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On Yer Bike: 'You can never be too careful around trucks'
THE spate of cyclist deaths in London in November has been the talk of the town here too.
There was shock and disbelief as news of five cyclists being killed within 10 days sent shockwaves. News of a sixth death, all six within a fortnight, caused panic.
A BBC survey found one in five London cyclists had stopped cycling to work as a result, and 70 per cent felt cycling in London was unsafe.
The Mayor’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan accused the press of scaremongering, with evidence that over the whole year, cycling was no more dangerous than any recent years. Boris Johnson was condemned for appearing to blame the victims, before doing a U-turn and saying he was not adverse to a rush-hour ban on HGVs in London.
This acknowledges the fact that although HGVs represent less than five per cent of London’s road traffic, they account for the deaths of more than 90 per cent of cyclists killed on the capital’s roads.
This statistic is mirrored in Oxfordshire, where the vast majority of cyclists that have died were run over by HGVs.
The month ended with thousands of traffic police posted at key junctions fining cyclists and drivers alike for traffic transgressions – keen to be seen to be even-handed.
I was surprised to read that half of all HGV drivers stopped were ticked off for having non-functioning safety equipment on their truck, but happy to see cyclists fined for riding without lights in the dark.
It all backfired though when it transpired that the police were also pulling people over for not wearing helmets and not wearing hi-visibility clothing.
I’m all for law enforcement and I do tend to wear hi-viz and a helmet with a flashing light when I ride in London, or even in Oxford at dusk. But then I ride fast and I tend to pass stationary or slow-moving vehicles along the dotted white line, a habit I developed when I used to ride motorbikes in my 20s and it’s one that’s stuck.
I want and need to be seen, but I completely sympathise with the majority of cyclists who don’t want to wear a helmet or ride lit up like a Christmas decoration. We don’t expect pedestrians, whose crash-rates with vehicles are the same as those for cyclists by the way, to wear hard hats or lurid clothes.
The main thing to take away from all of this is that cyclists can never be too careful around trucks and buses. Never cycle up the nearside (i.e., kerbside) of a truck or a bus.
The nearside is the deadly side of an HGV because they have a big bike-sized blindspot there. When trucks (especially) start to move right at a junction, steer well clear. They could well be pulling out so they can turn left.
And take heart – there have been zero cycling deaths in December either in Oxon or the capital.
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