Fleet operator says cycling groups should stop ‘playing the victim’

Cycling groups should stop moaning and start educating their members, rather than criticising the latest Government road safety campaign.

That’s according to Jacqueline O’Donovan, MD of O’Donovan Waste Disposal, one of London’s leading independent waste management companies.

The warning comes in the wake of a Think! campaign urging cyclists in London and Manchester to ‘hang back’ from lorries. The road safety campaign has been developed after statistics showed last year a fifth of crashes where cyclists were killed involved HGVs.

A large proportion of deaths happen when a cyclist is at the front left of the truck, and almost a third of all crashes between cyclists and HGVs happen when the lorry is turning left. However, Cycling UK has criticised the campaign saying that the Department for Transport (DfT) should ‘think before blaming the victim’.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s senior road safety and legal campaigns officer, said: “Regrettably the campaign focuses purely on what cyclists should do to avoid being killed, rather than looking at the root cause of the problem and the measures that should be taken to solve it.”

The strap line for the DfT's campaign is 'Don't get caught between', with a film and posters  depicting examples of things to avoid being trapped between, including two boxers in a ring, two head-butting rams, and for cyclists, a left turning lorry and the pavement.

Dollimore continued: “The message appears to be that you wouldn't intentionally put yourself in the middle of two colliding objects, so why would you put yourself on a bicycle between a turning lorry and a kerb.”

He says there are a number of problems with that message. “You might not have chosen to put yourself in that position; the lorry might have overtaken you,” explains Dollimore. “The DfT message at least implies that if you do, then it is your fault if something awful happens.”

Cycling UK is calling on the DfT to pull the campaign and start again. However, O’Donovan told Commercial Fleet that cycling groups are “spending too much time pointing the finger and not enough time on the issues that really matter when it comes to road safety”.

She continued: “Instead of playing the victim and moaning about the 'Hang Back' stickers on the back of lorries, cycling groups should be educating their members.

“Firstly, they should advise cyclists and other vulnerable road users to limit headphones to one ear, so they can hear the audible warnings when a lorry is turning. They should also enrol cyclists in industry schemes such as Exchanging Places, which provide hands-on sessions covering how to share the road with HGVs and the work being done by HGV operators to keep them safe.”

She concluded: “Road safety is a two-way street; we need collaboration, mutual learning and understanding. So rather than playing the blame game, both parties need to focus their efforts on real education.

“As HGV operators we are going to great lengths to educate our drivers; it’s vital that cyclist groups do the same – and sooner rather than later.”

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  • peter hibbett - 28/09/2016 11:51

    I agree with both sides of the argument that cyclists need educating (i am one) to not to put themselves at risk, also learning the highway code and road etiquette to work together safely. This also applies to all vehicle road users there are good and bad examples. They have to consider that a majority of cyclists also own cars and pay road tax so have as much right to be on the road but are doing their bit for wellbeing and the environment even if they are slowing you down.

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  • Dave - 28/09/2016 23:24

    As a cyclist, fleet manager and road safety practitioner I see far too many cyclists putting themselves in legal, but dangerous situations, then shouting or remonstrating with drivers about who is right or wrong. So cyclists please put safety first, its not good be righteous and dead !!! You can be absolutely certain you are not going to knock a car or truck out of the way even if you have a legal right of way. So as our Fathers all told us when we were learning to drive, treat every other road user as an idiot and make sure you give way to stay safe. If you get into a dangerous situation on your bike before shouting at anyone else have a good look at how you could have prevented getting yourself in that position. Are you 'trying to make a point' like Jeremy Vine was doing in the recent high profile video clip? Speed up, apologetic wave and pull over as soon as possible would have removed the heat of the situation, deliberately stopping to prevent progress of the car was inflammatory and completely unnecessary confrontation and creating danger where there simply shouldn't have been any. In my view as much his fault as the impatient driver. Many cyclists will probably disagree with this and to those, good luck in staying safe, but no good having grieving relatives prove you right in court when you are dead.

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  • JCG - 29/09/2016 15:45

    Totally agree with Jacqueline's comments. I have no problem with cyclists, and it is a great mode of transport, but the fleet industry has stepped up to the plate and made numerous contributions to cycle safety, it is time for the cycling industry to do the same.

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  • AlexC - 30/09/2016 08:55

    Should people using cycles for work have to commit to training of some sort? There are hundreds of couriers on Londons roads, many of whom i have witnessed putting themselves in very dangerous situations. Maybe some sort of training should be compulsory for them?

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  • Mike - 30/09/2016 10:02

    As a road cyclist for the last 30 years, it never ceases to amaze me the stupidity of some people I see on bikes - tailgating, riding 2 or 3 abreast on busy A roads, riding through red lights, on pavements and riding up the inside of cars in bust urban traffic - then screaming abuse when some hapless driver finds them in the wrong place at the wrong time! However - I also see some incredibly incompetent driving by idiots who are completely unaware of other road users, never use their mirrors, clearly don't have indicators and shouldn't be behind a wheel... I'm all for education and, in my opinion, it's more effective for cyclists to regard themselves as "soft targets" and ride accordingly, keep themselves out of dangerous situations wherever possible and always be on the lookout for the idiots. We shouldn't have to do it - but that's the way it is.

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  • Paul - 30/09/2016 10:40

    Everybody should have a right to use the 'roads', although how and when these are used should be questioned at more length and some serious action should take place for the safety of all. The driver should not also be instantly to blame or left footing the bill of repair either. If someone utilises the 'roads' then they should carry an appropriate level of insurance and training for that purpose to protect not just that of themselves but of others too. Any campaign which raises awareness of others, encourages brain over action and gets people talking is a +1 in my book. So well done to Think! for actually putting out a tough message aimed to make people THINK!!!

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  • Lee - 06/10/2016 13:49

    The roads are dangerous for cyclists, period. It is hard not to put yourself in a dangerous situation no matter how skilled or careful you are, and yes there are idiots on bikes just as there are idiots with 4 or more wheels, however it is pretty insensitive to say stop playing the victim when cyclists are the victims, and that can result in death or serious injury. I have cycled to work every day for nearly 10 years and have a near miss at least once or twice a week, because drivers are not paying attention, or are in too much of a rush to show a modicum of patience or have an ounce of consideration for anyone else. And for the person saying don't put yourself in a dangerous situation, I'm sure you advise all women to go out dressed modestly too, I mean it's not illegal to put on make up and wear sexy clothes, but you might be encouraging someone to think you were easy so best not put yourself in a dangerous situation eh?

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