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600 Cambridge HGV drivers take attitude-changing course

Drivers tended to 'vent' about cyclists when they first arrived, said director...

More than 600 lorry drivers have been on a cyclist awareness course in Cambridge, with both theoretical and practical testing.

The Safe Urban Driving course, first developed by Transport for London, shows HGV drivers how to interact with cyclists - and the course directors say drivers’ attitudes are changed.

"Many of the drivers haven't been on bikes in 20 or 30 years," said Kieron McNab, head of training at Outspoken, the company delivering practical testing.

They tended to ‘vent’ when they first arrived at sessions, he told Cambridge News.

He said: "It's very easy for people to focus on the negative side of a particular vehicle. As a driver it would be easy to focus on the cyclists going through red lights. From a cyclist's perspective you tend to focus on the cars cutting you off. That's just human nature, and it does inform the [HGV] drivers' perspective.

"The initial response from the drivers is really really good, educating them and giving them a bit of knowledge. I think they turn up thinking we are going to lecture them about how wonderful cyclists are. It's just about consulting and understanding," he said.

The course lasts seven hours and can be used as part of the 35 hours of compulsory annual training for HGV drivers.

When the Cambridge training course was launched, Cambridge University announced that drivers entering its sites would have had to do this or a similar course to be allowed in. HGV drivers are also not allowed into London without the qualification.

The theory component is delivered at Outspoken's new office in Cambridge's Cowley Road, by partners Fleet Source and Cycle Confident.

Mr McNab said: "It's the nature of people sharing the space on the roads, obviously infrastructure would be great, segregated infrastructure would be awesome, but the cost implications are massive.

"The education about how people can help each other share those spaces on the roads is really important."

This writer has been to a Changing Places session run by Downton Haulage:

    The opportunity to sit in the cab of an HGV is one of the most significant things I've done to improve my safety on the streets of London.

    The cab is filled with mirrors, so it is possible to see the sides of the lorries from most angles, but it's not always easy.

    A cyclist is just about visible coming up on the left -- but the improvement once you add a high-viz jacket is astonishing. If you've any sense though, you'd ride up the right, or go nowhere near.

    There clearly are blind spots, and these are different on different vehicles, so you come away with the impression that the safest place to be is well out of the way.

    And the safety features only work if the driver is using them - one can only imagine the dangers posed by a tired or distracted driver.


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