31 Jul 2015

Keeping cyclists and trucks from being on a collision course

From New Zealand Society, 2:05 pm on 31 July 2015
Cyclists discussing what it was like to have a 20-tonne truck pass them on the road.

Cyclists discussing what it was like to have a 20-tonne truck pass them on the road. Photo: RNZ/Lisa Thompson

Long-time cycling enthusiast Richard Barter likes nothing more than to hear people's happy memories about riding bikes.

“We regularly get at these workshops folk that haven’t been on a bike in 40 years and the guys especially, once they get on it, they are just ten-year-old boys again!”

But for every positive thought, there's also the anecdote of the near miss or close call, whether you're a cyclist or a professional driver.

And with freight volumes predicted to grow by nearly 80 percent in the Auckland region over the next 30 years, it’s likely that heavy vehicle drivers and cyclists will face increasing tension as congestion grows on our roads. 

But the Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN) is determined to try and get all road users to be that little bit kinder to each other and has instigated Road User workshops designed to give cyclists and truck drivers a chance to ride a mile in each other’s tyres. 

Richard Barter manages the workshops on behalf of CAN and says they were established following a spate of serious accidents.

“It was about five years ago that there were a series of deaths of cyclists involved with crashes with heavy vehicles and a coroner at the time said ‘Hey, we’ve got to do something about this,’” he says.

“And so people started thinking about this idea of entering into each other’s worlds, sitting in each other’s seats.”

Michael Sarney, a North Island Health and Safety Manager with Toll, deep in thought as he completes a workshop survey.

Michael Sarney, a North Island Health and Safety Manager with Toll, deep in thought as he completes a workshop survey. Photo: RNZ/Lisa Thompson

First developed by CAN, the programme is now delivered in conjunction with the NZ Transport Agency, Cycling New Zealand, NZ Trucking Association and NZ Bus.

The workshops have been divided into three different exercises, all designed to get the participants thinking about travelling distances, road hazards and driver behaviour.

“The programme helps to build a general awareness of how people can minimise the risks and increase road safety by combining a bit of theory with practical exercises.  Getting the two groups together has a profound impact; people end up talking, listening and developing empathy for one another,” Richard says.

“Everyone that participates has an understanding of what it feels like to be on the road on a bicycle and likewise what it feels like to be sitting in the cab of a heavy vehicle…there just isn’t a better way.”

New Zealand Society’s Lisa Thompson joins one of the workshops recently held in Auckland and finds out what happens when truck drivers and their trainers get out of the cab and onto a saddle…

Video: CAN - Workshop & Display - Key Course Contents courtesy Cycling Advocates’ Network