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Insurer outlines to lorry owners the dangers cyclists face

Guide from Zurich lists hazards cyclists encounter and advises fleet operators on how to minimise risk of crashes

A major motor fleet insurer has published a guide that provides advice to operators of large vehicles regarding sharing the road safely with cyclists, including giving examples of hazards that bike riders may encounter that may not be immediately obvious to drivers.

Zurich Global Corporate’s Risk Insight Sharing The Road With Cyclists is published at a time when the safety of cyclists around lorries in particular has come under the spotlight.

The renewed focus on the dangers large vehicles pose to people on bikes followed the deaths of six riders in collisions with large vehicles in London during a two-week period in November.

Clearly, it is in an insurance company’s interests to encourage the businesses it insures to do as much as they can to minimise risk, and thereby the potential costs of a claim.

But Zurich does well in clearly and concisely setting out some of the hazards cyclists face that other road users, protected inside their vehicles, may not appreciate.

The document, compiled by Zurich’s Fleet Risk Engineering Team, points out some of the most common situations in which cyclists are put in danger, the most likely being when a large vehicle is turning left.

Other factors identified by Zurich, which says “it is important to understand all the issues associated with sharing the road with these vulnerable road users,” include:

• Larger vehicles overtaking cyclists and either not allowing them enough room or pulling in too soon.

• Cyclists will often have to avoid obstacles such as drains or a damaged road surface when riding along the road…  this is especially true at night when it is more difficult for the rider to see any obstructions.

• When cycling uphill, riders are more likely to ‘wobble’ as their speed decreases, so should be given more clearance.

• In windy conditions, cyclists can be blown off course when passed by larger vehicles, or from gusts of wind when passing gaps in roadside buildings, trees, and hedges.

• When passing stationary vehicles, cyclists will often give these a wide berth to avoid the risk of colliding with an opening door, so may be further towards the centre of the carriageway than expected.

• In slow moving traffic, cyclists may choose to weave in and out of traffic, including passing on the nearside.

• At roundabouts, cyclists might navigate around the island differently to other vehicles, so their road position may not be a good indicator of which exit they intend to take, and from a stationary start it takes them longer to accelerate on to the roundabout, therefore they require extra space.

• Whilst most cyclists have very good front and rear lights (although it is increasingly common to see these supplemented or replaced with lights mounted on the rider’s body or helmet), some do not, so may be difficult to spot in the dark.

• In urban areas some cyclists choose to ride through red traffic lights.

• Many riders signal their intentions but some do not (or do so very late).

• When road conditions are slippery (e.g. in cold weather or when there are wet leaves on the road), the chances of a rider falling from their bicycle is increased, hence their need for extra room.

Zurich goes on to suggest ways in which companies can take action to reduce risk.

Those include considering whether trips can be rescheduled or routes altered to avoid known points of conflict at busy times, ensuring that time pressures on drivers are kept to a minimum and that they get sufficient rest, and that operational pressures on the business are not incompatible with road safety goals.

It suggests making drivers aware of specific issues that vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders face, so that they can gain a better understanding of their perception of sharing space with large vehicles.

There’s also a focus on drivers, with Zurich pointing out the dangers of fatigue and distraction due to using sat-nav devices or mobile phones, recommending that a formal company policy be drawn up regarding the latter.

The need for drivers to maintain concentration at all times, observe road rules, give clear signals and have their eyesight tested regularly and, if necessary, corrected are also highlighted.

In terms of vehicles, Zurich highlights safety features such as additional mirrors and warning notices, and recommends companies to consider installing blind spot proximity sensors and audible warning systems.

It also underlines the need for regular maintenance, including checking that indicator lights are in working order and that mirrors and windows are kept clean.

Zurich’s Risk Insight concludes:

Many of the issues addressed above will, of course, make employees safer drivers in all road situations – driving is a high risk activity, which is often overlooked, and for most employees, their chance of getting injured or, more importantly in this case, injuring someone else is greater whilst driving then during any other work activity.

A safe driver will try and avoid collisions regardless of who is at fault – many cyclists ride very safely, but for those that choose not to, following the advice given above will help minimise the chance that one of your drivers will be involved in a collision with a cyclist.

The insurance company’s European Head of Fleet Risk Engineering, Andy Price, said: “Our cities’ roads are dangerous places for cyclists and any injury or loss of life is tragic.

“The Risk Insight issued today offers some well-considered guidance for Organisations whose vehicles and drivers share the roads with cyclists.

“I hope that the advice we have put together, for managers and drivers, can help minimise the risk of collision in all road situations.

“A safe driver will try and avoid collisions regardless of who is at fault and many cyclists ride very safely; but for those that choose not to, following the advice in this Risk Insight will help minimise the chance that one of your drivers will be involved in a collision with a cyclist or other vulnerable road user.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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