Although collisions are rare, lorries present the greatest risk to life for cyclists in Greater London, accounting for half the fatalities despite being only 5% of motor traffic. There’s considerable evidence that many fatalities are not caused by cyclists undertaking lorries, but by drivers manoeuvring their lorry into a position that puts the cyclist at risk. As such it pays to be aware of the danger lorries pose to cyclists in the city, know how to avoid unnecessary risk and also to know how to stay out of danger if a lorry driver puts you in a dangerous position.
Most crashes happen at junctions when a lorry turns left across the path of a cyclist that the driver hasn’t seen, so the most dangerous place to cycle is in the lorry risk zone shown in the picture below. The location of the red zone in our diagram is based on analysis of hundreds of lorry-cyclist crashes in the UK and Europe and shows where collisions between cyclists and lorries are most likely to happen.
How to stay safe
1. Avoid cycling in the front-left lorry risk zone
Beware cycling into the lorry risk zone, especially near junctions. If a lorry passes you and puts you in its risk zone, brake sharply to drop behind.
2. Wide gaps between a lorry and the kerb aren't safe
Lorries often move over to the right of their lane before turning left. Stay out of the gap to their left, even if it looks like you can pass them safely.
3. Take care if you’ve stopped in front of a lorry
If you’ve stopped in front of a lorry at a junction, position yourself in the centre of the lane and well in front of the cab so the driver can easily see you.
Am I safe behind a lorry?
The diagram doesn’t imply there is zero risk anywhere else around the lorry, but that the vast majority of crashes take place in that frontal red zone — the redder the area in our diagram, the more risk to the cyclist. Even when a cyclist has been run over by the rear wheels of a lorry, most often this has happened after they’ve been knocked off by the front of the lorry. Behind a lorry is often the safest place to be, especially at traffic lights and junctions when a driver may not see you passing. If you do overtake, only do so when you are sure that it is safe to do so and the driver can see you.
What type of lorries are most dangerous?
The lorries most often involved in crashes are four-axle construction lorries, like the one pictured above, often tipper or concrete trucks. These vehicles are big but surprisingly fast and manoeuvrable for their size, offer little or no side protection for cyclists or pedestrians and most older lorries aren’t fitted with a full set of safety mirrors, nor sensors or cameras. However you should be wary of all kinds of lorries, their size and cab position make them a hazard to cyclists. The LCC is pushing to make lorries safer for cyclists and you can find out more about our campaign here.
Police Safety Advice
Sgt Simon Castle has given this advice to cyclists;
"The wider the gap, the more likely it is that the driver will turn left [...] the more tempting it looks the more dangerous it is"