London Cycling Campaign calls for government and private sector to make 'direct vision' lorries standard on city streets

direct vision lorry

The London Cycling Campaign is calling on government and the private sector to do everything in their power to make direct vision lorries the only type of lorry in urban streets.

These lorries - such as the Mercedes Econic model (pictured above) - have a lower driving position, and large glass areas to the front and side that give the driver a direct view of pedestrians and cyclists in close proximity to their vehicle.

Our renewed call for safer lorries comes in the wake of the inquest into the death of Dr Katharine Giles, a respected climate scientist who was hit by a left-turning lorry in Victoria Street in April 2013.

CCTV footage shown at the inquest showed that Dr Giles cycled alongside the lorry as it was turning left from Palace Street into Victoria Street.

The design of the lorry meant the driver had no direct view of the area in which Dr Jenkins was cycling, and was unaware when he turned left across her, causing fatal injuries.

LCC's Mike Cavenett said, "Government and the private sector should be working toward making 'direct vision' lorries the standard in urban areas where millions of vulnerable people walk and cycle every day, and where lorry-related fatalities happen all too often.

"If the driver involved in this fatality had been driving a direct vision lorry, then he would have been able to see Dr Giles, and she would most likely be alive today - yet there's no programme of regulation or incentives to introduce these lorries."

A Mercedes Econic 'direct vision' lorry took part in a mayoral cycling promotion event outside City Hall in December (see photo below taken inside the cab).

Dennis Eagle also manufactures a direct vision lorry, the Dennis Eagle Elite 2, which is used frequently as a refuse truck on London's streets. 

In 2013, LCC produced a graphic of a Safer Urban Lorry, which married a direct vision cab to a tipper truck chassis - similar to the lorry shown outside City Hall (see final pic below).

Direct vision cabs have been built into tipper trucks, refuse lorries, fire engines, articulated lorries, and most other forms of commercial vehicle.

LCC is also calling for a lorry ban during the morning rush hour, and for all urban lorry drivers to benefit from on-bike cycilst-awareness training.

We've also published extensive information as to how people on bikes can best avoid danger when cycling near lorries. 

Replies

  • By paul at 06:02pm 03 Jan 2014

Worth involving pedestrian groups in the campaign. Crossing a zebra in front of a typical high cab lorry I was uncomfortably aware that I probably could't be seen.

  • By Dave H at 03:17am 04 Jan 2014

There are some particularly significant details in the crash where Katherine Giles died which I feel need answering, and would have been answered if a proper fatal crash investigation process was applied to road crashes, to the standards appied to rail, air and maritime crash investigations, by the relevant Investigation Branches (RAIB, AAIB, MAIB), and those reports automatically published. I encourage anyone reading this to look at an RAIB investigation report, especially one where a road vehicle is involved - there is one due out very soon concerning the 32T concrete mixer truck that crashed through a bridge and on to a train at Oxshott.

Reading these reports you get a full and neutral description of the sequence of events, and as much quantitative detail as possible on locations, speeds, and the vehicles & parties involved, prior to and after the crash. There will be post crash assessments of the condition and performance of the vehicles, safety systems and personnel, and then a summary of 'causal factors' - those directly causal of the crash and scale of the outcomes, and those indirectly or possibly influencing the event.

There may also be a resume of previously investigated or recorded incidents which match the one being investigated.

Finally there will be a summary of recommendations for one or more of the parties involved in providing the vehicles, personnel or infrastructure to take action by changes in design, or operation to remove the hazard entirely or manage the risk of a repeat occurrence.

What is of substatial concern is that the truck driver was completely unaware that he had driven the truck over Dr Giles and her bike.  There must surely have been the sound of a crash if not a scream or shouts from bystanders - the description of one witness is of Dr Giles trying to get clear of the front wheels of the truck and being knocked off balance, yet it was only the action of an off-duty Police officer stepping out into Victoria Street and signalling the driver to stop that caused the driver to pull-up.

How on earth did the driver not hear anything unusual? Did the Police investiogators record whether the truck cab windows were open or closed after the crash? Did the Police investigators record whether there was a radio on or other distraction which might have masked the noise of the crash and bystander shouts?  

By observation you might note that many professional drivers habitually drive with the driver's window slightly open, it is amazing how much additional information you hear about the traffic moving around you, and road surface conditions - drive onto an ice covered patch of road and you notice the marked lack of tyre noise as a clear warning. So if we are to understand and work to eliminate such crashes the investigation must capture key detail like this.

I also note that the junction between Palace Street and Victoria Street has a very generously wide approach lane - not quite wide enough for 2 separate lanes but where a truck turning left could easily leave a very generous space almost the width of a lane on the nearside. Perhaps the road layout should be made less ambiguous and at the stop line the width should be throttled down so that any cyclist would be in no doubt about the presence of a truck and perhaps find it impossible to slip past on the nearside, without being very aware of the danger.  

Of course the delivery of a standard for trucks used in an urban area, where drivers have a direct view of the pedestrians and cyclists outside, and those ooutside also have a direct view of the driver could be worked up in the same way that TfL and the GLA already require Low Emission Vehicles, and set a tariff for those who want exemption.  Given the general age of a truck when it gets replaced a 5-year horizon for compliance looks a strong possibility. 

Financial incentives are probably the most effective way to ensure compliance - unsafe vehicles could be subject to higher congestion charges. Segregated cycle facilities at major junctions are also essential.

  • By RDRF at 09:32pm 06 Jan 2014

Dave makes a good point about the driver not being aware. It's a legal requirement to be aware.

It would be good tohave drivers/operators/companies using these vehicles etc. were more likely to be sued (civil courts) or have deterrent sentencing (criminal courts) apllied after incidents where they (or to be more precise, the driver) are legally responsible. This would encourage the use of appropriate technologies.

Also, an interesting feature of the lorry shown is the distance between truck body at the front and the road surface. it is a lot lower than the distance you see on construction industry vehicles, and minimises the possibilities of going under the front wheel and being crushed. Along with lower side guards this is a key requirement for lorries used in built up areas,

@RDRF The Mercedes Econic lorry that was shown outside City Hall had a suspension control where the chassis could be raised or lowered by approximately 30-40cm.

For normal city driving the lowered position would provide greater proximity to and awareness of cyclists and pedestrians. The raised position might be more suitable for building sites (though many are severely graded nowadays anyway) or motorway driving. 

It's cause for thought reading that someone gets killed or seriously injured in collision with a London bus every day. Though every instance has its unique circumstances, buses are already low-cab, direct-vision vehicles. So without knowing how the kilometres driven compare statistically, truck vs bus, the configuration of the vehicle may have more, or less to do with the danger posed, rather than the drivers aptitude, attitude and working conditions?

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