Cycling is enjoyed both as a leisure pursuit and as a means of getting quickly from A to B in congested urban areas.
In London, census data shows that the number of residents cycling to work has doubled in 10 years.
Our roads are getting busier, and figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that around 3,000 cyclists are killed or seriously injured on UK roads each year. So the need for motor vehicles to incorporate measures designed to ensure improved safety for cyclists is increasing, and the RCV sector is playing an important role in this.
Following the publication of the Transport Research Laboratory’s Construction Logistics and Cyclist Safety report in 2013, Transport for London was keen to introduce standards to regulate construction vehicles working in the capital. It approached Dennis Eagle to take part in efforts to improve construction vehicle safety due to our experience of developing large vehicles with high visibility, low-entry cabs for use in urban environments. We are working in partnership to develop trial vehicles incorporating standard configuration chassis adaptable to multiple roles.
When it comes to cyclists, the issues currently faced by waste vehicles are similar to those we have worked to overcome. Traditional raised cabs with three windows provide limited visibility and cyclists can be missed in a driver’s blind spots. Lower cabs give drivers better spatial awareness.
When cabs are lower, mirrors need less distortion to show surrounding traffic and distances are easier to judge. The reduced height means visibility of cyclists will not disappear between the door or dash lines, the driver’s over-the-shoulder visibility is improved and the panoramic, eye-level view from the cab means cyclists and drivers can make eye contact more easily, ensuring they are aware of one another.
Additional measures such as blind spot mirrors, camera systems, proximity sensors and LED warning lights have also been shown to improve safety for cyclists. The introduction of Whole Vehicle Type Approval in October 2014 now means it is mandatory for RCVs to be fitted with sideguards, which are designed to mitigate the risk of cyclists being dragged underneath a vehicle in the event of a collision.
But we believe driver training is just as important as vehicle design. As part of our recent contract with Birmingham City Council, we are funding a course designed to promote safer urban driving for the council’s RCVs driver crews.
Split into a series of practical and theory modules, the training is designed to encourage RCV drivers to empathise with cyclists. It aims to help them understand cyclist behaviour, making them more aware of the risks of the road and the issues cyclists face when sharing the road with motor vehicles.
We would like to see schemes such as this replicated across the country. After all, a vehicle can be fitted with every conceivable safety feature but, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure the vehicle is being driven in a safe and responsible manner.
Richard Taylor is sales and marketing director at Dennis Eagle
The refuse vehicle manufacturer