The Metropolitan Police's ‘Exchanging Places’ programme – which shows cyclists how HGV drivers choose not to see cyclists by, for instance, not properly adjusting mirrors – is getting a new visual aid, starting today. This is a 360-degree film which, says the Met, "demonstrates how cyclists ought to safely position themselves when near HGVs."
Earlier this month BikeBiz carried a story that showed how a woman on a bicycle was saved from almost certain death by a shout to alert an HGV driver who had overtaken the cyclist.
Cyclists are often blamed for risking their lives by "riding up the inside the lorries" but far less attention is paid to the normal, everyday practice of HGV drivers overtaking cyclists and putting them in "danger zone."
The latest initiative from the Met Police – which starts today near the London velodrome – is part of a programme developed with Transport for London. Cyclists and pedestrians will be invited to try on a 360-degree virtual-reality headset and then shown a film shot from an HGV driver's perspective.
Last year, the Department for Transport was criticised for producing a safety video which showed a cyclist being "left-hooked" and crushed by an HGV at a junction. "Don’t get caught between a lorry and a left turn," said a video caption. "Hang back," it continued. The video was slammed by cyclists, many of whom said the advert was an example of "victim blaming."
Chris Boardman, the UK's unofficial "cycling Csar" said the advert was a "desperately misguided campaign that a) tries to make death fun b) vulnerable road user responsible for vehicles not fit for road."
The 45-second advert showed a male cyclist undertaking an indicating HGV fifteen or so metres before a junction, but this wasn't made entirely clear. The film was poorly edited because the HGV appeared to speed up between the undertake and the junction for at the speed the cyclist was going he should have been well past the HGV. Also, in fifteen metres the HGV driver should have made more double checks in his mirrors before carrying out the left-hand turn.
In effect, both parties were at fault, but only the cyclist was blamed. And this was an editorial choice by the DfT – it could have shown two videos side by side showing how HGV drivers sometimes get it wrong and how cyclists sometimes get it wrong. Instead, only a cyclist was shown to be at fault.
The HGV driver, propelling a potentially lethal machine through a crowded city, was not called out in the video. The DfT has not published a video explaining why HGV drivers should not put cyclists in blindspots by overtaking them.