By Glenn Blake

All professional drivers must complete 35 hours of training over five years for their Driver Certificate of Professional Competence to keep their licence.

Contributing to that is the Safe Urban Driving or Vunerable Road Users course, which gives truck drivers a feel for what it is like to be on a bike in front of a 48-tonne behemoth.

I am part of a scheme that delivers the training. Safe Urban Driving is an accredited seven-hour course with half a day in the classroom learning about vulnerable road users and how roads (particularly in London) are changing to accommodate cycling.

The fun part of the day is the other half, out on bikes. We start in a car park, reminding participants how to signal, stop, change gear and general bike handling, before going out on the road.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike; however, for many drivers it’s been years since they last rode, 50 years in one case.

We discuss cycling in general and the fact that there is a growing number of cyclists everywhere, especially in the key cities of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

We look at why cyclists ride away from the kerb, keeping themselves visible, avoiding gullies, grates and pot-holes.

We explain primary position at junctions when cyclists take the centre of the lane to be seen better, well away from opening vehicle doors. Professional drivers easily recognise these dangers and can avoid forcing cyclist into hazards.

The road infrastructure for cyclists is another challenge. “Why don’t cyclists use the cycle paths provided” is a common question soon answered when they are on their bikes. Advanced stop lines at traffic lights lead cyclists along the left-hand side of a large vehicle to stop in front of it. This is exactly the same as the blindspot on an HGV.

Cycle lanes separating cyclists from other traffic by a white line encourages ‘lane passing’ so that vehicles often pass very close. The drivers soon experience how much protection the white paint offers.

From the drivers’ perspective a big gripe is cyclists not being visible – dark clothing and no lights. Cyclists riding two abreast is another bugbear, but they seem to understand that riding in single file doubles the length of the overtaking manoeuvre.

The latest mirrors, sensors and CCTV all help; however it is still important for cyclists to stay away from large vehicles. Most modern lorries have ‘eco-drive’ which makes acceleration slow and even overtaking a bike difficult.

What is extraordinary is the road awareness of professional drivers and their sixth sense of what will happen.

We also give them some ‘fun time’ on the bike, reminding them how much fun it can be. At the end of the course some say that they will get the bike out and enjoy the occasional ride, a few may even start riding to work.

We trainers also learn that truck driving is not fun, especially in big towns where cyclists can swarm around them.

We learn to give a little, let them overtake where it is safe to do so, wave and smile at the driver who provides room for us.

Avanti Cycling delivers Safe Urban Driving courses across the south of England. See