Council's lorry drivers in the saddle for safer cycling lessons

A group of City of Edinburgh Council lorry drivers have taken to the saddle as part of a scheme to help make them more aware of the dangers facing cyclists on the roads.

Council lorry drivers

In the first course of its kind in Scotland, employees swapped six wheels for two in an effort to understand the perceptions of cyclists using the city’s roads.

The pilot initiative consists of theory and practical sessions, created to encourage drivers to empathise with vulnerable road users and the safety issues they experience. The practical sessions have been developed with the support of Cycling Scotland, the country’s national organisation for the promotion of cycling.

Though the rate of casualties amongst those cycling to work has decreased over the last decade, figures show that a significant proportion of the incidents that do happen are associated with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). It is hoped that, by placing drivers in the same position as cyclists, they will gain a better appreciation of the dangers they face on a day-to-day basis.

Initial Driver Awareness training targeted employees in the Council’s transport department who drive vans and lorries and perform tasks like roads maintenance and repairs.

Participants returned to the classroom to learn about vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, motorcyclists and scooter riders as well as cyclists, and how best to share the space with them. 

Drivers were also given tips on how to prepare for journeys and on the safety devices fitted to their vehicles.

A second practical element to the course, delivered by Cycling Scotland, gave class members the opportunity to develop their own cycling skills, and as a result formulate driving plans to ensure other road users’ safety, by putting themselves in their position.

By learning basic on-road cycling skills, carrying out bicycle safety checks and negotiating road junctions and traffic, drivers will develop a better understanding of road use from a cyclist’s point of view, aimed at reducing the risk of accidents.

Transport Convener Lesley Hinds said: “The Council is committed to promoting cycling as a primary mode of transport, and as such we have pledged to invest 7% of our transport budget into developing cycling infrastructure throughout the city.

“But if we are to encourage cycling among our citizens we must ensure that they are given a safe and accessible environment in which to do it. By raising awareness of this with our drivers we are leading the way to creating an equal relationship between drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and other road users alike.”

Ian Aitken, chief executive of Cycling Scotland said: “Fostering mutual respect is paramount for the safety of all road users and the initial Driver Awareness training for HGVs is a great example of an initiative designed to do just that. By putting lorry drivers in the position of cyclists, both in theory and in practice, they will become much more aware of cyclists while out on the road.

“Cycling Scotland welcomes City of Edinburgh Council’s initiative, and is pleased to be delivering the practical element of this training. We hope that other local authorities and organisations responsible for the operation of large goods vehicles in Scotland will follow suit.’’

It is now hoped the course will be approved to form part of a package of training modules City of Edinburgh Council’s large goods vehicle drivers are required to sit. Options for providing such training courses to private sector large vehicles operators will also be investigated.

Cycle safety campaigner Ian McNicoll, who has worked with his wife Lynne to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on the road since losing his son Andrew in a cycling incident with a HGV, welcomed the pilot.

He said: “We welcome the introduction of driver awareness training, it’s incredibly important. It’s essential that HGV drivers are given appropriate training and know the risks that cyclists take on the roads. 

“While the majority of HGV drivers are good drivers, the number of incidents involving HGVs and cyclists continues to be very high. We’re pleased that the Council is taking this into account with the initiative, and look forward to seeing how the course progresses.”

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