Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger has written about two completely avoidable accidents~one in Brooklyn and one in Toronto where bicyclists “lost control and fell under the wheels of a tractor-trailer”. Lloyd notes that in our “blame the vulnerable user” mentality we suggest that the cyclists may have slipped, or have fallen or was somehow responsible for the lack of control ending their lives. But as Lloyd says “It is a sad coincidence, two cyclists just losing control like that. Bikes are pretty stable and safe. People who ride in December are usually the type of cyclists who ride all year and don’t just fall off their bikes.”
But in the Toronto fatality there was not a separated bike lane on that block, a clear design problem. And looking at the trucks involved in the fatalities, the cyclists went under the rear wheels of trucks that did not have side guards, which are required in most of the world but not in North America, where the industry fights them as being heavy and expensive. In Canada, the Minister of Transport just introduced new rules to make trucking safer, mandating stability control systems and logging devices, but not a peep about side guards.”
Why? “In New York City the need for them is recognized; Mayor de Blasio made them mandatory on all trucks — by 2024. (In the UK, cyclist deaths dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths 20 percent when they became mandatory.) They should be mandatory everywhere, and a lot sooner than 2024.”
Since 2015 London England has mandated that any truck operating in the City MUST have side guards and large side mirrors on each side of the vehicle. Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the City of London going even further realizing that 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths result from a certain kind of truck with poor sight lines/visibility from the truck cab. The statistics in three years pointed out that these 35,000 trucks operating with limited visibility from the cab were responsible for 70 per cent of cyclists deaths. These are largely construction trucks and the Mayor of London is banning them from London streets. With one simple change the City was made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
And back to Canada~mandatory side guards on trucks save lives. As long as large trucks are sharing spaces with cyclists and pedestrians, we should be insisting that truck side guards be installed. As for the pushback from the trucking association regarding the cost of side guards? In the Vision Zero world of road safety, the impact of restricting these vehicles from causing further mortalities is priceless. Let’s hope Canadian cities follow London’s lead.