Although collisions are rare, lorries present the greatest risk to life for cyclists in Greater London, accounting for half the fatalities despite accounting for less than 5% of motor traffic mileage. Many of the serious collisions take place when a lorry is turning left and the driver has not spotted the rider stopped at the lights or on the inside. Part of the problem is poor lorry design which restricts visibility from the driver’s seat – LCC has successfully campaigned to change lorry design but the new lorries will not be standard until 2029.
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.
Avoid cycling in the front-left lorry risk zone
Beware of 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.
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. In some cases a large lorry will move out into the right lane to turn left.
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. If possible make eye contact with the driver to make sure they know you are there.
Seek additional help
If you’re struggling to build confidence on busy roads, why not sign up to Cycle Buddies! Cycle Buddies puts people who want help to cycle more in touch with buddies who want to help them in their local area. Buddies can then meet up and ride together – completing essential journeys safely or getting exercise outdoors. Learn more here.
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.
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 motion sensors or cameras. However you should be wary of all kinds of lorries, their size and cab position make them a hazard to cyclists. LCC has successfully pushed to make lorries safer for cyclists – you can find out more about our work here.
Aside from following the steps mentioned above you can ask your council to only procure services from responsible and accredited lorry operators that use the safest lorries and drivers as well as maintaining safe work sites.
Transport for London already requires all firms tendering for business to be signed up to FORS (the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme) at silver grade; CLOCS (Construction Logistics and Community Safety scheme ) if they are running a work site; and only use lorries that are graded one star on the Direct Vision Standard that measures driver vision of pedestrians and cyclists (rising to three star in 2024).
Your borough could do the same.
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