Lorry Redesigns Could Save Cyclists, Says Study

Improved Vision Would Reduce Collisions, Experts Argue

24.09.2014

Fewer cyclists and pedestrians will suffer death or serious injuries each year if lorries are redesigned in a way that reduces the area of impaired vision for drivers, a study has concluded.

Experts at Loughborough University have argued that a new design concept known as 'direct vision' could reduce the large percentage of accidents caused by lorries, which presently account for half of all cyclist deaths in London and a third of those in the UK as a whole.

The paper said the problem lies in the current square shape of the cab, in which drivers sit high up and are unable to see much of the movement close to their vehicles.

Instead, the paper suggests, the cab should be 80 cm longer, with a rounded nose, a smaller dashboard, more window space and the driver seated 230 mm lower down. This would ensure that the driver has a much greater field of vision.

One of the report's authors, Dr Steve Summerskill, said: "Blind spots can be a significant factor in fatal accidents with lorries.

"The study shows that the size of these blind spots can be minimised through improved cab design, the reduction of cab height and the addition of extra windows."

Of the 704 accidents involving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), nearly a third were caused by drivers pulling away, a quarter involved them reversing and almost a fifth were the result of left turns, compared with just seven per cent resulting from right turns.

The higher death toll in the capital prompted Transport For London to commission the research, with lorries causing a large proportion of deaths in other countries as well, even those considered cycle friendly. For example, 38 per cent of cyclist deaths in the Netherlands involve HGVs.

Improved cycling safety is an issue to which decision makers at government level are increasingly being advised to pay attention.

Cycling charity CTC is using the party conference season to highlight its wish to see people enabled to cycle anywhere and at any time with better facilities to make this possible. Having staged one mass cycle ride in Manchester, where the Labour Party is holding its annual conference this week, the charity will do so again in Birmingham next week as the Conservatives gather there.

Expert Opinion
The safety of vulnerable road users’ needs to be a top priority and it is vital that we look at technical innovations to improve road safety, including these proposals to redesign heavy good vehicles to reduce the areas of impaired vision for drivers. With more and more people now cycling to and from work, the issue of road safety is a major concern.

“If technology can improve visibility and overall safety of cyclists and pedestrians on the roads, then such measures are a must-have for the HGVs of the future that are being designed and built now.

“Blind spots play a significant role in a number of collisions between HGVs and vulnerable road users, which have the potential to result in fatalities and serious injuries for those involved.”
Neil Whiteley, Partner