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David Fiedler

What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks

By November 30, 2012

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Semi-truck big rig tractor trailerI generally try to avoid writing articles that portray cycling as a dangerous activity.  I mean sure, you can get hurt riding a bike but statistically speaking biking is in general pretty safe. For instance, more people die in the U.S. each year from choking on food or falling out of bed that from cycling accidents. And I'd take my chances a hundred times on a bike vs. dying from boredom on the couch.

However, big trucks are dangerous to cyclists - particularly around intersections.  Enough so that your understanding of how they move and your awareness of the importance of your positioning around them is worth it to me to override my usual policy and talk about a cycling hazard today.

Trucks have huge blind spots where the driver cannot see the lanes next to and just behind them.  Additionally, when they make a right turn, they typically slow down and swing wide left first, which tempts many cyclists to ride up next to them, right into the path of the rear wheels of the trailer.

Since many of the injuries and deaths to cyclists involving right-turning trucks are caused by rider error,  here are some pointers for you to take in.  This comes from a terrific article from the Commute Orlando blog, and it's certainly worth you taking a look at the additional detail with the piece. With this in mind:

  • Do not stop at an intersection on the right side of a truck.
  • Do not linger next to a truck on any side, in any lane.
  • If a truck passes you, slow down and let it get ahead of you ASAP.
  • If you are in a bike lane and passing stopped traffic, do not pass a truck unless you can be clear of it before approaching any intersections or driveways and before traffic begins moving again.
  • Or, just don't pass a truck on the right at all.

And here is a dramatic Youtube video that demonstrates very clearly how easy it is for a cyclist to be lost in the blind spot of a big truck.

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December 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm
(1) John Healy says:

Hi Dave,You don’t know how timely your article on bikes and trucks fit what happened here this morning at 8:30 AM. A cyclist hit a trailer truck as the truck was making a wide right turn to a side street from left lane of main street. The cyclist smashed into the truck and was killed , the 5th dead cyclist incident this year according to authorities.
A witness said the cyclist was moving at a high rate of speed, which is a recpiefor disaster aroun the city streets of Boston. Cyclist reportedly was a 23 year old college student.
I long ago learned to watch for any vechicle making a right turn on an approaching street and to slow down .All users of city streets whether they are auto truck drivers pedestrians cyclists or skateboarders must be aware of the hazards of using city streets. Sadly many are careless and have a what me worry attitude about their behaviour on streets.
Thanks Dave for your timely comments on safety. John

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