I’m guessing the “utter disaster”refers to an accident, so we’ll leave that as I don’t know the accident and so can’t comment on it. The rest of the tweet is the sort of attitude that gets cyclists killed and lorry drivers unfairly blamed.
I feel I’ve quite a rounded experience of the roads. I’ve driven trucks. I’m also a cyclist. I don’t have the experience of cycling in a major city like London but I’ve still done my share of miles on all sorts of roads. Just for the record, I also drive a car and ride motorbikes, although I’ve not done the latter for a few years now.
Taking the first part of the tweet: Why should trucks have blind spots?
Well, the simple answer is, they shouldn’t really. The law stipulates that trucks have a minimum number of mirrors and the area of coverage they give.
The following image (from here) is the best I could find to simply show what mirrors have to be fitted to UK trucks. Oh, click to enlarge any of the following images…
In the UK though, the Class V kerb mirror should be on the kerbside, the left of the truck.
What do all those mirrors mean?
The Class II main mirror has the following field of vision. On a rigid vehicle it is a Class III, with a slightly different field of vision but the end result is essentially the same.
The Class IV wide angle mirrors shows the following…
The Class V kerb mirror and Class VI front mirror have the following fields of vision…
And what sort of coverage does all that add up to?
Pretty comprehensive, wouldn’t you agree? There is no mirror coverage directly outside the cab on the drivers side as the driver doesn’t need a mirror to see that area and the tiny gap twix the kerb mirror and the rear view mirrors on the nearside of the vehicle doesn’t, in reality, exist. If any of those mirrors are broken or missing, it’s not just a case of it not passing it’s equivalent of the MOT, but the VOSA, and the police, could issue a GV9 there and then at the roadside. A GV9 prevents the vehicle from being moved until the fault has been rectified. A car driver would just be told to get it fixed as soon as possible.
It would’ve been nice to have front mirrors required to be retro-fitted to existing vehicles too, not just new vehicles, but as older vehicles wouldn’t have mounting brackets and would require quite a bit of work to do, it is arguably not practical. It would be opening a right can of worms with operators and such risking more dangers by bodging the mirrors on.
In 2009 a new specification of mirrors gave the coverage shown above. All trucks registered after the year 2000 had to be fitted with them. Not just new, every truck on the road had to have these new mirrors. The front mirror was introduced on new trucks from 2007.
This image shows the coverage of the old mirrors versus the new mirrors. The yellow is the old style and the orange (is it orange?) colour is the new…
Those images are from somewhere on this site.
There you go then. All the mirrors overlap in their field of vision, which wasn’t the case before 2009, and the field of vision provided by the mirrors has been improved greatly. The only real, unavoidable blindspot is directly behind the truck and that is taken care of by responsible truck operators with camera systems with a monitor in the cab that switch on when the vehicle engages reverse gear. These modern camera systems even have microphones. Some operators even fit cameras to the sides of vehicles, although that is most common on municipal vehicles with side loading mechanisms.
Now we know that there are no blindspots on a truck the second part of that tweet, “*why* should cyclists even have to keep themselves out of them?” could be rephrased. Maybe to something like “Why should cyclists be wary of something that could kill them without even knowing about it?”, which pretty much answers itself.
When I was learning to drive a car, my instructed gave me two pieces of advice: to treat every other road user like an idiot, like they don’t know what they’re doing and so will be unpredictable and ; lorries have the right of weight. Both pieces have, on occasion, saved my bacon.
The problem comes not through blind spots but from the truck driver only having one pair of eyes. It doesn’t matter how many screens or mirrors a truck is fitted with, the driver can only look in one direction at a time.
Again, when I learnt to drive a truck, my instructor drilled it into me to use the mirrors all the time. When you put it in gear, when you release the park brake, not just before you indicate but when you think about manoeuvring. When you speed up, when you slow down. You use the mirrors to check your positioning on the road, to help you gauge how far from the kerb you are. All the time your head is sweeping left to right and back again. When I started I wondered how the buggery I was supposed to find time to look forward!
Even with a fully aware driver, a bike can nip into where the truck is going without the driver spotting it.
What it comes down to is being aware how other vehicles on the road behave. Articulated trucks don’t follow the same line through roundabouts as cars, for instance.
Why would you not give something that size a bit of space and patience? Not every accident involving a bike and a lorry is the fault of the lorry driver.
As a cyclist, you are ultimately responsible for your own safety, just like every other road user is. Yes, other road users also have a responsibility not to kill you, but ride like a dick and you’re gonna get hurt.
Learn about how trucks need to navigate the roads and give them a bit of space. It could save your life.