Insurer outlines to lorry owners the dangers cyclists face

Guide from Zurich lists hazards cyclists encounter and advises fleet operators on how to minimise risk of crashes

by Simon_MacMichael   December 16, 2013  

London Concrete lorry and bikes (copyright Simon MacMichael)

A major motor fleet insurer has published a guide that provides advice to operators of large vehicles regarding sharing the road safely with cyclists, including giving examples of hazards that bike riders may encounter that may not be immediately obvious to drivers.

Zurich Global Corporate’s Risk Insight Sharing The Road With Cyclists is published at a time when the safety of cyclists around lorries in particular has come under the spotlight.

The renewed focus on the dangers large vehicles pose to people on bikes followed the deaths of six riders in collisions with large vehicles in London during a two-week period in November.

Clearly, it is in an insurance company’s interests to encourage the businesses it insures to do as much as they can to minimise risk, and thereby the potential costs of a claim.

But Zurich does well in clearly and concisely setting out some of the hazards cyclists face that other road users, protected inside their vehicles, may not appreciate.

The document, compiled by Zurich’s Fleet Risk Engineering Team, points out some of the most common situations in which cyclists are put in danger, the most likely being when a large vehicle is turning left.

Other factors identified by Zurich, which says “it is important to understand all the issues associated with sharing the road with these vulnerable road users,” include:

• Larger vehicles overtaking cyclists and either not allowing them enough room or pulling in too soon.

• Cyclists will often have to avoid obstacles such as drains or a damaged road surface when riding along the road…  this is especially true at night when it is more difficult for the rider to see any obstructions.

• When cycling uphill, riders are more likely to ‘wobble’ as their speed decreases, so should be given more clearance.

• In windy conditions, cyclists can be blown off course when passed by larger vehicles, or from gusts of wind when passing gaps in roadside buildings, trees, and hedges.

• When passing stationary vehicles, cyclists will often give these a wide berth to avoid the risk of colliding with an opening door, so may be further towards the centre of the carriageway than expected.

• In slow moving traffic, cyclists may choose to weave in and out of traffic, including passing on the nearside.

• At roundabouts, cyclists might navigate around the island differently to other vehicles, so their road position may not be a good indicator of which exit they intend to take, and from a stationary start it takes them longer to accelerate on to the roundabout, therefore they require extra space.

• Whilst most cyclists have very good front and rear lights (although it is increasingly common to see these supplemented or replaced with lights mounted on the rider’s body or helmet), some do not, so may be difficult to spot in the dark.

• In urban areas some cyclists choose to ride through red traffic lights.

• Many riders signal their intentions but some do not (or do so very late).

• When road conditions are slippery (e.g. in cold weather or when there are wet leaves on the road), the chances of a rider falling from their bicycle is increased, hence their need for extra room.

Zurich goes on to suggest ways in which companies can take action to reduce risk.

Those include considering whether trips can be rescheduled or routes altered to avoid known points of conflict at busy times, ensuring that time pressures on drivers are kept to a minimum and that they get sufficient rest, and that operational pressures on the business are not incompatible with road safety goals.

It suggests making drivers aware of specific issues that vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders face, so that they can gain a better understanding of their perception of sharing space with large vehicles.

There’s also a focus on drivers, with Zurich pointing out the dangers of fatigue and distraction due to using sat-nav devices or mobile phones, recommending that a formal company policy be drawn up regarding the latter.

The need for drivers to maintain concentration at all times, observe road rules, give clear signals and have their eyesight tested regularly and, if necessary, corrected are also highlighted.

In terms of vehicles, Zurich highlights safety features such as additional mirrors and warning notices, and recommends companies to consider installing blind spot proximity sensors and audible warning systems.

It also underlines the need for regular maintenance, including checking that indicator lights are in working order and that mirrors and windows are kept clean.

Zurich’s Risk Insight concludes:

Many of the issues addressed above will, of course, make employees safer drivers in all road situations – driving is a high risk activity, which is often overlooked, and for most employees, their chance of getting injured or, more importantly in this case, injuring someone else is greater whilst driving then during any other work activity.

A safe driver will try and avoid collisions regardless of who is at fault – many cyclists ride very safely, but for those that choose not to, following the advice given above will help minimise the chance that one of your drivers will be involved in a collision with a cyclist.

