“Cyclists Are The Worst Road Users” a headline that drew my attention to an article in Cycling Weekly written by Bill Hockin, director of William C Hockin Transport who followed it up by saying HGV drivers are the best.
Well you might as well be controversial if you want some publicity for your business but is his claim valid, certainly the replies on Twitter didn’t think so with one asking how many HGV drivers had been killed as a result of being hit by cyclists.
The truth is that there are good and bad HGV drivers just as there are good and bad cyclists and calls for cycle training for “all cyclists” is a reaction that smacks of victim blaming. Whilst there can be no argument that any training and instruction is a benefit I would endorse this with a caveat that if cycle training were deemed compulsory I would expect all vehicle drivers to undertake that training and experience life from the cycle saddle before being allowed to begin vehicle driver training.
Drivers who have not cycled seem blissfully unaware of the dangers they pose to the vulnerable by speed, bullying and close passes. I have nothing but the utmost respect for a lot of HGV drivers especially from the large fleet operators like Eddie Stobart and the supermarkets. They have always shown professionalism and the utmost courtesy, by contrast if I get a close pass it is usually a skip lorry, concrete mixer or tipper truck. A 38 ton lorry close passing a cyclist at 50mph can cause a massive air disturbance that can knock a cyclist from his bike.
The Spanish have a law requiring vehicles to give cyclist a 1.5m space when overtaking and the French, a law that blames vehicle drivers for accidents involving cyclists until proven otherwise, both laws I would like to see adopted in UK. Many lorries pass far too close and now carry stickers telling cyclists to stay clear and think this absolves them from any further consideration or responsibility.
London seems to be the most dangerous city in the UK to cycle and the number of cyclists killed every year is a worrying statistic that we need to reduce by education on both sides and some better road lane design. Without doubt it is lunacy cycling on the inside of an HGV indicating to turn left and I have sympathy for drivers given the poor lorry design, blind spots and lemming like behaviour of a certain number of cyclists. People are in a hurry, nobody will give way or wait and the site of cyclists jumping red lights are well-known but this does not mean all cyclists are arrogant and aggressive and deserve anything that befalls them.
So are cyclists the worst road users, not in my opinion, they are the bottom of the food chain and are most vulnerable to others mistakes or bad driving and even a low-speed impact with a vehicle will have disastrous consequences.
There were 3,500 pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured on our roads in the year ending September 2014 and with the government encouraging more of us get on our bikes this figure will rise. Calls for Dutch style cycling infrastructure just aint going to happen on cost alone so there needs to be a more tolerant approach by vehicle drivers and not the “I’m in a hurry so get off the road and stop holding me up” attitude that prevails at present.
Are HGV drivers the best, not by the amount of accidents they are involved in or some of the driving I witness. They are in control of a killing machine and have time constraints that exert pressure and as they are human they will take chances and cut corners just like everybody else, the difference being the consequences that 38 tons exerts. I would also call for tougher enforcement with life driving bans for drivers convicted of the death of another road user. We need to accept that a driving licence is a priveledge and not a human right.
So Mr Hockin i suggest that rather than tar all cyclists with the same brush and view HGV drivers through rose-tinted spectacles you get from behind your desk stop blaming the victims and cycle a few thousand miles of Britains roads, a few close passes by HGV,s might change your perspective of who really needs the cycle training.