Will the London Safer Lorry Scheme improve safety for motorcyclists?

Published on 4 August 2015 by Gill

Bikers look set to benefit from new legislation coming into effect in the UK capital next month, although doubts have been raised over the extent to which the measures will protect those on two wheels.

The Safer Lorry Scheme, effective in London from September will mandate fitment on lorries of newly specified standard mirrors, but SteerSafe says it will still leave blind-spots.

All lorries over 3.5 tonnes will be banned from the capital until they are fitted with Class V (side close proximity) and Class V1 (front projection) mirrors and sideguards. Extended view mirrors are designed to improve the driver’s field of view and reduce blind spots, according to Transport for London (TfL). Lorries are involved in a disproportionate number of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities TfL says, with HGVs accounting for nine out of 14 cyclist deaths in 2013 in London alone. 

Efforts to address this problem should indeed be welcomed, by SteerSafe believes blind spots will remain. The group outlines its concerns:

Admirable as the scheme is, as long as there are blind spots a zero-tolerance policy is futile and cyclists will continue to die. Considering the current renaissance in cycling this trend is set to escalate unless the driver, the focal point of the problem, is equipped with ergonomically optimised means to avoid collision with anyone and anything.

Information Overload

This is the driver’s primary problem; information overload creates a major hazard.

Every extra item to watch, to listen to, to consider, to react to or to ignore puts extra demand on driver attention. Every mirror, every monitor image, every buzzer, beeper, speaker, hooter, warning light, dashboard instrument including, particularly, speedometer, every road sign, other traffic, pedestrians, particularly vulnerable road users - each adds extra load to a driver’s attention until the final straw breaks the camel’s back. All too frequently somebody dies.

The Safer Lorry Scheme, all very well in theory with its criss-crossing sightlines, its multiple cameras displaying multiple images on multiple screens, its acoustic warnings demanding attention to one sensor detection after another - is prone to overwhelm a driver in sole charge of a heavy wheeled load travelling on a crowded road. Something’s got to give.

Visual images from multiple sources at once can be very confusing and take a long time to process. Multiple mirrors, multiple monitor screens from assorted camera positions and angles are apt to disorientate the driver and even cause dizziness. There is scant evidence in the Safer Lorry Scheme that driver ergonomics have been considered at all.

Blind Spot Triumph

The scheme’s drafting committee is evidently unaware of the latest 360-technology, already on the market for two years, which solves the blind-spot problem at a stroke.

Mini-cameras mounted at the top four corners of a vehicle’s body display on a cab-mounted monitor a continuous bird’s eye surround view of a wide footprint all-round the vehicle. A split-second glance reveals any hazard instantly. No more multiple mirrors, split screen monitors, much reduced information overload and, vitally, no blind spots.

A further benefit on the screen edges is other vehicles shown lane-changing and overtaking.

What do motorcycle riders think? Do you share the same reservations as SteerSafe or are you more optimistic that this new initiative can make a positive impact?

More information can be found at: www.tfl.gov.uk/info-for/freight/safer-lorry-scheme