Riding her bike to work in London in July, 26-year-old strategy consultant Ying Tao was hit by a dump truck as it turned left. The driver didn't see her, and a speaker on the truck that should have sounded an audible warning wasn't working. Tao was pulled under the wheels and killed.
It was a tragic example of the most common type of fatal bike crash in the city—58% of fatalities involve a truck. Now London plans to roll out a simple solution. By 2020, the worst trucks will be banned from the road.
Using a system that rates how much a driver can see looking out the windows of a particular truck, the city's transportation agency gives each large truck a score from zero to five stars. The system doesn't count mirrors and other aids; trucks are already required to have as many as six mirrors. As a report explains, direct sight has advantages over mirrors or camera monitors:
The image is full size, free from distortions, substantial movement may be visible, which would help attract the attention of the driver, and direct eye contact is possible between both parties.
A typical large construction truck, like the one that killed Tao, would get zero stars. Adding a low side window or reshaping the dashboard might add enough vision to earn one star; trucks designed for more on-road use might get two or three stars. A vehicle with panoramic views from the cab could get five stars. The system uses computer modeling to measure precisely how much vision a driver has.
"It's rated based on the total level of direct vision," says Danny Keillor, a senior press officer for Transport for London. "Rather than saying that you have to have a side window or more glass in the windshield, it's simply saying that you have to have this amount of direct vision."
By January 2020, no zero-star trucks will be allowed on roads. By 2024, only trucks with at least a three-star rating will be allowed.
Better, fully separated bike lanes also help. But even a separated bike path can't necessarily help at an intersection and doesn't help pedestrians crossing in front of a truck. So getting rid of some trucks completely might be the best solution. Around 35,000 zero-star trucks are currently on London streets.
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