How to Stay Safe Around Lorries

Thankfully cycling is relatively safe, but you still need to wary of lorries on our roads.

On Saturday evening a young female cyclist in London was killed by a lorry as she rode a ‘Boris Bike’ (their equivalent to a Dublin Bike) along what was supposedly a safe cycle route. And in London the statistics seem to suggest that around half of all cycling fatalities involve lorries.

Here in Dublin we’re a bit better off, because the Port Tunnel keeps that vast majority of lorries away from the city centre roads. Even so, in 2011 the official Irish Road Collision stats show that of the 5 cyclist fatalities that involved another vehicle, 3 of them were due to collisions with goods vehicles.

We can’t tell, from any of these reports or statistics, who if anyone is to blame for these deaths – but the message is clear that cyclists and lorry drivers need to be more wary around each other. Drivers need to be more aware of the presence of cyclists around them, and cyclists need need to be more aware of the blind spots where a lorry drive can’t see you.

The issue of a lorry’s blind spot is illustrated very well in this video from Transport for London. Watch it for yourself, and be amazed at the number of bikes that are completely invisible in a lorry’s mirrors.

I completely agree with the advice about lorries from the London Cycling Campaign, that it’s really important not to end up positioned down the left hand side of a lorry. Even if a lorry is stationary in traffic and there’s plenty of room to undertake it along the cycle lane, I would resist the urge to move along it’s left side.

Illustration of the blind spot of a dumper truck
Illustration of the blind spot of a dumper truck

I know that it’s every cyclist’s natural instinct to get to the front of a traffic queue. Indeed some cycling advocates say that it’s safer to be ahead of the traffic – and for queuing cars that may be true. However the cab of a truck is much higher up than a car, and to be safe you need to make sure you’re a good distance ahead (at least 3 metres), as the driver can’t see anything immediately in front of it.

My best advice is to always stay behind a lorry in stationary or slow-moving traffic, where you can see exactly what the lorry does and maintain full control of the situation. It may lose you some time but it’s the only way that you can guarantee that you won’t inadvertently end up in trouble.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

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