Bike safety and trucks

Ecology Action in Santa Cruz developed a safety brochure to help cyclists safely share the road with large trucks.

Safety pamphlet explaining how to ride bikes around large trucks

I don’t usually get too excited about most cycling issues that get passed along as an important safety issue, but truck safety is a biggie for me. I see some really bone-headed moves among some cyclists when they navigate around large trucks / lorries. When you squeeze through traffic and bump a car, you’ll probably live. If you zip through a red light and get hit by an SUV, the SUV driver probably already hit the brakes to at least slow a little before nailing you. For either of those scenarios against a truck, though, all bets are off.

I imagine Ecology Action published this brochure because of the very heavy truck traffic with substandard width lanes on Mission Street (aka California State Route 1) through Santa Cruz.

You can download the full brochure from EcoAct.org in both Spanish and English. The mains points:

  • Don’t pass on the right (for nations where driving is the to right; flip these if you drive on the left). Some trucks have a sign on the back with:
    <-- PASSING SIDE | SUICIDE -->

  • Avoid the truck driver’s substantial blind spots. If you find yourself caught in the blind spot, don’t dawdle there.
  • Don’t squeeze too closely by a truck.
  • Take the lane for safety where necessary.
  • Be visible.
  • Ride legally and predictably.

   

This advice mostly applies for city buses as well, though their blind spots aren’t nearly so bad. I frequently see cyclists in San Jose pulling up at intersections alongside VTA buses with the right turn blinker indicating a turn. Go to the left of the bus — or stay behind — when you see that. When I pass a stopped bus, I pass well left of the bus to ensure the driver sees me.

Ecology Action: Bicycle Safety Around Trucks brochures.

9 Comments

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  • Cafn8
    June 24, 2010 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    These are generally in line with my usual practices, but if you can figure out how to make trucks give you 5-10 feet of space as in #3, I'd really like to know.

  • Mark
    June 24, 2010 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    This is precisely what happened to a cyclist on Oct 14th last year in Redwood City at the corner of Shoreway Rd and Holly St. Fifty year old lady was crushed by a garbage truck turning right. Very sad. Apparently, the truck driver didn't know he'd hit her until much later (which I though rather incredible).

  • Sean
    June 24, 2010 - 11:51 am | Permalink

    The right hook by a truck is generally caused by the truck overtaking, then turning right. Rarely in this case can the cyclist do anything and there is nowhere to go.

  • doug_in_seattle
    June 24, 2010 - 9:17 pm | Permalink

    re: overtaking a city bus.

    I disagree that using the bus' right turn blinker is a good way to determine its future actions. Better to just assume it's dangerous to pass it on the right at all times. I only pass buses on the left, or when it is stopped at a light with cars in front of it.

  • June 25, 2010 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    Yeah, that too. I was just giving an example of what I see — people passing on the right even when the blinker's going. That just seems weird. But you're right — don't assume it's safe to pass to the right even w/ no blinker.

  • July 14, 2010 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    never overtake on a blind curve. and just always have reflectors on

  • cycler
    January 27, 2011 - 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Please also remember that a semi truck has a significant front blind spot- the hood is too high for the truck to see pedestrians and bicycles right in front of it. Less of an issue for busses.

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