Life Cycle UK delivers a Safe Urban Driving Course for HGV drivers, which includes practical 'on-road' cycle training to give drivers a 'real life' experience of a cyclist’s perspective.
The objectives of the course are:
- To encourage HGV drivers to emphasise with cyclists
- To minimize the interaction between HGV drivers and cyclists by enabling the drivers to consider how cyclists do/should ride
- To encourage active driver fitness and health.
Wendy Zakiewicz, one of the instructors who teaches the course, said when she first taught the Safe Urban Driving Course she walked away feeling somewhat shocked. Instead of teaching people keen to be on a bike, as she had always done previously, she was faced with a roomful of drivers, many of whom took issue with cyclists and were certainly not happy to be there.
Robin Lapworth, another instructor, said drivers come with all sorts of different views and opinions; you really need to be prepared for anything! A few cycle regularly, whilst others are firmly of the view that all cyclists deserve to be banned. Typically, most won't have been on a bike for 30 years, but are happy to give it a go and after a short confidence building session they usually love it.
The course involves getting lorry drivers on bikes and getting them to experience being a cyclist and discuss issues that arise starting from Level 1 practice through to Level 3. But it's different from teaching them how to be a cyclist said Wendy, it’s making them consider how cyclists should and/or do behave and how this affects their driving. Often drivers come believing that cyclists do not have as much right to be on the road, or that they should be using cycle lanes and moving over for faster vehicles.
Robin said he was happy to learn from the drivers, for example where the blind spots are, and learn of the tight deadlines drivers are expected to keep to - which at worse can encourage speedy driving and risk taking. He said it's really satisfying to realise that most of the drivers go away having found our sessions an enjoyable and eye opening experience.
Having seen first-hand just what it can be like as a cyclist on modern urban roads (and frequently questionable infrastructure) we often hear a few changed opinions by the end of the session. If they realise that cycling is not so easy with HGV's or heavy traffic around, especially for nervous or novice cyclists, they may give more room, slow down and be patient. Similarly, Wendy said how satisfying it is, when by the end of the course you hear a shift in comments that demonstrate respect and understanding for the need of cyclists.