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Awareness, cyclists and pedestrians

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According to Transport for London, more than half of all cyclist deaths are caused by collisions with goods vehicles.

Risk can be minimised if lorry drivers and cyclists alike are aware of each other and behave responsibly.

Current heavy goods vehicle design is extremely problematic for pedestrians and cyclists. The Metropolitan Police Exchanging Places video shows some of the many blind spots for drivers of high-cab heavy goods vehicles.

The Transport Research Laboratory has published reports on heavy goods vehicle blind spots, but they are not freely readable on the internet, and they charge £35 or something for each report. So here’s a summary of a 2009 TRL report, from the Backhouse Jones website.

Thursday 27th August 2009

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has recently published a DfT commissioned report on heavy goods vehicle blind spot modelling.

This report is in follow up to a previous trial carried out by TRL in 2006 which indicated that blind spots exist even with vehicles equipped with the latest specification mirrors in compliance with Directive 2007/97/EC which requires up to six mirrors to be fitted to hgvs. Since 31 March 2009, Directive 2007/38/EC requires most hgvs over 3,500kg manufactured since 1 January 2000 to be equipped, on the passenger side, with wide-angle and close-proximity mirrors which fulfil the requirements for Directive 2003/97/EC.

The report describes the findings of a study by TRL to investigate the direct and indirect field of vision from three hgvs and to identify areas alongside each vehicle where a passenger car or vulnerable road users such as cyclists could be hidden in a blind spot. Supplementary devices including aftermarket mirrors and a fresnel lens (a thin plastic lens that is pressed against the passenger door window) were then added to the vehicles and measurements taken to identify the ground plane field of vision offered by each device, and to identify how effective each device was at eliminating the potential blind spots.

The report concludes that even the latest vehicles with a full compliment of six mirrors still have blind spots to the passenger side, and TRL tests have proven that the most effective solution to reduce this blind spot is the use of a fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses have been issued by VOSA to foreign hgv drivers in an effort to reduce side-swipe incidents from left-hand drive vehicles. They have also been historically provided by the Transport for London’s Freight Unit to FORS members. […]

The Department for Transport is now considering what can be done to reduce heavy goods vehicle blind spots further in light of the report findings. […]

According to the Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid (SWOV = Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands) Research Activities Number 47

Blind spot crashes happen when a truck turns off and fails to notice or is unable to see the cyclist who is positioned immediately beside or in front of the truck. SWOV has been studying the blind spot issue at regular intervals. Over the years, several measures were taken to prevent this type of crashes. Some of the blind spot measures were the result of European legislation. During the 1980s, for example, the so-called kerb-mirror was made compulsory, and during the 1990s this was the case for side underrun protection. In 2003, the Netherlands made the blind spot mirror compulsory. The extra attention and media publications accompanying the introduction of this measure were probably the reason for a reduction of the number of blind spot casualties in 2002 and 2003. Unfortunately the reduction was only temporary. In 2007, the EU came with new, stricter rules for the visual field of trucks. The introduction of a front view system which makes it possible to see whether a road user is positioned immediately in front of the truck was new for the Netherlands in those days.

Three causes

In 2008, SWOV made an extensive study into the causes of blind spot crashes and possible solutions. Three main causes were identified:

• The visual field is still insufficient, especially for high trucks that were manufactured before 2007 and do not have front view system.

• Truck drivers do not make the best possible use of the different mirrors or these mirrors are not adjusted correctly.

• Cyclists insufficiently take account of the fact that trucks have a limited visual field.

Measures

In SWOV’s opinion, the ultimate solution for the blind spot problem is a structural separation of trucks and cyclists. How this must be organised and what the economic consequences will be, requires further study.
[…]
The traffic mirror, also known as black spot mirror, is mounted on the pole carrying the traffic lights to provide truck drivers with a better view of cyclists at the right-hand side and front of their vehicle. This mirror has been found to barely influence truck driver behaviour and is only effective while the truck is stopped in front of the mirror. Therefore, the mirror is not effective at the location where the driver has to carry out the after check.

Of course, HGV blind spots are also a matter of concern for pedestrians. Segregation of traffic types in urban areas presents a number of problems. It may be that road space has to shared to some extent, so there needs to be effective risk assessment and control for the traffic concerned. For goods distribution in cities, there could be benefits in restricting lorry movements by time of day, or enforcing the use of particular types of vehicle. In the 1950s and 1960s low cab tractor vehicles were used in British cities, and this type of design may have some benefits in the urban space.

