20 October 2013

Large Vehicle Blind-Spots - A Missed Opportunity?

I have never really got involved in the HGV blind-spot debate as others seemed to be more 'educated' about it, and living in a rural area meant that i (thankfully) had little experience to draw on.  Indeed my only 'near-miss' with an HGV was when riding down a steepish road, holding back on the brakes as i was touching the 30mph speed limit, only to be overtaken, on a slight left-hand bend, by an HGV who had had to exceed the speed limit to do so, and then proceeded aggressively to cut me up by taking the apex of the bend to such an extent that the air flowing round the lorry damn nearly sucked me into the wheels. 
Accepted 'Blind-Spot' of a large vehicle

My encounter was nothing to do with blind spots, terrifying though it was.  I felt that I had nothing really new to add to the blind-spot debate apart from my anger over deaths of the unfortunate people whose inquests touched me these last few weeks. 

But then i saw a photo posted on Twitter that showed the blind spot as seen from outside the cab looking backwards and for some reason the angle of the shot suddenly reminded me of something I'd seen about 25yrs ago as a young boy.

Often the laughing stock of modern vehicular engineering, British Leyland (yes, really) in it's 80's guise as Leyland Trucks built a 7.5 tonne lorry called the 'Roadrunner'.  One of it's more unusual design features points was a 'window' more or less in the the foot-well of the passenger seat that allowed the driver to glance downwards and see how close he was to the curb. 

Indeed, the idea itself was not a new one, as it was also a design feature of the Morris FG lorry of the 1960's, and was designed into the Roadrunner cab purely with the driver in mind.

However, in the light of all the incidents that there have involved HGVs and cyclists and from reading newspaper articles surrounding some of the various recent court cases, I would suggest that most cyclists, or at least a good portion of their bikes, would have been visible to the HGV driver. 
The 'window' as viewed from the front,
showing the potential blind-spot area reduction
Cab interior - you get an idea of the potential
extra visibility from the drivers point of view.

I don't pretend to have any idea of how lorry cabs are built, though I obviously realise that the Roadrunner was a 7½ tonne vehicle (to get around the need for full HGV drivers licence) and not a full size HGV of today.  However, if this is something that has been incorporated before on more than one occasion then surely it can be incorporated again and, i suspect, improved upon with modern techniques and materials. For example,
  • a bigger surface area
  • more rounded into the side of the door
  • possible smart use of mirrors to look alongside the lower part of the cab/HGV
From the below image as well, it shows that the window needn't impact too much on the colour scheme or imagery on a cab either.

It is obviously a great shame that this design did not catch on, as, from what i have read, it could possibly have prevented some of the fatalities that have occurred in the past few years or so.  An idea like this is such a missed opportunity especially as it was once deemed an important feature in the safety of motor transport in the UK.