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Bike Accident Advice: How to Avoid Deadly Commercial Vehicles


Sometimes even the best bike accident advice can’t prepare you for avoiding commercial vehicles. If you’ve ever been riding alongside an eighteen wheeler down a tight San Francisco street, then you know the fear of being so exposed and small next to such an enormous vehicle. The driver can’t see you, can’t hear you, and their vehicle could seriously injure you with the slightest impact.

And those feelings of fear aren’t misguided.

According to Streetsblog USA, large commercial vehicles are widely known to be deadly for cyclists and pedestrians who share the roads with them:

“In Boston, eight of the nine cyclist fatalities between 2012 and 2014 involved commercial vehicles, according to the Boston Cyclists Union [PDF].

Between June and September this year, there were six cyclist fatalities in Chicago, and all six involved commercial vehicles.

In New York City, drivers of heavy trucks account for 32 percent of bike fatalities and 12 percent of pedestrian fatalities, despite the fact that they are only 3.6 percent of traffic.

In London, city officials estimate that 58 percent of cyclist deaths and more than a quarter of pedestrian deaths involve heavy trucks, even though trucks only account for 4 percent of traffic. Evidence suggests trucks pose an especially large risk to women cyclists.”

It’s no surprise why. When a truck is so large, the driver often is completely unable to see a cyclist riding along side them — even when the cyclist feels they should be visible.

When cyclists aren’t visible and the at-fault vehicle is so large (often weighing up to 80,000 pounds), the opportunities for deadly crashes are extraordinarily high.

How are cities combating the deadly threat of large commercial vehicles?

As is often the case, a European city is leading the charge to reduce the likelihood that more cyclists will be killed by dangerous commercial vehicles.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed a new plan that would reduce the number of these kinds of trucks on the city’s streets.

Streetsblog explains:

“Khan has proposed ridding the city of the most dangerous trucks, using a six-point scale rating how well the truck driver can directly see outside the cab. Beginning next year, the city government will not work with contractors who use “zero-star” vehicles, the Guardian reports.

Khan wants the most dangerous trucks banned from the city entirely by 2020. By 2024, only trucks rated “good” — with a score of three or higher — will be allowed in the city.”

London’s proposed measures, and response to bike accident advice, focus on one of the most dangerous aspects of large commercial vehicles: their enormous blind spot. While any large vehicle can be deadly to cyclists, one where the driver literally has no chance to spotting a vulnerable cyclist riding along side them does seem to present an unnecessary and very serious risk.

Even so, American cities may not be able to follow exactly in London’s footsteps.

According to Streetsblog, “U.S. cities have less power to dictate truck design, which is largely decided by federal and state regulations. Comprehensive efforts to regulate trucks at the city level have to be specifically enabled by the state.”

So what can US cyclists do to stay side while riding on streets that still allow dangerously large commercial vehicles?

How you can stay safe around commercial vehicles

Solving the problem of huge trucks maneuvering down city streets will not be a simple or easy process. After all, businesses will continue to need to transport large shipments of goods — so even if the most deadly vehicles can be removed, that doesn’t mean there won’t still be big trucks and vans on the roads every day that will continue pose a huge threat to cyclists.

As a result, it is important for you to be watchful of your surroundings when riding your bike whenever you are around large commercial vehicles.

Always err on the side of caution when you are nearby a large vehicle, since they tend to also have the largest blind spots. You should never assume a driver can see you because, in fact, most of the time they cannot.

Give these kinds of vehicles as large a clearance space as you possibly can, to avoid getting squeezed into a bad situation. If you can’t get enough space to feel safe, get off your bike and walk it down the sidewalk until you have the space you need.

If you absolutely can’t avoid riding close to a large commercial vehicle, make sure you watch it closely and be prepared to react quickly and get out of the way if they start to merge into your space or make a turn into your path. They likely won’t be able to hear your bell or horn, and even if they do notice you and try to correct their path, their vehicles are not agile and it may be too late to avoid a truly dangerous crash.

Do you need bike accident advice?

While we work towards having roads that are safe and available to every kind of vehicle — cars, buses, trucks, and bicycles alike — you still need to be vigilant in order to protect yourself.

If you are injured in a crash with a commercial vehicle, you will face a long road of recovery and regaining the time, money, and health you lost because of the crash. Bay Area Bicycle Law can help you get back what you lost. We’re experts in bike accident advice and in handling unique bike injury cases.

Call 415-466-8717 to speak confidentially with an experienced attorney about your case today.