The insurance company’s European Head of Fleet Risk Engineering, Andy Price, said: “Our cities’ roads are dangerous places for cyclists and any injury or loss of life is tragic.

“The Risk Insight issued today offers some well-considered guidance for Organisations whose vehicles and drivers share the roads with cyclists.

“I hope that the advice we have put together, for managers and drivers, can help minimise the risk of collision in all road situations.

“A safe driver will try and avoid collisions regardless of who is at fault and many cyclists ride very safely; but for those that choose not to, following the advice in this Risk Insight will help minimise the chance that one of your drivers will be involved in a collision with a cyclist or other vulnerable road user.”

20 user comments

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a couple of those comments are kind of stereotypical

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
16th December 2013 - 19:57

1 Like

I think as a list of likely risks it's pretty accurate and balanced; I've been affected by all of those at some point and see plenty of examples of them on the commute. Maybe stating the obvious (to us) will help it sink in to those driving dangerous vehicles.

posted by 5th [36 posts]
16th December 2013 - 21:01

9 Likes

I think it's good.

My one quibble was the bit about signalling - I think it could have been explained that cyclists may signal very briefly or not at all in situations where the safety benefits of having both hands on the bars/brakes outweigh the benefits gained from giving a hand signal to say something which is probably obvious enough from what the rider is doing anyway (road positioning, eye contact.)

posted by bambergbike [87 posts]
16th December 2013 - 22:00

12 Likes

Excellent! And no blame for cyclists not wearing helmets and hi-viz.

I've viewed insurance companies as being a primary cause of creeping helmet compulsion. In my area council cycling instructors and their trainees have to wear helmets regardless of personal choice because the council's insurance policy requires it. No helmet no work. There are other examples too.

So good for Zurich.

posted by horizontal dropout [192 posts]
16th December 2013 - 22:46

18 Likes

• When road conditions are slippery motorists will park in the cycle lane, preventing road sweepers from removing wet leaves on the road, the chances of a rider falling from their bicycle is increased, hence their need for extra room.


I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1541 posts]
16th December 2013 - 23:17

10 Likes

I may have missed it but in all the talk about the danger of lorries, there doesn't seem to have been many 'top 10 things never to do near a lorry' type of lists on bike sites. There's been a lot of discussion of rush-hour bans and the dangers they pose, a few articles about 'in the cab POV', but I've not seen much about what we can do. It's not blame-acceptance, just the realities of the situation and keeping yourself safe.

Has the point (I believe) that LHS filter lanes and advance stop boxes are a primary risk area just not been raised publicly?

posted by james-o [218 posts]
17th December 2013 - 8:36

4 Likes

I think this is a really positive step from Zurich, well done to them. Anything that can help reduce the potential conflicts between bikes and massive vehicles is a good thing. I agree with James-o a top 10 things not to do near a lorry type document would be great, although who you could trust to actually put something sensible together would be a short list i fear.

posted by md6 [165 posts]
17th December 2013 - 8:45

5 Likes

Quote:
I agree with James-o a top 10 things not to do near a lorry type document would be great, although who you could trust to actually put something sensible together would be a short list i fear.

Don't even need top 10. Just the one.

STAY AWAY FROM THEM!

Doesn't matter who's right and who's wrong, you're never going to win an argument with one. Therefore if you're unsure what a lorry is doing (why is it stopping at that angle?, why is in halfway across the lane?) stop and let it do whatever it's doing.

On the other hand, that document is very good - it's good because it's aimed solely at the drivers and not attempting to apologise for other road users (yes, some cyclists break the law, there's nothing we can do other than look out so go carefully!)
Great advice.

posted by crazy-legs [600 posts]
17th December 2013 - 9:28

2 Likes

crazy-legs wrote:
Don't even need top 10. Just the one.

STAY AWAY FROM THEM!

Unfortunately, I don't get to do much cycling with ET on the front of my bike, so perhaps you can explain how I can stay away from such a vehicle when it drives up behind me?

posted by farrell [1640 posts]
17th December 2013 - 9:36

1 Like

I think Zurich gets it. Surprise

posted by Wolfshade [118 posts]
17th December 2013 - 10:14

3 Likes

farrell wrote:
crazy-legs wrote:
Don't even need top 10. Just the one.

STAY AWAY FROM THEM!

