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How to cycle safely near an HGV - teach your kids now!
It seems an all too regular and upsetting occurrence these days to read a newspaper report about a fatality involving someone riding a bike and an HGV. Whilst the obvious solution to this is to ensure our transport network is designed so lorries and cyclists don't share the same space, it will be while until this is achieved. In the mean time it is important that everyone knows how to ride their bike to avoid placing themselves in danger around an HGV - and it's never too early to start teaching your child about this.
We ALL need to know how to cycle safely near an HGV
Whilst a lot of the media coverage has necessarily focused on London, it’s not just those who commute daily through central London that need to be aware of how to cycle close to a lorry.
It’s all of us who may at just one single, fateful, moment in our lives find ourselves on a bike pulling up at a junction next to a HGV. It could be during a weekend ride out with the kids.
Maybe there's an HGV making a delivery on your usually quiet route to school or work. Perhaps you hire bikes on holiday and suddenly find yourself on a busier than usual road. It can happen - any time, any place.
This film produced for the Metropolitan Police helps to show the problems that HGV drivers have seeing cyclists, and explains what we can all do to avoid tragedy. It only takes 4 minutes to watch, but it could be the best 4 minutes you ever spend.
So, if you only learn one thing today, it’s that if you position yourself in front of, or to the left hand side of a lorry, then assume the driver can’t see you.
And remember that if you're pulling a trailer or tagalong, then the driver might be able to see you, but they may not have seen the precious load you're pulling.
This very short film (less than a minute) also shows how easy it can be for a lorry driver not to see cyclists.
Surely my kids and I are safe from HGV's if we use cycle lanes?
If you watched the films, you will have noticed that the two things deemed most dangerous (riding down the left hand side of the lorry, and stopping in front of it) are the two places you and your kids will end up if you use on road cycle lanes and advance stop lines at junctions. So, if you're using designated cycle infrastructure in many parts of the UK you're possibly at more risk than you realised. I've tried to show this in the following diagram. Direction of travel is down the page (i.e. lorry cab is at the bottom of the diagram)
So, just because you and your family are using cycle lanes, don’t assume you are safe – you are not.
Don't forget to teach your child how to cycle near a lorry
It’s not just adults who need to know this - our children who need to know too. Maybe they’re already old enough to head out on their own, or perhaps it’s a decade away, but it’s crucial that as soon as they’re ready to ride alone they’re aware of how to ride around HGV’s. I don't advocate scaring your children, or getting young children to watch these videos. But here's a couple of ideas on how to introduce the ideas early so it's second nature to them by the time they find themselves in such a situation:
- Always discuss with them why you are positioning yourself where you are on the road - you can start young with children in bike seats, cargo bikes or tagalongs and continue as they get older
- Use model lorries and toy bikes in role play scenarios - helpful at any age, and can be used to illustrate more graphically for older kids / teenagers wanting to start riding on the roads alone
- Practice in the park or another safe space - if your child is old enough to start riding on the road use cones or some other way of marking out the shape of the lorry
Is it possible to cycle safely near to HGV's?
You’ll notice in the film that the police officer says “we know what causes ...........” and goes on to say it's the fact that cyclists are in these danger areas that cause the accidents.
I disagree with him on that point – it’s the fact that HGV’s and cyclists are forced to share the same narrow piece of tarmac that causes these fatalities. We shouldn't blame people who are riding bikes, and we shouldn't blame HGV drivers. If anyone deserves the blame it's our politicians and planners who continually fail to deliver safe transport systems that allow people and goods to travel safely around using their chosen modes of transport. The good news is that it is possible to create a transport infrastructure where HGV's and cyclists can both go safely about their business. This is my family cycling very close to a lorry - and I didn't worry at all!
If you pop over to As Easy as Riding a Bike’s blog “Mixing it with lorries - Dutch Style” you’ll see some more fabulous photos of how lorries and bikes can both co-exist in close proximity.
To think these pictures were taken a short ferry journey from our shores is staggering, and shows what can be done when the political and economic will is there.
So, why not show the photos of cycling 'Netherlands style' to your child. If enough kids see that there is another way of doing things, then perhaps there’s hope for the future.
Other posts you may find useful:
- How to get more children cycling safely to your school - some good ideas on how to campaign for safe routes to your local school
- I've finally found out that I'm not weird! - my blog about cycling in The Netherlands with the boys
- Cycle licences - a great way to improve safety for our kids? - is this is answer to reducing accidents?
This post was first published in January 2014 and revised in April 2019 to bring it up to date
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