this effort to the next level to ensure that all city-owned trucks and commercial garbage trucks are outfitted.”
It's nuts that side guards aren't mandatory on trucks in North America. They are in Britain, most of Europe, Brazil and China and don't add much to the cost of trucks if they are designed as part of the truck in the first place. According to a study done for New York by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, when side guards were mandated in Britain, cyclist deaths dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths 20 percent.
Whereas only one in four bicyclists was killed or seriously injured in crashes when the truck was equipped with a sideguard, two out of three bicyclists were killed or seriously injured when the truck was exempt and not equipped with a sideguard.
The American government has refused to mandate sideguards, although the National Transportation Safety Board is considering it. Interestingly they had no problem mandating much heavier and expensive rear impact guards to protect drivers from being decapitated when they rear-end trucks, (72 per year on average before rear impact guards became law, compared to 297 pedestrians and 76 cyclists getting killed) because drivers' lives are always somehow more valuable than cyclists and pedestrians, who should know better than to be in the road and mess with trucks.
Canadian trucks don't have side guards either, because the government says they have to coordinate with Americans, and the Canadian Truckers Association objected. So the City of New York, like the City of Boston before it, has acted on their own. Really, it's time that the Federal governments of North America gave a fraction of the concern for pedestrians and cyclists that they do for drivers, and make side guards mandatory. Because: