Dear Cardiff, we need to have a talk about lorries…

Incidents involving lorries and bicycles are worryingly common, so it is probably about time we had a bit of a talk…

Lorries come in all shapes & sizes, from the 7.5 tonne van-on-steroids to the 45′ articulated variety. However, one thing most of them have in common is how woeful visibility is for the driver. They’re an 18-wheeled, mobile blind-spot, but undeniably an essential part of our economy, delivering stock to businesses all around the city.

Whilst there has been talk of restricting the hours they can enter city centres like London, we believe it is fair to say that, for the time being here in Cardiff they’ll continue to be an occupational hazard for those of us on two wheels.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, to a lesser extent, the same principles apply to buses too. Visibility from a bus driver’s seat is arguably much better, but they still have a large mass and a large turning circle.

So, how do we deal with them?

“There’s considerable evidence that many fatalities are not caused by cyclists undertaking lorries, but by drivers manoeuvring their lorry into a position that puts the cyclist at risk,”

It’s essential people know how to not put themselves at risk unnecessarily and also to know how to stay out of danger when lorry drivers put them in a dangerous position. However, while education is important, reducing the danger at its source should be our major priority.”

Source: Why are lorries responsible for so many cyclist deaths? – Cycling Weekly

Taking the lane

Just as we advocate taking the lane when approaching junctions, pinch points and hazards lorries will do the same thing but on a bigger scale. A lorry, particularly those of the articulated variety will often take the middle lane (or sit between two lanes) on a large roundabout and on a left or right turn. They do this to avoid taking out street furniture & buildings close to either side of the junction, as the trailer takes its somewhat more direct arc around a corner.

Whilst the rig will behave not unlike a large car, the trailer will often continue straight on for a few more feet before pivoting around its rear wheels. On a shallow bend this isn’t too much of a problem, but at 90 degrees at a crossroads or T-junction, the driver will have to take it as wide as he/she can to avoid swiping whatever is on the corner. The bigger the lorry, the more space it’ll need to turn.

Never assume…

For we cyclists, there’s a few things we need to make sure we never do.

  • Never assume that a lorry driver has seen you and knows where you are at all times.
  • Never assume that a driver in the middle lane is going straight on.
  • Never filter past a lorry on the left to get to the front of the queue, even if there is an advanced stop line and advisory lane. Better to hang back until the lorry has cleared the junction.

If you have any doubts about what line a lorry is going to take, any at all, hang back. It’s better to get there a little later than not at all. It’s always safer to allow a large vehicle to complete its manoeuvre before committing yourself to passing it.

Here’s a great example of what NOT to do:

The blame game

Yes, some may take the view that as the more vulnerable road user, we shouldn’t be getting hit in the first place. Yes, truck manufacturers have a role to play in making sure their trucks are designed to provide sufficient visibility to be safely used around town, but trucks are expensive and hauliers are not going to replace perfectly serviceable vehicles until they have to.

Yes, we should have safe infrastructure so that vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists are not put into conflict with large goods vehicles, but if we want to cycle TODAY, we’re going to have to take some responsibility and look after ourselves. This also means identifying when the provided infrastructure is likely to put us in danger and choosing when not to use it. It also means doing what we can to be visible.

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