20 May 2009

HGV Awareness, or How to make a policeman disappear

Bike commuters were being stopped by the police this morning on St George's Road, just north of the Elephant and Castle, for a quick HGV Awareness session.

It's interesting stuff. You get the chance (right, see bigger pic) to sit in the cab of a lorry (in this case, a dustcart) while a copper wheels a bike as if a cyclist was coming up on the lorry's inside.

With three cycling deaths in London in the last month - all female, all caught on the inside of passing lorries, the latest being a hit-and-run in Greenwich last week - this sort of initiative is more important then ever.

At first it's fun in the cab, steering the wheel like a kid, pretending to be a set of airbrakes and making tschhhh-tssssss noises, eating an imaginary Yorkie bar, and waving an imaginary Agyness Deyn in an imaginary open-top sports car through in front of you.

But then the copper does his bike-wheeling thing (above and below right, see bigger pic) and, wow! Just as he gets alongside your passenger door, the bike disappears. As invisible as the Invisible Man wearing an Invisibility Cloak, on a day of particularly bad visibility. And this is in a vehicle bristling with more mirrors than an Abba-tribute disco.

Of course we're all assertive and experienced cyclists and we don't go burrowing up the inside of lorries anyway. But, by gosh, it's sobering to see things from the driver's point of view.

There are some fun things at these HGV Awareness events too, though.

Thanks to a Dr Bike in attendance you can get a quick free mechanical check. A sunny Southwark Cyclist was handing out those nifty free TfL maps, free newsletters, and plugging free bike training.

And you can amuse yourself watching hamfisted cycle bloggers struggling to put up canvas signs in the breeze with the finesse of Mr Bean tying his shoelaces on a windy ski-slope just before the ad break.

Anyway, this morning, business was brisk (right, see bigger pic). The vast majority of cyclists seemed quite happy to be stopped by the police. Perhaps it was simply relief when they realised it wasn't to be arrested under Section 44 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, it was just to have some air put in their back tyre and be plied with a free map.

Only the one chap got shirty, and ranted pompously about how he couldn't stop because he was in a hurry. For ten minutes. I finished my Yorkie, made my excuses and left.


  1. One Question: Did the police say when they will stop lots of HGV drivers and make them ride bicycles while a copper drives a truck?

    1. You should never drive or ride up the inside of any vehicle. I am a cyclist, car driver, motorcyclist AND LGV driver and I have never had any problems around trucks as I respect their size and the difficulties they face on the road. You try driving for 9 hours a day having to constantly compensate for other peoples ignorant driving!

  2. Ah, very good! Wish I'd thought of that one.

    It's a tempting thought, but to make the comparison complete you'd need a Dr Lorry to do impromptu roadside repairs to the HGVs as well. And given the state of some of them, it would take more than a pump and an allen key to make them road-legal.

  3. it's quite terrifying isn't it? To know that you are just completely invisible at that point! (as a returner cyclist this is enough to make me nervous, but some common sense should keep me alive!)

  4. I read somewhere that a council (I think it was somewhere in London) was making all its van and lorry drivers take cycle awareness training, which included riding a bike through traffic. This initiative was hailed as an innovative scheme as it was the first that focused on driver, rather than cyclist, behaviour. Unfortunately I can't now find the link to the story! If I do, I'll post it here.

  5. @Sue - hi. It was Lambeth Council, next door to us in Southwark in south London:

    A very good idea which we hope others will take up.

  6. The disturbing part is lorry drivers pulling up beside you , then forgetting your being there as they roll over your crunchy bits while making a turn. Cel phone induced forgetfulness? Previous nights frivolities inducing brain numbness?
    Try explaining to a lorry driver why you take the lane and won't allow a turn around you. Expect the double-glazed over look.

  7. The two questions I want to ask when I'm told that these lorries are difficult to see out of.

    "Why the f**k are they often driven like rally cars then?".

    "Why do drivers continue to drive vehicles with known blind spots when they are aware they can crush a cyclist or pedestrian without even knowing it."

    1. As an hgv driver, we are highly train ed proffesional drivers. As a cyclist you are more often totally untrained, do not even feel the requirement to wear minimum PPE, your cycles are more often than not, un-serviced and quite dangerous, you insist on riding with ear pieces on, making you oblivious to all around you, I mean, if a pedestrian is not safe because of you, how do you expect other road users to view your ignorance. I think it should be about time that cyclist / pedestrian collisions are noted, not obviousley for fatalities, but for a more open look on how cyclists have no respect for other people in general.
      I am also a cyclist and I am a strong believer in cycling training, cycle road conformity, insurance (for much damage is done by cyclists, ie, scratching vehicles knocking off mirrors etc) cyclists should be made to display identification. After all we all want a level playing field.
      Why do you think that hgv drivers are always at fualt when, there are thousands less lorries on the road today compared with 20 years ago. HGV drivers are even more highly trained than 20 years ago and sitting regular updates every 5 years (drivers CPC). There are a lot more safety features on a lorry than 20 years ago.
      Today there are thousands more cycles on the road. There is less training than in the past. There is less cycle checks than in the past. Cyclists seem to be the only people not to covered by Health and Safety and personal protective equipment. Most of todays cyclists in town and cities are economic cyclists, won't pay for parking and fuelor fares. Is it any wonder that these same people who do not wish to spend to travel, ultimately will not spend on their equipment or indeed training and safety.

  8. "Why the f**k are they often driven like rally cars then?".

    How topical:


    Note the way the lorry driver negotiates the speed hump (all four wheels of the ground nearly) then clearly floors it past the cyclists on his left, passing by the cars on his right by what must've been about two inches.

  9. Astounding. If it had been the other door that flew open, the entire biking party would have been wiped out. I look forward to hear the bleated excuses of the driver. I'm doing this route tomorrow, as it happens.

  10. I think education is the key here. The HGV LGV driver needs to apprecaite the cyclist. The cyclist needs also to be aware of the hazards of HGV LGV's. A mutual understanding is required

  11. I think if we can provide more training to both the Cyclists and the HGV drivers and make them aware that one another are around then this can help us be successful in the long run in preventing uncessary accidents. HGV drivers and cyclists should be able to use the roads safely, effectively together at all times.

  12. Thanks a lot it has been a great help, now to make a policeman disappear is definitely easy with the help of your information. Thank you