I’ve written a lot about what bicyclists need to know about trucks. Why? Because every year, bicyclists are killed by turning trucks.
Truck drivers have a lot working against their seeing and avoiding a cyclist who rides into a bad spot. Yet trucks are big and easy for cyclists to see and avoid. Cyclists just need to know what to do to stay safe.
Getting out the word about turning trucks
Most of the lessons I’ve produced about turning trucks involve illustrations and animation. But last fall, I had a wonderful opportunity to stage real-world scenarios with a semitrailer truck, a professional driver, and a crew of support staff and extras. The following video is the product of a lot of other people’s work, and my very enjoyable morning in the cab of a truck.
Here’s the finished product, a four-minute video:
What about technology?
Many cycling advocates insist that the problem of truck blind spots can be solved with technology. I asked driver Bob Dolan: What kind of video camera technology is out there? Is it helpful? Does it make things harder or easier?
Here is his response:
We have side-mounted cameras on our tractors that will shoot out both sides and look at traffic on either side. Some trucks have rear-facing cameras. The issue you’re going to see with some of those cameras is you’re looking at a lot of information to process… you have all these screens in front of you and you’re trying to drive a truck… that becomes a distraction. So no matter what you’re adding to the vehicle, you’re adding more distractions to the driver.
A lot of the advanced warning devices on a tractor trailer — because of the size and complexity of the truck being able to bend — a lot of signals don’t come into us as real signals… it might be going off that there is something to one side, but it might be a false signal because of the height of the vehicle or the length of the vehicle.
So the technology is there, but it’s not as reliable as it would be in a car.
Here’s what you should take away from Bob’s comments:
Don’t ride in the blindspot and rely on truck driver vigilance and technology to rescue you. Instead, ride where YOU are in control of your safety.
It took a lot of people to make this happen.
We have another post about how we made the video. It’s quite a story.