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Over 600 professional drivers experience roads as cyclists

More than 600 HGV drivers have been trained in how to interact with cyclists more safely in Cambridge.

The Safe Urban Driving course for lorry drivers has been running in Cambridge for over a year, and around half a year ago it was expanded to include van drivers as well. Drivers are trained theoretically and then taken out on the roads – with the practical element delivered by Outspoken Training

"Many of the drivers haven't been on bikes in 20 or 30 years," said Kieron McNab, Outspoken's Head of Training.

He said: "It's very easy for people to focus on the negative side of a particular vehicle. As a driver it would be easy to focus on a cyclist going through a red light. From a cyclist's perspective you may focus on a car cutting you up. It’s just human nature to focus on negative experience and not the predictable experience of road users who behave well. This does inform the HGV drivers' perspective."

But he said that the scheme was successful in improving the drivers' understanding of how to interact with cyclists on the roads.

"The initial response from the drivers is really good and it is a great opportunity to educate them and give them a bit of knowledge of cycling. I think they turn up thinking we are going to lecture them about how wonderful cyclists are whereas the course is about consulting and improving mutual understanding," he said.

The seven-hour course can be taken as part of the 35 hours of training HGV drivers are required by law to complete each year. After three hours of theory, they are taken out on bicycles, firstly into an off road area, then onto residential roads, and finally onto busy areas and junctions – the kind of places where cyclists might encounter HGVs.

Mr McNab said that many of the drivers who took part had their views informed by the old cycling proficiency test, which encouraged cyclists to stay close to the kerb. This meant they could react negatively when cyclists took up different positions on the road for reasons such as visibility. The course helps drivers to understand why cyclists might do this.

Mr McNab said the response was so positive that at the end of the course many of the drivers were considering getting bikes themselves.

He said about negativity between cyclists and HGV drivers: "It's the nature of people sharing the space on the roads, obviously infrastructure would be great, segregated infrastructure would be awesome, but the cost implications are massive to do this everywhere. The education about how people can help each other share those spaces on the roads is therefore really important."

Article published in Cambridge News in June 2016

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