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Do something, but don't blame the victim
27.09.08 by Buffalo Bill

I was talking to Alistair Hanton of the London Cycling Campaign1 last night, and he mentioned that Hanson are the owners of lorries that have been involved in 2 fatal collisions with cyclists. I am not sure, but I think that there is a concrete works, probably Hanson’s, at the back of Kings Cross. An easy target for some sort of guerilla action aimed at letting the operators know that London cyclists are not at all happy with their safety record. By guerilla action, I do not mean any sort of illegal action, such as letting tyres down, or other obstruction of their legitimate business. At least, I don’t think that’s what I mean.

If you were wanting to do something totally legal, then perhaps you might write a letter to the company, politely enquiring if it is true that their vehicles have been involved in any fatal collisions with cyclists, and asking them what measures they have in place to prevent such collisions. Speaking of letters, I made this pledge to write a letter to my MP. It would be cool if another 17 people did it too.

The Standard, yes, the Standard, continues its coverage of the issue with a column entitled Protect us cyclists from the devil’s transport, written by Charlotte Ross. She echoes what I have said previously about a possible causal link between cycle lanes and lorry/cyclist fatalities2.

As you may have seen over at cyclesafelondon, there are plans to make a spoke-card to raise awareness of the problem of lorries killing cyclists. Of course, given the evidence which has been heard in court3 which shows that in cases where a cyclist has been killed, the lorry driver would have seen the cyclist, had he looked, it is not a great idea to put yourself in a spot where you are relying on a lorry driver’s attentiveness to keep you from being crushed to death, but in so saying, in no way should it be assumed that the duty of care of the driver (and the operator, who is ultimately responsibility for the conduct of the driver) is abrogated. I am sure that you are all sick of reading my views on this matter so I have nicked a statement from Roxy that sums it up really rather well.

I think this could totally backfire without some sort of equal campaign acknowledging that the bigger the vehicle you choose to drive the more responsibility you choose to take.

While I agree that there are stupid/uninformed cyclists out there, in no way should fgss be advocating a safety campaign that is basically a “blame the victim” campaign. This just wreaks of the same backwards thinking that “women who wear short skirts deserved to be raped” does. Yes of course, riding on the left of a lorrie means they can’t see you but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be hit.

Someone, I think Tim, brought up making a double sided flyer one geared toward cyclists, one geared toward HGV drivers. I think this is a much better way to approach the subject.

-Explain to HGV drivers that many cyclists feel a need to be in cycle lanes and get trapped to the left of them while trying to obey traffic signals, etc
and explain to cyclists that HGV drivers are cunts, erm, no sorry, explain to cyclists that there is indeed real blind spots to be aware of.

-If I got one of these spoke cards above I would be really fucking pissed off. I’d tell whoever gave them to me to get on the right side of the debate and fight for cyclist’s rights as oppose to only explaining that they shouldn’t wear skirts or lipstick at night.

It’s the same as when I got “explained” why running red lights was dangerous by an LCC guy who was supposed to be advocating more cyclists but was actually out defending pedestrians in Angel.

Or when TfL stuck an HGV in Trafalgar Square and invited cyclists to “see for themselves” how blind the drivers are.

Look, I get the idea of this, and I think it’s nice, but as a cyclist, I’d be well pissed off receiving one of these flyer/spokecards. However, if I saw that HGV drivers were being given the same ones, I’d find it much more intriguing and fair. Plus, I think HGV drivers would probably feel the same way. They have to deal with crappy riders every day, I reckon they wouldn’t listen to a similar card like above, but they may read one, if they saw that cyclists were also being told how to be more defensive.

Some might find Roxy’s analogy a little over the top, but as was mentioned in this post, cyclists frequently apply disparaging labels to dead cyclists, like fuckwit, with little or no knowledge of the circumstances that led to their deaths.

1 I had a right old rant about the London Cycling Campaign a couple of years ago, but they are doing some good work on the lorry/cyclist thing.

2 As I did after the driver whose lorry killed Victoria Buchanan was cleared of careless driving.

3 For instance, in the case of Emma Foa.

  1. I may be jumping in to a flaming frying pan here being a non-courier but a commuting cyclist. I’m sure Messengers have some choice, er, polite phrases for commuters but an issue like this is so important. So please don’t flame me sticking my nose in!

    Whilst I broadly accept Roxy’s points in the post c&p’d above, there must also be a practical and realistic internal campaign to raise awareness of how to cycle safely. Some may feel patronised, or some may feel ‘How dare you, it’s not me who doesn’t bother looking in my mirror, is it’ (or words to that effect) but there is a real world, and there is a theoretical world. In theory, if you take Roxy’s rape analogy in to account (and by the way, I say this from a position of experience, before anyone bites my head off) then women could and should be able to wander, pissed, homeward, whilst wearing push up bras, heels and fishnets and whatever else takes their fancy and indeed many do, happily safely. Unfortunately, there are predators who will take advantage of a woman being in a weaker position, and attack them for their own fucked up reasons. Therefore, in the <i>actual</i> world, it makes enormous sense to take some responsibility for your safety and take appropriate steps to limit the opportunity for predatory behaviour whilst pissed, for example.

    To move away from that to road riding: whilst in an ideal world, HGV drivers would all automatically have blind spot mirrors or bendy buses would not exist! c) they don’t right now (and even if they did, it’s still not enough, surely, b) they do, and c) If cycling with an awareness that your tiny vehicle cannot possibly take on a ten ton truck saves your life, isn’t it a good idea to broadcast that fact loudly, whilst also looking outwardly and doing all the excellent things that Bill and the CycleSafe London guys are advocating?

    Context: I was nearly killed at a junction recently whilst waiting in the cycle lane, next to a medium sized van that pushed me off with its wide turning circle. I’m not stupid enough not to notice these things these days, and take appropriate action to save my ass.


    Cait    29 September 2008, 12:29    #
  2. Isn’t it about time we gave bikes to a handful of lorry drivers and set them off down Lower Thames Street in rush hour? Perhaps with TFL’s transport planners in tow.
    Or perhaps we could choose another of the deadly junctions around London where their colleague’s actions have killed cyclists.
    I wonder what their reaction would be if they were faced with what TFL laughably refers to as “cycling facilities”?


    — Alex Ball    29 September 2008, 13:54    #
  3. When was that picture taken then? And did Selim speak to the driver? What did he say?


    — Iron Eye    1 October 2008, 08:25    #
  4. March this year. Selim didn’t speak to the driver.


    — Bill    1 October 2008, 08:57    #
  5. I was almost run down yesterday on the embankment on the way to work whilst in the cycle lane. the Large Artic hit me from behind and pushed me into the curb where I almost fell under its wheels. then I was hit twice more before I amnaged to get off the bike.

    The chap just didnt see me though I was pretty much all white or Lumo yellow. I just dont think he was looking or was bothered. Its pretty much the same place as someone was killed last week I believe. A cycle lane with a kerb is needed.


    jason    3 October 2008, 14:25    #
  6. surprised by the headline on that bit of windscreen decoration.

    isn’t it usually “Cyclist commits suicide by colliding with lorry” or something?

    funny how these lethal HGVs seem to be described as static and without a driver.

    why wasn’t the death of a pedestrian who got hit by a cyclist described as a “fatal collision with a bicycle” ?


    — Swiss Tony    4 October 2008, 18:34    #
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