Thursday, December 12, 2013

Excellent Short Video Can Help Cyclists and Road Haulage Drivers Alike

Teamwork and Cooperation is the Key to Reduce Road Deaths
Shipping News Feature

UK – IRELAND – The debate on the safety of cyclists is still a topic which can elicit entrenched views, particularly from individuals and cycling bodies and those in the road haulage industry. In the case of many accidents involving the two types of transport fault can often lie on either, and indeed both sides, but more and more is being done in an attempt to reduce fatalities and serious incidents between HGV’s bearing essential freight and cyclists, particularly those travelling in urban surroundings.

Now, with organisations representing both sides speaking out after the latest police crackdown, some of the views expressed could hardly be more different. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says it fully supports the Exchanging Places scheme, a title which is self-explanatory and which aims to provide HGV drivers and cyclists with an understanding of the others perspective. The FTA described in a recent press release how the initiative aims to ensure both road users recognise the risks and position themselves appropriately when on the roads.

Contrast this with the corresponding release about the police initiative from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) which bears the headline ‘Cyclists Being Stopped for Not Wearing a Helmet or Hi-Viz Jackets’, a statement which it rapidly becomes obvious is untrue, even by the evidence of the piece itself. The article then goes on to say there is ‘no law against wearing headphones whilst cycling’ (although the author gives a nod to the stupidity of this action), and blames the police for not stopping drivers ‘phoning whilst driving, which many would say is a somewhat naïve statement given the recent new swingeing penalties being enforced by the authorities for this offence.

Unfortunately views like this are how many in the haulage community see cycling opinion, yet there is still no demand on cyclists, many of whom ride on some of the most dangerous roads which were never constructed with modern multimodal traffic in mind, to take any sort of proficiency test. Most HGV drivers would also add that any potential cyclist should have to spend an hour or so at the wheel of an HGV or simulator to comprehend how difficult it is for any lorry driver to see everything, no matter how many mirrors and cameras he or she has access to.

The most recent Exchanging Places event was held yesterday outside Charing Cross Station, at which leading global insurer RSA partnered the Met and the programme, to produce a short video, supported by Transport for London. Published to YouTube, the film is available to be viewed HERE and follows a cyclist and an HGV driver who experience what it is like to be on the road from the other’s perspective, becoming rapidly obvious to both what they can do to help each other. FTA’s Head of Urban Logistics Policy Christopher Snelling commented:

“Raising awareness and, through that, promoting better and more defensive behaviour all round will be the best way to improve safety on our roads for all. More is needed, for drivers as well as cyclists; the Exchanging Places programme is a good example of what can be done when we work together to share the road safely. Freight operators realise how important raising safety awareness is for all road users and these type of events play a big part in this. They are made possible by logistics companies providing vehicles and drivers free of charge at substantial cost to themselves. This commitment illustrates how the logistics industry is working towards trying to improve safety on our roads. FTA commends all companies who have provided such support and ask all our members to support these events where ever possible.”

At the end of last month the FTA made a written submission to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s ‘Cycling safety: follow up’ inquiry asking for even more action to improve cyclist safety. The FTA also underlined the point that banning HGV’s during peak hours is not the answer, and stressed that any ban on HGV’s at peak times would not be feasible; would increase the cost of living in our cities whilst decreasing economic activity, and is of highly questionable safety benefit.

The FTA points out that HGV’s are vital to the functioning of our cities and no other method of transport can possibly deliver the scale of goods required each day without substantially increasing costs, pollution and/or congestion, but increasing the costs of urban freight increases the cost of living in any city. The logistics industry does not ‘invent’ the need for goods to be moved, it is merely fulfilling the needs of society by stocking supermarket shelves, taking essential supplies to hospitals and schools and ultimately serving society by keeping UK cities in business.

Whilst in all other categories our roads continue to become safer, and per mile travelled cycling is becoming safer, cycling’s total casualty figures are not improving and this situation is unacceptable, recently six cyclists died in accidents in a fortnight in London alone. The FTA says it recognises that the logistics industry needs to continue to improve its performance in order to respond to the increased number of cyclists on the road, and welcomes the recent increased enforcement efforts against non-compliant road freight operators.

Tipper lorries and other construction related trucks are often involved in serious accidents with cycles and this week sees the launch of the ‘Standard for Construction Logistics’ which has been developed by the logistics and construction industries, with the support of Transport for London (TfL), in order to create a single standard for construction logistics vehicles. The FTA, along with several of its members, participated in the expert working group that defined the standards and supports the outcome as a series of practical measures that should improve road safety for cyclists without preventing construction projects from operating. Christopher Snelling again:

“This is a major initiative that should improve the construction logistics sector’s safety record. It is a good example of the right way to tackle safety issues. A specific focus has been identified, tipper lorries used as part of construction logistics are involved in a relatively high proportion of cyclist fatalities. The measures set out are those shown by industry testing and use to be beneficial to safety, not ones that are just designed to grab headlines.

“This new standard will raise the safety performance of the whole construction logistics sector to match that of the best performers today. The development of this standard, and the commitment to it by many major companies, demonstrates how seriously the logistics industry takes cyclist safety and how we are working through intelligent, targeted projects to improve our record and to adjust our operations to the increasing number of cyclists on our roads. This standard is only one part of the way forward on improving cyclist safety. We need to maintain high levels of enforcement against road freight operators who do not comply with the law, and we should look at the use of the remaining safety exemptions for vehicles and what training our drivers receive. Public authorities need to improve the roads and cycling infrastructure. There is also a need for cyclists to take up training, make themselves visible and to understand how HGV’s manoeuvre so they do not put themselves at unnecessary risk.”

Major construction projects are already imposing strict regulations on their subcontractors to ensure vehicles associated with their projects have done all they can to protect cyclists. The Crossrail scheme, one of the largest engineering projects in Europe, has implemented mandatory requirements for all HGV’s insisting that vehicles must be fitted with sensors and safety equipment to alert drivers of obstacles with any non-compliance resulting in a refusal to accept the truck on site.

The governments ‘THINK!’ campaign, another scheme launched in partnership with TfL is being extended beyond the capital to give cyclists and drivers tips on safer behavior and RE-Tech UK is one of the companies aiming to ensure that lorries are as safe as possible and its EyeScan system uses technology which helps in the detection of obstacles alongside a vehicle. It signals visible and audible alerts to the driver with an external speaking alarm signaling to cyclists and pedestrians of a vehicle’s intended left turn. The EyeScan solution offers Blind Spot Proximity Sensors, Audible Warning Devices, Real Speech Warning Devices, Visibility of Side and Nearside Blind Spots, Internal and External Signs for Cyclists and Pedestrians and Mirror Image Kit for Left hand vehicles. Richard Edwards, MD of RE-Tech UK commented:

“The number of cyclists seriously injured has increased in recent years and installing this type of technology will help to reduce accidents considerably. It will not only be a benefit to the cyclists but also alert drivers. The Think! Campaign consists of a series of tips, developed to educate and remind drivers and cyclists about the correct way to drive and ride, and reduce the number of collisions on the road. Together with the introduction of the EyeScan, this new technology can only help to combat cycling incidents.”

Meanwhile the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) has announced its third Transport Manager Conference is to be held in Dublin on 25 March 2014 and cyclist safety will be one of the items atop the agenda, with Denise Barry of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) addressing delegates. There is currently a special ‘early bird’ offer available at just €220 + VAT per delegate for anyone booking a place at the Conference before 31 January 2014 with details available HERE.