Right to Ride representatives of the national cycling charity the CTC (Cycling Tourists Club) have been contacting executives of companies over the stickers that are appearing on vans and buses with the somewhat abrupt message “Cyclists stay back”.
AsJohn Thompson, a regional CTC Right to Ride representative, has remarked in his correspondence “such stickers are not appropriate on vehicles of that size” and indicates that the original problem relates to cyclists passing Heavy Goods Vehicles on the left-hand side. There has been a number of fatalities, particularly in London, due to the drivers not having sufficient sight lines on the left-hand side. The CTC, along with other groups concerned with road safety, has accepted the need for such stickers on lorries / HGVs politely advising cyclists not to come through on the left-hand side and explaining why, and has participated in schemes educating cyclists and lorry drivers of the problems as seen from each other’s perspectives.
“There are two important points” says John. “Firstly, cyclists have a right as per the Highway Code to pass stationary vehicles on the left-hand side. The problem with restricted sight lines is only with lorries over 3.5 tons. There is no problem with smaller vehicles.” A number of companies and organisations, particularly in London including some bus operators, that use smaller vehicles are using the stickers. The CTC and others have protested to Transport for London (TfL) about the practice. At first TfL disagreed that it is bad practice but have now agreed.
The fact is that motor vehicle users when starting to move after being in stationery traffic or are turning left have a duty – as per the Highway Code – to look at their left-hand mirrors.
“To put it bluntly” adds John “the stickers are being used by drivers who simply do not want to have to think about cyclists. It is often the case that this is because they have had ‘close’ incidents due to overlooking the possibility of the presence of cyclists.”
The second concern that has been raised is worth the wording “Cyclists stay back”, which has a feel of arrogance about it. TfL has, for example, accepted this and – to be fair – a number of HGV operators have politely worded stickers advising cyclists not to pass on the left and explaining why.
Joe Garner, the Chief Executive of BT Openreach has replied to John Thompson and confirmed that it is not their policy to display such stickers and have had them removed from vans, where the stickers had been added by the drivers. As a keen cyclist, Joe Garner feels strongly about the subject of road safety and is pleased that they have been able to reduce all road accidents involving their fleet by 5% in a year and that accidents involving their vehicles and cyclists are not only extremely infrequent but also declining year on year. It must irritate him therefore that we continue to see BT Openreach vans with these stickers displayed well over a month after his response to the CTC’s John Thompson – along with vans from National Grid, Network Rail and loads of others.
What is the motivation of a driver to add these stickers to the vans they drive, if it is against company policy to use them? One thought occurs to me, that it is associated with the all-too-common “blame the victim” approach when a cyclist is hit by a vehicle – having displayed a sticker, even if inappropriate, the driver is somehow excused and it is only the cyclist’s fault if a vehicle hits him/her.
If you take a gun and shoot someone, it’s murder. Take a motor vehicle and hit a cyclist, and it’s an accident.