UK Department for Transport

It’s pure victim blaming, say critics.

In Britain, a third of collisions between trucks and cyclists happen at a left-hand turn—but whose fault are they? A new safety video produced for the U.K. Department for Transport has sparked a debate on just this subject. The video urges cyclists to avoid getting too close to larger vehicles at turnings, an apparently sensible message that’s still annoyed a fair few British cyclists.

For a start there’s the imagery. Inter-cutting slow motion footage of a bike on the road with shots of buffalos jousting, boxers sparring and a butcher hacking away at some meat with a cleaver, the film would be enough to spook any cyclist. You, dear rider, are the meat, it seems to say. All other traffic on the roads is a blood-soaked axe just waiting for a moment of weakness to take a slice off you.

But hey, if that lurid imagery jolts cyclists into taking more care, then it must surely perform a function. Much more serious is the allegation that the video is nothing more than a slickly edited bit of victim-blaming. It urges riders to “hold back” at junctions where trucks might turn in front of them. Look closely at the video, however, and you see that the truck actually overtakes the bike before turning, crushing it as it goes. Who exactly is it who needs the warning here? Some British social media users have noticed the disconnect.

They have a point. Who really needs their behavior changed? Is it the person riding without a chassis for protection or the one driving the potentially bone-crushing, wall-crashing steel thunder chariot? Practical self-preservation may make warning cyclists of the danger of turnings prudent, but it’s surely the person who can cause death that needs the warning most urgently.

This doesn’t mean we should demonize truck drivers. No one wants to hurt other road users and it isn’t always easy to see a cyclist from a perch high up in a driver’s cab. This is an argument for empowering truck drivers to get around more carefully, not for treating them as an unsolvable cause of fatality that simply needs to be evaded and endured. Still, perhaps I’m being too harsh here.

CityLab readers, what do you think?

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    How Berlin's Mietskaserne Tenements Became Coveted Urban Housing

    Why do mid-rise tenements dominate Berlin? The Mietskaserne, or “rental barracks,” have shaped the city’s culture and its counterculture.

  2. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  3. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  4. Transportation

    Want Better Streets? Just Add Paint.

    Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative wants to bring a boost of color to the streets of America’s small and mid-size cities.

  5. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

×