Tfl and the government have implemented a new piece of legislation aimed at keeping cyclists safer on London’s streets. From now on, lorries must use mirrors that decrease the sizes of their blind spots along with side panels that prevent cyclists being dragged under the vehicle.
The new measures are a result of the disproportionate number of cyclists deaths that involve lorries.
What the new measures will look like
The new mirrors will improve the drivers ability to see alongside and in front of the vehicles. These dangerous blind spots are where cyclists are typically positioned.
The side barriers will hopefully stop a cyclist, or pedestrian, from being dragged under the vehicle should they be clipped or hit.
All large goods vehicles driving on roads in London will have to comply with the new rules. Many vehicles already have this, but now it is a legal requirement for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, these are the ones that are usually builders lorries seen on central London roads.
Of course, these new rules are addressing one side of the issues around safer cycling in this city. The roads themselves and the provision for cyclists on them are also a problem, and of course us as cyclists have a responsibility to put ourselves in the correct place and move correctly around other road users.
Road layouts designed with cyclists in mind
Tfl have also been talking about road layouts in recent days. I recently encountered a cyclist-specific traffic signal on CS7 and it was pretty good, but a little confusing.
There was no indication that the light had registered my presence. Normally I can be sure that the light is going to change for the cars and so I don’t have to worry about tripping it myself. I don’t go through red lights. The junction on the CS7 made me feel like I might have to. I could also feel agitation behind me from cyclists who don’t have quite the same road morals.
In principle, these alterations to traffic flow are a great acknowledgement that you cant just put a picture of a bike on the road and say you have cycling infrastructure. Things like separate light stages increase cyclist safety to go straight along side alterations to vehicles to allow them to integrate better into multimodal city traffic.
Everyone should share the road
Cyclist positioning at junctions and on roads needs to be considered as well. Just because lorries have extra mirrors now, it is not a guarantee that they can see you right alongside or in front of their cab.
I recently sat in the cab of a lorry with these extra mirrors. The Metropolitan Police have an ‘Exchanging Places’ program where you can go along and sit in a lorry with an officer and they talk you through all the blind spots and mirrors. I thought I was aware of the blind spots, and while it was the areas I thought, actually seeing it was really beneficial.
The lorry I sat in had the extra mirrors, and they did improve visibility. The downside was that they are hard to keep an eye on while checking traffic and lights and all the other things that go on on roads. Obviously you get used to checking these things, and it is the responsibility of the lorry driver to be aware of their surroundings at all times, the same as it is for a cyclist.
However, I do feel now more than ever that it is just not worth going along side a lorry rather than waiting behind it as I could make my move between mirror checks and the driver would just not know I was there. Personally, I just don’t need to get anywhere so quickly that I am willing to entrust my personal safety to someone else piloting a large vehicle.
One small step…
The Safer Lorry Scheme is certainly an improvement to the reality that exists today on London’s roads. It’s clear that the TfL, the mayor and the government know that something needs to be done. Whether these measures will go far enough will be revealed over time.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.