Side guards save lives. It's proven. When a truck turns right without seeing a cyclist, it just pushes the cyclist aside instead of pulling her under the wheels. They are required on trucks in Europe and China. But not in the USA and not in Canada, where the authorities say they can't change the law because it would give the American truckers an unfair economic advantage. Every level of government says it's someone else's problem.
But it's different in Boston. There, Mayor Marty Walsh has simply brought in an ordinance that puts side guards on every city truck, but more importantly, on all the trucks belonging to any company that does business with the city. He's demanding better mirrors too:
This ordinance will implement safety protections allowing drivers of large trucks to see in the areas in front of them where children and cyclists are invisible to the driver, and also to be able to see the sides better reducing the risk of incident involving cyclists, making Boston a safer place for all road users.
This is the way things should get done everywhere: instead of passing the buck to somebody else, just do it and let the market decide whether they want to do business in Boston or save a couple of hundred bucks.
Meanwhile the Boston Cyclists Union has issued an infographic / fact sheet that describes the benefits of sideguards so that other municipalities and governments can do the same thing. See it all here.
Back in Canada, former Member of Parliament Olivia Chow has been unsuccessfully fighting for sideguards for years. Perhaps now that she is running for mayor of Toronto, she can follow this path.
Sideguards are not perfect; bike activist John Allen calls them "sub-optimal" because they don't cover the wheels. He calls them " a measure which, even if executed as well as possible, offers only a weak, last-resort solution to the problem of bus and truck underruns." Perhaps. But they are better than nothing and a place to start.