1 February 2012

Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry, Dead Lorry

A bogus article in The Guardian about getting cyclists to sit in a lorry cab, to better understand the hard life of a lorry driver in seeing cyclists, and then putting lorry drivers on a saddle to see the world from a different viewpoint is the perfect journalistic conceit:
  1. Repeat what someone told you without any conceptual questioning of the principles;
  2. Secretly recognise that you will polarise views completely amongst your audience;
  3. Stand back and admire your blooming comment/page view statistics as irate readers vent their spleens.
As I found myself thinking at the recent Cycling Embassy of Great Britian Policy Bash, there are generally not simple solutions to complex problems. However, media debate and politics is just not capable of the sustained and difficult thinking often required - I refer you to the idea of stripping Fred Goodwin of his knighthood, as a way of reforming the banking system. Not exactly Nietzsche is it.

What the cycling blog of a national newspaper should be doing is calling this kind of lazy thinking to account. Whilst there is not a simple solution to the lorry problem, there is a simple philosophical position one can adopt when considering the issue. If a lorry driver, despite being highly trained and not setting out to kill anyone, is capable of causing death and injury simply due to the poorly designed machine he is operating, then the machine is not fit for purpose. Dragging cyclists into the frame and demanding that they be aware of the blind spot of a lorry or suffer the consequences is dangerous, unhelpful and just about the most counter-productive thing to say if you want to be encouraging cycling.

Of all people, the cycling blog of The Guardian ought to be the ones pointing that out.


  1. Agreed. It is unthinkable in any other part of life in the UK, that we would permit such a design flaw that continues to kill so freely. It's not as though there aren't solutions. New rubbish trucks for instance have a low cab = no massive blind spot, that is the same shape as an Advanced Stop Line

    1. Jono, I was particularly thinking of the new style refuse lorries when thinking about this issue too - It really is a classic design problem!

  2. I also agree. I work for a company that has heavy engineering equipment within its factory confines. Strict H&S standards apply and we try as much as possible tp conduct thorough risk assessments. If the Factory inspector has reason to visit he/she will be looking for obvious opportunities for accidents or potential danger. However....The 28tonne vehicle that delivers the steel is free from such interference the moment they leave our premises (on our premises, speed limits apply, reversing lights have to be used and chocks are placed under the wheels). If we had plans to order and utilise a machine that was as inherently dangerous and flawed as a HGV, The HSE would never let us use it. As a factory, we are constantly expected - and rightly so - to improve our machines and engineer out risk. It's a bizarre set of double standards.

    1. Simon, thanks for the excellent example. It's odd is it not that all contractors (and factory workers) are well aware that vehicles are one of the biggest killers on sites, indeed it is widely accepted and published. Yet try to make that suggestion about the "open road" and no-one is interested.