Swapping Seats is a Bicycle Network awareness campaign designed to educate riders and pedestrians on what can and can’t be seen from a truck driver’s seat, and develop positive relationships between drivers and vulnerable road users.
Truck drivers and vulnerable road users
Building positive relationships
Swapping Seats sets out to raise awareness about where and how people who walk and ride should position themselves around trucks and heavy vehicles.
Bicycle Network’s ‘Swapping Seats’ sessions took place at the Victorian Tunnelling Centre and at Docklands in Melbourne in 2023.
Vulnerable road users were invited aboard a truck to sit in the driver’s seat and learn about the built-in safety technologies, what the mirrors and windows can and can’t show them, and how bike riders and pedestrians might escape their view.
The program complements a VicRoads initiative to educate truck drivers about blind spot awareness, pedestrian safety and bike rider safety.
These “Toolbox Talks” are available as a set of resources to help construction contractors conduct workshops to help protect vulnerable road users.
As works ramp up on major infrastructure projects around Melbourne, Bicycle Network will continue its long-running Swapping Seats campaign to promote heavy vehicle and community safety.read more
Heavy vehicles and bikes
Heavy vehicle and truck blind spots block out a lot more of the road than people who ride bikes realise.
Sharing the road with trucks is an everyday experience in Melbourne. From arterial roads to residential streets, you can expect to find trucks or heavy vehicles or nearly any road in Victoria.
Because of their size and width, trucks have blind spots in front, on the sides and behind them.
The drivers of heavy vehicles are professionals and are adept at piloting their huge transporters in traffic and through intersections.
However, it’s important for people who ride bikes to remember that for all their driving prowess, drivers of heavy vehicles simply cannot see what their mirrors don’t show them.
Large vehicles, such as trucks, tourist coaches and buses, are a challenge for people who ride bikes because they take up so much room on the road.
Specifically, large vehicles occupy the space that bike riders are generally accustomed to having available to pass on the left-hand side when there isn’t a bike lane. However, when sharing the road with larger vehicles, the left side is a highly risky place to be.
Ride to be seen
The best place to ride
The major blind spots for a large vehicle are directly behind and to the side.
Here are some to be aware of:
- the right-hand blind spot is dangerous when overtaking: the rider must be aware that they might not be seen if the large vehicle pulls out to the right.
- don’t move into a space in front of a truck—even if it’s a bike box—because the blind spot under the windscreen often stretches more than two metres ahead, which is enough to hide you.
- the left-hand blind spot is the greatest risk to bike riders. When a large vehicle begins to turn, the ample alley down the inside closes up where the trailing wheels of a longer vehicle cut in tight to the curb. Side mirrors also become less effective.
Many freight and construction companies have recognised the risks of sharing the road with bikes and are making improvements to their fleets’ large-vehicle mirrors, vision aids and side underrun protection rails.
However, people who ride bikes need to be aware of the extent of the blind spots of these vehicles and ride defensively and predictably.
Progress on truck safety
Bicycle Network has campaigned for more than a decade on truck safety, lobbying the Federal Government to pursue technologies to improve the safety of heavy vehicles on our roads.
Bike riders had a massive win in September 2023, following the announcement by the Australian government that new safety standards for trucks will come into effect that month.
The Safer Freight Vehicles package includes: devices to reduce blind spots, electronic stability control, advanced emergency braking, a lane-departure warning system, better reflective markings, and side guards to stop pedestrians and cyclists from being caught up under the rear wheels of trucks.
These safety standards will apply to new construction trucks used in major projects in the big cities. While cause for celebration, the reality is that these standards will take time to filter through as the industry replaces older vehicles in the fleet with these newer, safer vehicles.
We’re continuing to advocate for more projects around Australia to be required to include these standard in the contracts with construction companies.
In the meantime, it’s important that all vulnerable road users are aware of the risks of sharing the road with heavy vehicles. Our goal is to encourage bike riding habits that keep those risks to a minimum.
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