Trucks and A Tale of Two Cities


Two very different press releases arrived within minutes of each other.

The first to arrive was from our Department for Transport announcing a new “Think!” safety campaign to improve cyclists’ safety by urging cyclists in London and Manchester (the rest of us don’t count?) to hang back from lorries. They have realised from their statistics that one fifth of crashes (at least they don’t call them accidents any more) where cyclists were killed involved HGVs, and a “large proportion” of deaths happen when a cyclist is at the front left of the truck, and almost one third of all crashes between cyclists and HGVs happen when the lorry is turning left.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said “We are investing £300 million over the next four years to help make Britain a cycling nation”, without doing the maths for us to say this works out at around £5 per head over 4 years, or £1.25 per person per year, a long way short of the £10 that has been called for. He continues “reducing the number of cyclists killed on our roads is a key priority – since 2010 the number has decreased to its lowest level last year.” The decline in deaths is good news, but is it really is for the “victim” to take care: “This campaign will raise awareness amongst urban cyclists and help make our roads safer for those on two wheels”.

If you live outside London or Manchester, you may not see the posters carrying the message “Don’t get caught between a lorry and left turn. Hang back.”

The other press release came from Berlin, from the ADFC, the German Cyclists Club, saying that Mercedes were exhibiting their “Blind-Spot-Assist” at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show; this warns HGV drivers if there is somebody in their blind spot. The ADFC has been calling for this type of equipment for years to improve the safety of cycling and initiated a round table session at the German Federal Transport Ministry back in 2011, so it is understandable that they are welcoming the Mercedes introduction, but are also saying that this and further products – such as turning assistance, emergency brake deployer, and an “Intelligent Speed Assistance” need to be compulsory for all vehicle manufacturers and all models.

ADFC Chief Exec Burkhard Stork said “It is a joke: everybody is talking about self driving cars and Mobility 4.0, but every day a cyclist is killed on German roads. Approximately one in ten of these is due to a truck driver not taking enough care when turning. And yet there are systems which are ready for market that could prevent many of these crashes. Hauliers should be just as interested to provide their drivers with systems that could help prevent such traumatic collisions. We are calling on the Transport Minister to push for an EU level requirement for such electronic systems to protect cyclists and pedestrians.”

In the UK it seems, it is akin to Caveat Emptor (buyer beware). In Germany, they are calling for the people driving these heavy tonnage vehicles to take responsibility for their actions to avoid collisions, thanks to the deployment of appropriate electronics.

Well done ADFC and Mercedes. Must try harder, DfT!

Here’s hoping the German Transport Ministry does push for an EU wide requirement. Will it happen before Brexit if Article 50 isn’t triggered till 2017? If it does, it’s another example of where I would be quite happy for Brussels telling us here in the UK what to do!



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