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Risks continue to be ignored

News that another bike rider has been horrifically killed in a crash with a left-turning truck highlights the urgent need to address the risk that heavy vehicles pose on our roads.

The crash occurred at the intersection of King and Perkins Street in the Newcastle CBD.

The Herald reported that a b-double truck was turning left from King Street into Perkins Street when a woman riding her bike became trapped under the rear left-hand wheel of the trailer.

While the investigation into the circumstances are ongoing, Australia’s bike riding community is left heartbroken and frustrated at another potentially avoidable death.  

We know that left-turning heavy vehicles pose a massive risk to people who ride bikes on our roads. Bicycle Network’s 20-year fatality report, showed that on average one in five bike rider fatalities involves a truck.  

Yet so little is being done and it’s unacceptable.

It’s clear that the responsibility cannot be left solely on the operators of trucking fleets and our governments remain reluctant to do more to protect people who ride bikes on our roads.

At the very least, Australian trucking safety standards must be increased and mandated.  

In our Federal Budget submission, Bicycle Network called for all heavy vehicles to be fitted with physical risk mitigation measures:

  • Class V mirrors, and reversing and blind spot cameras, giving the driver a better view of road users around their vehicles
  • Side underrun protection to protect bike riders from being dragged under the wheels in the event of a collision
  • Audible left turn warning and reverse squawker alert systems to communicate heavy vehicle movements to all road users
  • Hydraulic payload monitoring system to determine and notify drivers of real-time truck weight

To support the implementation of these standards for all trucks on our roads we recommended that the federal government offer rebates to owner-operators of heavy vehicles to help subsidise the cost of safety upgrades that are necessary to significantly reduce the risk that trucks pose to vulnerable road users.

In addition to physical mitigation measures, truck driver training and road user awareness programs are also integral to the prevention of crashes involving heavy vehicles.

Funding a national awareness program like Bicycle Network’s Swapping Seats initiative would help to not only raise awareness but build a consistent and clear communication of behaviours for both drivers and bike riders.

Vulnerable road user training should also be introduced and mandated across all truck driver licensing curriculums.

These recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.

While it’s not clear whether these measures would’ve saved the young woman killed in Newcastle, at least we’d be doing something.

In London, after a spate of bike rider deaths involving lorries, the government acted quickly to reduce the risk.

With a Federal Budget set to be handed down and an election a couple of months away, now's the perfect time to act and restore our faith. 

How many more people riding bikes have to die or be seriously injured in crashes with drivers of heavy vehicles before our governments act?

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