Truck Redesign Puts Cyclists’ Safety First
One hundred and twenty-two cyclists were killed in the United Kingdom in 2012 after being struck by vehicles, according to the London Times. This marked a five-year high in the number of annual cyclist deaths in a country where cycling is a popular form of commuting, exercise, and recreation.
But a recent initiative by London bike enthusiasts hopes to allay this problem by redesigning the industrial vehicles that are often involved in fatal cyclist accidents.
The Safer Urban Lorry design, presented by the London Cycling Campaign, puts the safety of cyclists and pedestrians first by affording truck drivers a clearer view of what’s happening around their vehicles. The campaign is specifically targeted toward the construction industry, whose current truck design prioritizes off-road convenience over safety, according to the group.
The redesign features several key improvements, some of which are already used for refuse collection vehicles in London, such as a lowered cab. According to the London Cycling Campaign, the low-entry cab is safer for drivers as well as for cyclists. Not only does the lowered seating position provide the driver with an improved view of what’s happening around the vehicle, it also makes entering and exiting the truck less dangerous for the driver.
By shortening the space between the underside of the truck and the ground, the design team hopes to increase the chance of a cyclist being pushed to the side during a collision, instead of dragged under the wheels of the truck. The redesign features side-guards that are also meant to keep a cyclist from falling under the rear wheels of the vehicle.
High-visibility glass panels figure prominently in the new design, expanding the driver’s field of vision to 180 degrees and enabling him or her to clearly see the area to the front-left of the vehicle, where cyclists and trucks are most likely to collide.
The Safer Urban Lorry design also includes early warning cameras, which send images from around the vehicle to a screen on the dashboard. This ensures that the driver is aware of pedestrians and cyclists behind the truck, even when they’re not visible from the driver’s seat.
“The construction industry has a duty to do everything it can to prevent more people being killed by its vehicles,” said Geoff Lee, whose wife was killed by a truck while cycling in London in 2012. “Perhaps if more lorries were designed like this lorry, then fewer innocent people would die on our streets.”
Although construction and other industrial vehicles make up only five percent of the traffic on London streets, the London Cycling Campaign reports that these vehicles were involved in half of the cyclist fatalities in 2012, as well as a large number of pedestrian fatalities in recent years.
The Safer Urban Lorry project is part of a week-long effort to get the city’s borough councils on board with the Campaign’s “Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling” pledge.