Riding with London's lorry drivers; the view from the cab

We've written about lorries and the inherent threat they pose to more vulnerable road users too many times here at ibikelondon.  Studies show that despite making up just 4% of London's traffic, Heavy Goods Vehicles are involved in 43% of London cyclist deaths.

There is much that can be done to improve this shocking status quo; we recently discussed how existing lorry control legislation could be amended very simply to save lives.  The freight industry is responding too, by trialling safety technology and lower cabs with improved visability, as seen recently at City Hall. 


Until the situation on the roads changes for the better - and change it must - it is vital that we all know of the inherent dangers that large vehicles with limited visibility pose to cyclists.  For many years here at ibikelondon our advice has been "stay behind, or get ahead" when it comes to interacting with larger vehicles.  

You don't have to scratch the surface of the hauleage industry too deeply to find terrifyingly lawless operations; since its inception in September 2013 Transport for London's industrial HGV Task Force has stopped and checked more than 800 lorries, with less than a quarter being satisfactory.  Some 14 vehicles have been seized and taken off the road alltogether because of the immediate threat to safety that they pose.  Between 2005 and 2009, some 70% of all ALL the lorries inspected by the Met Police Commercial Vehicles Inspection Unit were found to have some form of illegal defect; overloading, underinflated tyres, faulty tachographs, drivers exceeding their legal hour limit, drivers being illegal workers or unlicensed, doors held together with wire coat hangers as they speed down narrow residential streets; that sort of thing.

There MUST be very strong pressure on the haulage industry to tidy up their field, most especially rogue operators within the construction industry.  
However, cyclists must also look to themselves to consider what they can do to keep themselves safe.

This is not to suggest that any of the recent deaths and serious injuries in London were the blame of the cyclists involved.  However you don't have to stand for long at a junction in central London to see that there is a need for more people to understand about the dangers posed by lorries, and why it is a bad idea to cycle down the side of them; even if the bicycle lane and Advanced Stop Line invites you to do so.

To this end, I encourage anyone who cycles in London to watch the above video produced by the Metropolitan Police which not only shows you the point of view of cyclists but also that of a lorry driver, and what operating one of these machines can be like.  With a little awareness raising, perhaps we can help to limit London's cyclists exposure to danger, whilst we wait for our politicians and leaders to limit the source of it.

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RadWagon said...

Whilst "Exchanging Places" has it's value, it does fail to deal with the issue that lorries are designed to be dangerous.

This is not only an issue for people riding but also people WALKING. Pedestrian crossings have had more KSI because people driving do not take into account the lack of vision they have.

There is a simple mechanism that will help with ALL these conflicts, require drivers to stop where they can SEE. This requires no infrastructure change, no lorry design change, can happen tomorrow, and will quickly disperse amongst drivers who are required to retrain.


Also from an ethical standpoint, this sticks to the idea that the person who brings risk into an environment retains responsibility for bringing that risk.

Paul M said...

Advising cyclists about taking care on the roads, and perhaps wearing helmets and high-vis if that is their choice, and if they believe that they actually confer any benefit, seems to me to be sensible, even though hostile individuals and apologists for lazy local authorities and corer-cutting commercial transport enterprises may then seize on that advice for victim-blaming. However, it seems to me that the apologists don’t really need this pretext for making unjustified victim-blaming comments. They will immediately leap to the conclusion that the cyclist must be ot blame for passing up the inside of a bus or HGV, but you and I know different.

For example, only yesterday I was overtaken by a bus going northbound on New Bridge St, which immediately turned left towards the kerb and across my path, forcing me onto the pavement. Luckily there was nothing to prevent me falling onto the pavement – the bus was not making a full left turn and there are no railings etc there – so while I was shaken up, I wasn’t hurt. Certainly I was fit enough to run around to the driver’s side, bang hard on his window and pour forth a stream of profanities like f*ckwit, c*nt and stupid moron for 30 seconds or so, watched by a bemused crowd of boarding passengers!

The driver showed total indifference.

Anonymous said...


Segregated infrastructure is the answer to all these problems. It's right to talk a lot about lorries given the dangers they cause but that's all it is, talk. Warnings and education can only go so far. We can't even get people to not do obviously dangerous things like walking on motorways, or drink driving, how can we get them to stop accidentally killing people through "momentary lack of concentration" or "the sun was in my eyes"? The right infrastructure not only protects physically against lorries but also simultaneously protects against buses and cars who are also a huge problem on the roads.

Anonymous said...

Paul M. I've had that experience before. Ask the driver to get out of the bus and meet you man to man. But remember that the bus will have CCTV and the bus company will 'lose' the part where the driver ran you off the road if they take you to court for assault charges.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with Anonymous 1 insofar as they are promoting aspects of sustainable safety. Many others seem to have bought into the framing of the problem as principally one of improving road safety in the classic UK sense of firefighting the issues with solutions that are sooo obvious, no-one has come up with them in the previous 50 years, even in the Netherlands (sorry am I being too cynical), and that framing is being driven by organizations such as TfL as far as I can see. For example, trucks have had blind spots since the year dot and are far better in that respect now, but it's suddenly an issue?? Give me a break.

As long as every cyclist and every lorry driver behaves according to all the training, and every blog idea, then all will be fine But it won''t will it? Whether on bicycles, foot or motorised vehicles, people get tired, impatient, desperate to make a deadline, some don't get the training, and others are newly arrived and keen to try out a Boris Bike, or do deliveries for a haulage organization and so on. Incidents will happen, as Elvis Costello didn't sing. Paul M, and others, will continue getting pushed onto the footway and some will end up dead or maimed unless proper sustainable safety principles are implemented.

The only merit of the current way of dealing with the problems is that it is at least a sticking plaster, but in no way should it be seen as the cure. Anyway, even if you don't subscribe to the sustainable safety model, it's the sheer number of haulage vehicles and cyclists having simiilar trajectories at the same time that is the immediate problem in London.

Anonymous 3

Group51 said...

Good advice. The implication about how far ahead of the HGV you need to be to be seen though, means in a lot of cases: disregarding the ASL and waiting in front of the white line. #justsaying

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