Watch your blind spot! It’s time for team work

Whether you’re a cyclist or a lorry driver, when it comes to the rules of the road, with a little bit of teamwork, both parties can learn to exist safely alongside each other.

A warning sign has been fitted to the rear nearside corner of all CEMEX haulage vehicles, alerting cyclists to the danger of passing along the inside of the vehicle.

A warning sign has been fitted to the rear nearside corner of all CEMEX haulage vehicles, alerting cyclists to the danger of passing along the inside of the vehicle.

The grind of the daily commute is enough to make anyone retreat into their own headspace when stuck in a traffic jam or negotiating a tricky manoeuvre, but it is in these moments when accidents can and do happen.

Recently, we have witnessed a rise in the number of cyclists killed or injured on our roads, particularly in London, where six cyclists lost their lives in a two-week period. Statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed a 10 per cent rise in the number of cyclists killed on Great Britain’s roads, with 118 dying in 2012. The number of child cyclists killed doubled to 13 and the number of seriously injured cyclists rose to 3,222.

So what can be done? Well, it seems wise to follow the lead of the Metropolitan Police Service which has teamed up with insurance group RSA to encourage lorry drivers and cyclists to view the hazards of the road from each other’s point of view. The “Exchanging Places” video aims to enforce the law and provide essential road safety advice for both parties on correct cycling, driving and pedestrian behaviour to help avoid collisions and in severe cases, loss of life.

Here’s the challenge: how to enjoy the health and environmental benefits of cycling without resulting in injury or death. In quite a few cases, cyclists have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in collisions with HGVs, especially when the vehicle is turning left at junctions.

A variety of initiatives are underway to address this issue.

On its vehicles, for example, CEMEX is using additional mirrors, warning signs, cameras and sensors that trigger audible warnings when a cyclist passes on the nearside while the left indicator is on. The firm also gives cyclists the chance to get into the cab of a large vehicle to see the road from the driver’s perspective, and cyclist safety is covered in its driver training. In November, it hosted a roundtable discussion on how LGVs might be made safer for cyclists, attended by representatives from the road safety, cycling and construction communities.

A raft of cycle safety measures aimed at HGVs have been announced for London by the DfT and Transport for London (TfL). Under national legislation, most HGVs are required to be fitted with safety equipment such as side guards or low skirts that protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users from being dragged underneath the vehicle in a collision.

Here at RoSPA, we would also like to see safety devices including side guards, proximity sensors and visual aids to be included for all new tippers and skip lorries. And cyclists have their part to play too: try to position yourself where lorry drivers can see you i.e. avoid travelling down the inside of the vehicle at traffic lights, and wear hi-vis clothing. The Highway Code’s rules for cyclists says to wear a cycle helmet and light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in the daylight and poor light, and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark. By law, cycles must have front and rear lights switched on in the dark and be fitted with reflectors.

Just how vital is it then to create a coherent safe network for cyclists? Answer: very. As the popularity of cycling increases, more and more people will be taking to the streets, which is why we need to redouble our efforts to ensure everyone stays safe. This is where the introduction of appropriate cycle lanes and tracks, linking quieter streets, and developing routes alongside rivers, canals and through parks (where possible) can all play a part. Such networks can be created by building dedicated cycle tracks alongside roads – this has been crucial for safer cycling in countries such as The Netherlands.

The introduction of more 20mph schemes in our towns and cities are also a good move and are proven to significantly reduce casualties. Where cyclists and vehicles cannot be separated, the setting up of segregated, marked cycle lanes are advised, but they must help cyclists safely negotiate junctions – usually the highest risk points on the road. It’s not enough to have cycle lanes along the road that simply disappear at a junction and then re-start on the other side of it. Along with boosting the provision of cyclist training, drivers should also be reminded to keep their speed down, watch out for cyclists (make eye contact) and give them enough room on the road. And cyclists should ride in a responsible and considerate manner, making sure they follow the rules of the road, just as motorists are expected to do. No-one is blameless here; both parties have a key role to play in helping to reduce accidents and casualties on our roads.

Finally, don’t succumb to the myth of thinking you’re a perfect driver! We should all refresh our skills regularly, and an easy way to do this is to join one of RoSPA’s local Advanced Drivers groups – see www.roadar.org.uk for details.

And if you’re going to be in the Birmingham area on February 25, why not join RoSPA at its 2014 Road Safety Conference? It will consider how to make roads, behaviours and environments safer for the increasing numbers of cyclists. A full programme is available to view here: www.rospa.com/events/roadsafetyconference/.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

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