Unfortunately, I don't get to do much cycling with ET on the front of my bike, so perhaps you can explain how I can stay away from such a vehicle when it drives up behind me?


It's a tricky one, but many many cyclists find themselves being overtaken by the same lorry that they themselves have just undertaken. If you resist them temptation to squeeze past a lorry, you won't have to worry about being overtaken by it, and if you choose a route less frequented by lorries in the first place then risks are minimised even further.

What Zurich is doing is good, and and there's a lot that can also be done to help educate cyclists too.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
17th December 2013 - 13:30

2 Likes

Neil753 wrote:
It's a tricky one, but many many cyclists find themselves being overtaken by the same lorry that they themselves have just undertaken. If you resist them temptation to squeeze past a lorry, you won't have to worry about being overtaken by it, and if you choose a route less frequented by lorries in the first place then risks are minimised even further.

What Zurich is doing is good, and and there's a lot that can also be done to help educate cyclists too.

I don't think you really understand, I don't want sense and reason, I want a little alien that makes my bike fly.

That's not too much to ask for now, is it?

posted by farrell [1640 posts]
17th December 2013 - 13:32

3 Likes

horizontal dropout wrote:

I've viewed insurance companies as being a primary cause of creeping helmet compulsion. In my area council cycling instructors and their trainees have to wear helmets regardless of personal choice because the council's insurance policy requires it.

I wonder. I think if you got hold of a copy of the insurance policy you might not find that it says that at all. Instead someone in the council may be claiming that the policy mandates it. I have experienced this on two occasions. In the end it usually comes down to someone on the organizing committee deciding that a helmet is safer, but I've not seen an insurance policy which stipulates that absence of a helmet voids the policy.

posted by Ush [455 posts]
17th December 2013 - 13:38

8 Likes

MovingTarget have been highlighting these dangers since at least 2007. And to be fair, most cycling media has suggested that wearing a helmet and high-vis and a punctilious adherence to the law is all you need.

http://www.movingtargetzine.com/article/what-to-do-about-lorries

http://movingtargetzine.com/forum/discussion/598/diagrams-of-hgv-blind-s...

posted by Ush [455 posts]
17th December 2013 - 13:47

1 Like

Ush wrote:
I wonder. I think if you got hold of a copy of the insurance policy you might not find that it says that at all.

Well you might be right, more investigation needed...

posted by horizontal dropout [192 posts]
17th December 2013 - 19:20

2 Likes

Well done Zurich, now go the extra mile and tell the heavy haulage fleets/firms that you will be increasing their premiums until they stop "pay per load".

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [618 posts]
17th December 2013 - 21:08

3 Likes

farrell wrote:
Neil753 wrote:
It's a tricky one, but many many cyclists find themselves being overtaken by the same lorry that they themselves have just undertaken. If you resist them temptation to squeeze past a lorry, you won't have to worry about being overtaken by it, and if you choose a route less frequented by lorries in the first place then risks are minimised even further.

What Zurich is doing is good, and and there's a lot that can also be done to help educate cyclists too.

I don't think you really understand, I don't want sense and reason, I want a little alien that makes my bike fly.

That's not too much to ask for now, is it?

Farrell, I don't think what you want is feasible, but what I'm suggesting is actually quite achieveable. In fact, I successfully did it today, on the way to work, by choosing a route that was slightly longer but wasn't used by trucks. If you can't see the logic of that, maybe your wish will be granted sooner than you imagine Wink

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
17th December 2013 - 21:23

4 Likes

No reason others should have to pay increased premiums to cover your lack of common sense.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [109 posts]
17th December 2013 - 23:32

1 Like

Neil753 wrote:

It's a tricky one, but many many lorry drivers find themselves being undertaken by the same cyclist that they themselves have just overtaken. If you resist the temptation to squeeze past a cyclist, you won't have to worry about being undertaken by it, and if you choose a route less frequented by cyclists in the first place then risks are minimised even further.

FTFY

posted by drfabulous0 [404 posts]
17th December 2013 - 23:39

4 Likes

Anything that promotes cycle safety has got to be a good thing. I'm currently working on a truck insurance website (Truck Insurance Direct) and I've pointed Zurich's publication out to them because I think they should be doing similar. I think sending out the information with policies would also be beneficial.

posted by joe david [1 posts]
15th January 2014 - 11:39

0 Likes