The need to be able to take effective observation is not restricted to HGV drivers. For example, there may be a need to revisit the legal requirements concerning cars with dark film on the windows. And there needs to be prohibition of irresponsible behaviour such as people attempting to drive motorised vehicles through a narrow slit in a costume.

Written by beleben

March 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm

One Response

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  1. The design of current HGV’s isolates the driver from direct eye-level contact with other road users, and immunises them from the results of any driver error with often fatal results to the other road user. Going back 50 years the old Scammell Scarab was the ideal vehicle to operate in a congested city centre (see the end of Robin Webb’s memorial video to his daughter – killed by an HGV to see how the driver was at eye level with pedestrians and cyclists and the truck would turn in the length of the trailer). HGV cabs do not need to high in the air, especially for vehicles used in major towns and cities, a design with walk-in cab is fine for airport vehicles and lareg cranes – so why not for haulage, with a clear advantage for travelling with part or no load, that the height of the vehicle, and thus fuel consumption can be dramatically cut, and payload can fit within a shorter length. Sadly there is not the vision or will to develop trucks like this.

    The other detail comes from best practice in health and safety, again the road is not widely managed under H&SAW legislation, despite many efforts to deliver this for those using the road as their workplace. Good practice is to work to a hierarchy of measures, with the prime one being removal of the hazard, and the very last resort being PPE (protection for those likely to get hurt). The bigg offender in killing cyclists is one particular group of HGV’s. They are exempted from having side guards fitted because they work on construction sites and the worst type are 4 axle units where a body going under the wheels gets minced up by the twin rear axles. Major sites in London demand a delivery of trucks to fill with excavated material on a continuous basis, and ferrying that material through the City to tipping sites can demand a huge fleet because the cycle time is extended by traffic congestion. As an example the Francis Crick Institute site just outside St Pancras is digging down 4 floors over the site – well over 30,000 Tons of material to move across London to Pitsea and during the day there will be a 32 ton truck every 200 metres along City Road – 140 loads a day, and requiring 30-40 trucks to deliver this, damaging the city roads with heavy loads, reducing air quality, and significantly raising the risk to cyclists. that is just one of the many sites – and we have Thames water digging a huge tunnel in addition to 50,000 metres of Crossrail tunnelling (35 sq m approx cross section), with huge station boxes of several ‘00,000 cubic metres at roughly 2 tons/cubic metre. We could mitigate the risk by having short transfers to use the river or rail lines (there are mothballed and redundant trackbeds within 0.5Km of the Francis Crick site that could load 1000-1500T trains during the day to exchange overnight, and require jsuat a small fleet of trucks transferring the material as well as bringing materials in. The Francis Crick works have closed a significant link in a West-east cycling route from Brill Place – for 2 years, and no diversion is provided or signposted, and the site entrance crosses the key walking route from St Pancras to Euston, I wonder if this intensive muckshift and the huge queue of HGV’s delivering concrete and steel will be reduced by July 2012? and of the other construction projects in the City as well?

    Maybe TfL needs to have a focus on Freight Transport for London as well as the higher profile Passenger Transport for London. Individual sites cannot be expected to fund the rail and river connections but having these would substantially reduced haulage costs for many projects as well as reducing road damage and risks to other road users, from what are proven to be the most dangerious vehicles operating in the City.

    The danger is equally highlighted when one analyses the reports of cycle fatalities, drivers who were still drunk from a previous night’s drinking and using a mobile phone, or with sub-standard vision, or a string of previous driving convictions – still allowed behind the wheel of a machine with far greater killing power than an average car. operators with lax standards. All could be tightened up with the arrival of a new Traffic Commissioner for the Metropolitan & SE area, following the long term illness of the previous incumbent. Drivers can have vocational licences revoked, and operators with poor repute can haver their fleet licences reduced or revoked. 12 years ago the construction HGV kill rate was so disturbing that City of London Police called a summit to tackle the issue, with one truck having killed 2 and put a third cyclist in a wheelchair through crashes over a relatively short period, albeit not each time with the same driver. I saw the site investigation beginning after one of that trucks ‘kills’, turning from London Wall into a small lane on the left – from the right hand of the 2 lanes at that point – directly through the path of the victim on her bike in the nearside lane, probably focussing on doing this at speed as it cut across the traffic in that nearside lane, to use a street with a ban on through HGV traffic, as a short cut to get the concrete to the site before it cured,or to keep the continuous pour running.

    No amount of safety devices can deal with dangerous use of the vehicle, and the reliance on a mirror or warning detector is bad practice – with the failure or false readings potentially negating the effectiveness and having the driver lulled into not making that ‘direct’ check as the insurance against the false or failed operation of the safety devices.

    Dave H

    March 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm


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