LORRY drivers in the Scottish capital are to be put through cycling lessons as part of an attempt to make them more aware of the dangers two-wheeled road users face.
Local authority employees will undergo practical on-road bike training, which will see them take to the saddle, with the aim of helping them to “empathise with cyclists”.
Edinburgh City Council said a pilot would begin in the New Year with the roads team, which performs maintenance and repairs. It is intended it be rolled across its fleet of larger vehicles, including all refuse and recycling lorries, if successful, the following year.
Last week Islington Council introduced similar measures which extended to contractors working for the organisation and major developers in the borough.
This followed six deaths in a fortnight in London in November and a warning Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe that large lorries can be “killing machines” for those on two-wheels.
Training is intended to give personnel the perspective of being at the height of a cyclist and experience the feeling of being surrounded by high-sided vehicles, such as lorries, along with cars and buses on the busy Edinburgh roads.
Cycle safety campaigners Lynne and Ian McNicoll, who lost their son Andrew, 43, in a cycling incident with an HGV on Lanark Road nearly two years ago, welcomed the introduction of the new pilot.
The McNicolls have worked to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on city roads, and their charity, the Andrew Cyclist Charitable Trust, is now represented on the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Cycling.
In a statement they said: “This new proposal for a pilot on-street cycle training scheme for drivers of the council’s fleet builds on these earlier initiatives and is most welcome.”
Councillor Jim Orr, the city’s deputy transport leader and a keen cyclist, said: “There were two cycling fatalities in Edinburgh due to lorries in 2011 and 2012, each one a tragedy, and these accounted for half of all cycling fatalities, even though lorries are a relatively small proportion of traffic.
“We feel in order to encourage people to cycle, and meet our own key target of 15 per cent of journeys to work by bike by 2020, that this council should show leadership with regard to our own lorry fleet.”
He added: “This would include practical on-street cycle training for drivers. The aim would be to encourage lorry drivers to empathise with cyclists as vulnerable road users, and understand how to share the road with them. If the pilot scheme is successful, it is our intention that it will be rolled out across the whole fleet by the end of 2015. If so, we will be the first local authority in Scotland to have such standards.”
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, welcomed the move but said that cyclists could also be given a better perspective of the challenges lorry drivers face.
He told The Scotsman: “Anything that cultivates the atmosphere of sharing the road has to be welcomed, but lorry drivers are not always the main problem. They tend to have undergone extra tuition and have extra licensing requirements.
“Often it’s cyclists and car drivers who don’t realise how little a lorry driver can see. So while it’s good that this initiative is being introduced, we also need to see cyclists up in the cab with lorry drivers.”
He added: “The Metropolitan Police in London has just won a safety award for placing a big lorry in central London and inviting cyclists in to show how limited their views can be.
“If Police Scotland and Edinburgh could do something similar that would do a great deal for road safety. It could highlight the dangers of how little visibility those driving large vehicles may have of cyclists.”