I read the sad news today that, once again, a female cyclist has been seriously injured by a left-turning lorry.
No. Not sad. Tragic and eminently avoidable.
It happens a lot. Hence Velorution’s advice:
This is what we tell our customers:
Lesson Number One: Ladies: beware of left-turning HGVs.
Lesson Number Two: Never ever forget Lesson Number One.
So why are women disproportionately affected? A suppressed TfL report gives us a clue:
Women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by a lorry because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot, according to a study.
You really don’t want to do that. You’re going to be injured or killed. And yet the road layout and traffic laws encourage it. There’s an inviting green-tarmacked cycle lane down the nearside. There’s a red light stopping you right in the vehicle’s blind spot. Combine that with a long wheelbase and, frequently, railings, and you’ve created what Watchdog used to refer to as a potential deathtrap.
So what can be done about it? I can think of a few institutional actions right off:
- Don’t paint cycle lanes where using them will place a cyclist in danger. These are attractive nuisances. They encourage dangerous undertaking. Cycle lanes are, in any case, generally potholed ghettos that relegate cyclists to a dangerous and disadvantaged position.
- Put more labels on the backs of long-wheelbase vehicles like lorries and buses telling cyclists not to undertake them. In fact, make it the law that they all have them.
- Remove railings from junctions.
- Install advanced green lights for cyclists to allow them to accelerate out of danger before motor vehicles.
- Reduce the speed limit to 20 mph in more places. This won’t affect the overall speed of traffic on most roads in central London.
As a cyclist, you can do a few things yourself:
- Hang back from large vehicles. The best place to be is behind them. If passing them at lights, do so on the right and only when there is plenty of time and space.
- Don’t be afraid to jump red lights where it’s safer to do so. This is particularly true of red lights on straight stretches, or where you are turning left. Don’t go cruising through like the light’s not there, but if you can safely move away before the heavy machinery around you starts up, do so. This is probably controversial. It’s also illegal. But in this case the law is not your friend.
- Don’t hug the kerb. Where the road is narrow, claim the whole lane to prevent risky overtaking. This requires a certain level of stubbornness, but hey, if they’re beeping, they know exactly where you are.
But I’m really wondering what can be done to educate the cyclists who engage in risky undertaking.