Our builders J Murphy and Sons, working with us and with London’s Metropolitan Police, reached out to cyclists this week by hosting an Exchanging Places event to promote better awareness between the drivers of Murphy’s Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and London’s cyclists.
The all-morning event took place close to the site of our new building in King’s Cross and saw cyclists and motorcyclists literally ‘exchanging places’ with lorry drivers (and vice versa) – to gain a better perspective of each other as road users. Particularly illuminating for cyclists who got behind the wheel of an HGV on the day were the number of blind spots the driver suffers from.
As well as this hands-on experience, the police were offering free security marking for cycles, while Murphy offered free cycle maintenance. During the day, a variety of cyclists sat in the lorry driver’s position – to see what the lorry driver sees – with the police riding a bike to positions where it can’t be seen (blind spots).
A significant proportion of cyclist deaths involving lorries in London happen when the truck turns left across the bike, with the driver unable to properly see anything in a large area around the truck – and this demonstration helped cyclists on the day to understand this problem.
PC Brian Anley said: “We first explain to cyclists how the truck operates and then place the bike in five different positions – illustrating to cyclists the problems drivers can have in seeing them. Hopefully they will see what to avoid doing – that’s what it’s all about. We run these sessions all over London, and Murphy has done a lot of them with us.”
Cyclist Georgia Brown commented: “I did know about the blind spot but getting in there and seeing it was very informative – I didn’t realise it was so bad. It definitely made me think. I would not cycle alongside a truck like that.
“If it was stationary I would normally try to get right in front of it, but now I realise that even in front of the lorry the bike is hard to see. The driver has got three mirrors on one side and four on the other and that’s a lot to keep track of – the responsibility is not just up to the truck driver, it’s up to the cyclist as well.”
A driver explained: “No matter how many mirrors you have got there will always be a blind spot”.
PC Simon Watters continued: “This is about blind spot areas for HGVs. The engine block is directly underneath the driver and from all the possible designs of trucks that’s the most fuel efficient and aerodynamic design. But two metres in front and two metres to the side in an L shape – that’s the blind spot.
“Two mirrors on the off-side, one to the front and three to the near-side, are legally required. Cameras help, but there’s no specification and no legal obligation. And the driver is trying to look at all these mirrors and the CCTV monitor, and drive, at the same time. We’re also begging cyclists to wear hi-vis clothing, when you think about dark tarmac in London.”
Lorries are involved in more than half the cycling deaths on London’s roads, and more than a fifth of pedestrian deaths, despite making up only 4% of motor traffic. High-wheeled construction lorries have significant blind spots. The newest Murphy vehicles carry an additional glass panel at the bottom left-hand side of the cab door – like a large peephole – to give the driver better vision.
Murphy project manager Steve Williams concluded: “This is all about awareness, so we run these days as often as we can. Murphy has got a lot of lorries in London and we want to minimise accidents as much as possible. We are investing in this scheme, with the police.
“All Murphy lorries carry all the recommended mirrors and cameras, and we are a member of both the nationwide Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme and the Construction Logistics & Community Safety scheme. But there’s always more that can be done.”