The Stupidity of Mixing Traffic Modes

So yet another cyclist has died today.

Tragic. (c) Evening Standard

We don’t know the full circumstances, but here’s what we do know:

  • A tipper truck crushed a bicycle and the person on it
  • The person on a bike died
  • The person driving the lorry lived
  • This is an horrific tragedy for the family of the person on a bike
  • The lorry driver is going to be affected by this too

Let’s go beyond any issues of whether mirrors were checked, etc. At this stage, we just don’t know. Equally, we don’t know whether indicators were on or not. Here’s what we do know:

  • The person on a bike and person in a lorry were sharing the same space
  • The person and bike probably weighed under 100kg
  • The person and lorry probably weighed over 6000kg

It’s not equal. Talk of sharing the road and respecting each other is simply a red herring when a mistake (whether negligent or careless or anything else) results in one party being crushed.

This bit of Victoria is horrible. The ongoing works mean that traffic is siphoned through narrow diversions with poor sight lines. Frankly, I wouldn’t ride it because the lack of escape route scares the bejesus out of me.

And then you add tipper trucks. HGVs have acknowledged blind spots that almost exactly match the position of a cycle path. Vehicles that kill and kill again.

blind spot
Blind spots that match the cycle lane. (c) TfL

So what’s the answer? Nobody rides a bike? It’s clear that sharing the road isn’t a great solution, whatever the Vehicular Cycling front would have one believe. Put simply, the risk is too high. Forget probability of being killed; humans are notoriously bad at measuring probability. Impact is the point to focus on, and that’s too high.

I would put forward three proposals that would hopefully reduce the very real danger faced. Interim measures, until we have a properly segregated network. And measures that can be put in place swiftly

  1. Vehicles with blind spots are required to have a spotter when driving in cities and towns. These vehicles are so dangerous that a group of banksmen is required to guide them onto building sites and they drive at 11mph max. So why does health and safety finish the moment they leave a site?
  2. Any roadworks without a cycle lane have a mandatory “no overtaking cyclists” sign. Put your police officers there please, operation safeway
  3. Any places where TfL is consulting for cycle paths gets temporary lane dividers until the issue is resolved. For example, we know there’s a need for segregation on Embankment and it’s likely coming. So why not cone off that area for cyclists now? At least put something in place, rather than just waiting for the spades to go into the ground.
Protected Lane Wands
Protected Lane with Wands. Useful for temporary infrastructure. (c)

Something needs to be done. This isn’t knee-jerk, it’s a reaction to an unacceptably grim statistic of unnecessary death.


Author: Stuff Rich Writes

Cyclist and Product Manager. I blog about both.

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