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Getting Lorry drivers out on their bikes

Fear of traffic is one of the main reasons people tell us they don’t cycle; and particularly fear of larger vehicles such as buses, vans and lorries.

Life Cycle has been training people to cycle since 2000 – teaching them skills they need to get from A to B confidently, and without fear.  Sometimes this means choosing a route that avoids multi-lane roads and large roundabouts, but mostly it means learning about road positioning, anticipating behaviour and communicating with other road users.  Training is a very effective way of increasing cyclists skill and confidence on the road, but for those of you who are still wary there is more good news..... 

In recognition of the risks that lorries, HGVs and other large vehicles pose to cyclists, Transport for London has recently released funding for “cycle awareness” training for drivers of large vehicles.  Safe Urban Driving training is being offered to any driver of a large vehicle who frequently drives in and out of London; and Life Cycle has been contracted to provide training to lorry and HGV drivers based in the South West who make the journey East on a regular basis.

Drivers attending the training are encouraged to think about their attitudes towards vulnerable road users and in particular cyclists; and their rights to be on the road and to be safe. Through the course drivers consider what issues are faced by cyclists and what role drivers have to play in ensuring their safety.  They are taught about best driving practice around cyclists and – crucially - drivers are given practical on-road training on bicycles, so they can experience the road from a cyclist’s perspective.   This practical element is particularly valuable as many individuals haven’t’ ridden a bike for years. However, once they have overcome their wobbles, they are taken out on the road to experience the environment for themselves, particularly focussing on areas where there is likely to be most conflict between users including left hand turns, traffic lights and advanced stop lines.

To date we have trained three groups of drivers, with more due over the summer, and although initially some had a negative attitude towards cyclists, they responded well to the training and went away with a better understanding of the role they can play in keeping everyone safe.  Drivers admitted to being very anxious around cyclists, particularly those who stick to kerb and come up the inside of lorries and those who sit right in front of the cab at lights, because they simply can’t see them.  Drivers fully endorsed the centre of lane position that confident cyclists take-up making them clearly visible from the cab.

In addition to training, many haulage firms are making improvements to their vehicles such as near-side blind-spot cameras that allow drivers to see real-time images to their left and  side sensors that detect nearby objects.  They are also fitting an audible ‘turning left’ warning to give those around the vehicle a clear indication of the vehicles intention to turn left – a good reason not to wear headphones when on your bike!

At the moment the Safe Urban Driving courses is only available to drivers of large vehicles going to London, but we very much hope that this will set a precedent and other fleet and haulage firms will follow suite. Watch this space.