Monday, July 29, 2013

Bear Spray, Truck Side Guards, and Safety

John Allen  critiques two cycling blogs (here and here) that extoll the virtue of truck side guards in keeping bicyclists from being swept under trucks, such as during a right hook. I don't know about you, but those side guards don't look like they are foolproof, and could just as easily capture a cyclist and grind him/her into the pavement.

Not falling under a truck means not getting in the situation where you will even have the chance to fall under the truck. Some of the most famous cases of cyclists being mauled by trucks and buses involve door zone and coffin corner bike lanes that put naive cyclists into serious danger of diversion falls and right hook collisions, respectively. Not that cyclists should be so naive that they would squeeze into a door zone or try to pass a large truck on the driver's right (i.e., in the truck driver's blind spot) going into an intersection, but some designs encourage such behavior and some cyclists seem oblivious to the hazard.  A better practice heading into intersections is either to fall in behind the truck or slow down and ensure the truck proceeds through the intersection ahead of you without turning, because its probably not wise to assume the driver remembers to use turn signals.

As I quipped on Mr. Allen's site, one does not backpack into bear country and put the food and leftovers into the tent, relying only on bear spray (or even a trusty 44 Magnum) to keep the bear out. One uses well known common sense measures to manage one's coexistence with the bear so that the crisis does not materialize in the first place. Large trucks, like bears, can be hazardous to one's health if not treated with respect and can coexist with you relatively safely if the proper measures are in place, as discussed by Keri at the Bike Orlando blog. Neither bear spray nor truck side guards (nor any other form of PPE) are anything but last resort measures when one's carefully managed safety envelope breaks down. That should be self-evident, even to cycling bloggers.


Steve A said...

Somehow, I missed the blog aspect from John's post until you emphasized it. Thanks. That being said, it is hard to see anyone seriously taking such as a real cycling safety device. The hard versions can, however, reduce motorist injuries when the careless motorist broadsides a truck.

Myself, I've always found truckers to be the safest and most considerate road users. We get along just fine.

Khal said...

I wonder if they are sturdy enough to withstand a broadside, but they can probably deflect a sideswipe rather than having the vehicle go under the truck.

About a year ago a motorcyclist overcooked a high speed curve on I-40 down in Albuquerque and got under a semitrailer, with predictable results. Might have saved her, or she might have ricochet off and splattered against something else.

Such devices don't take the place of good vehicle operation and good design. Some of the cycling, motorcycling, and ped folks I work with concentrate on crash avoidance rather than crash mitigation. I agree with that approach.

Khal said...

Oh, and agree with you on trucker competence.

Steve A said...

Truck side guards are the next step beyond the already ubiquitous rear guards which apparently keep a lot of motorists from killing themselves when they rear end trucks. Few would claim that to be a big problem for cyclists - even those that are "braking challenged."

Khal said...

My beef isn't with side guards, which are a good idea. My beef is with the idea, suggested in both those links, that these are somehow going to prevent a cyclist from being run over during a right hook collision. I concur with John Allen that the design will probably fall short of that assertion and that furthermore, the cyclist should not be in the position of bouncing off of sideguards to begin with.