I was very pleased to learn this week about a road safety initiative in Northern Ireland where lorry drivers are learning first-hand about life as an urban cyclist.
Belfast HGV drivers are taking part in a training course where they will cycle around the city and get to know the risks that cyclists face every day.
Walking and cycling charity, Sustrans, have welcomed the scheme. Referring to the 30 fatal cycling and pedestrian accidents in Northern Ireland over the past three years, Sustrans Cycle Skills Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland, Karen Mawhinney, said, "As the number of cyclists increase, we have seen a rise in casualties, particularly involving lorries."
HGVs and Cycling Accidents
Whilst the new initiative in Belfast is to be welcomed, it isn’t the first cycling awareness scheme undertaken by lorry drivers.
A safety scheme for London HGV drivers has been running for many years, but lorries continue to put cyclists’ lives at risk every day. Sharing limited road space with such massive vehicles can be very daunting for a cyclist – and statistics show how much of a problem they are.
We have blogged in the past about how collisions leading to death are five times more likely to involve a HGV. In particular, HGVs are involved in 23% of incidents where cyclists are killed, despite making up only 5% of the UK’s road traffic.
In London, seven of the eight fatal cycling accidents so far in 2015 have involved lorries. Many collisions occur when HGVs turn left at traffic lights or other junctions, with drivers claiming that blind spots meant they couldn’t see the cyclist.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on Transport for London’s Safer Lorry Scheme, which comes into force next month and requires all HGVs in the capital to be fitted with extra safety equipment. From 1st September, any HGV that is not fitted with side guards and extended view mirrors will be prohibited from driving in London.
Unfortunately, the penalty for non-compliance may just be a £50 fine in a lot of cases. This is the same penalty that a cyclist would face if they jump a red light.
Transport for London (TfL) have recognised the urgent need to protect cyclists from the dangers that HGVs and I certainly hope that other cities around the country will follow suit. Cyclist protection technologies that could help reduce the risk of left-turning lorries – such as side-facing cameras and sensors – are now available but, sadly, only one in five HGV operators have installed them on vehicles in their fleet.
I’d urge all fleet operators to do their utmost to help protect vulnerable cyclists. If all our major towns and cities undertook awareness schemes such as the one in Belfast, and if the safer lorry scheme was extended throughout the UK, then perhaps we could start to see a reduction in serious cycling accidents, rather than the increase we have seen over recent years.
Oliver Jeffcott is an Associate Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Oliver is a keen cyclist and has written many articles on cycling and road safety for national publications.
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