New laws will force London truck drivers to outfit their vehicles with safety equipment designed to protect cyclists. All trucks, including those that are exempt from national laws, will be required to retrofit the gear.
The Safer Lorry Scheme requires two additions to all vehicles over 3.5 tons: special blind-spot mirrors so they can see cyclists currently hidden from view, and “side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision.” The rules came into force on September 1 this year.
The fines for noncompliance are a little lame. The £50 ($77) fixed penalty is less than buying and fitting the new equipment. Companies that repeatedly breach the rules, though, could have their operating license suspended.
One cyclist, Emily of the London Cyclist Blog, took a ride in a newly outfitted truck, as part of the equally neat Exchanging Places program, which lets cyclists and truck drivers change places. And while she found that the mirrors did improve visibility, she didn’t feel any safer.
“The downside was that they are hard to keep an eye on while checking traffic and lights and all the other things that go on on roads,” writes Emily. “I do feel now more than ever that it is just not worth going alongside a lorry rather than waiting behind it, as I could make my move between mirror checks and the driver would just not know I was there.”
That’s why better infrastructure is so important to cyclists. It doesn’t matter how well a truck is outfitted with safety features if the driver can swing over and crush a cyclist in a moment of distraction.
Emily sums it up well: “Personally, I just don’t need to get anywhere so quickly that I am willing to entrust my personal safety to someone else piloting a large vehicle.”