Truckie and cyclist debate: The way forward

By: Cobey Bartels

The online debate raging between cyclists and truckies has intensified recently after a spate of alarming videos has surfaced.


Last month a video filmed in North Fremantle showing two cyclists being passed closely by a truck, and the online debate involved tens of thousands of Facebook users.

The cyclist involved in the incident reportedly received a lot of abusive messages as the debate about who was at fault raged on. 

The truck was also accused by many of not obeying WA’s one metre rule, requiring vehicles to allow cyclists one metre of space in a 60km/h zone and 1.5m at speeds higher than 60km/h.

A second video was shared earlier this month shows a road train closely passing cyclists on Canning Road in Kalamunda, stirring another online debate.

The majority of commentary on the video sided with the truck driver, with many calling to have cyclists banned from major truck arterials where it’s not always possible to provide the 1.5 metres of clearance.

Truck safety advocate Rod Hannifey insists simply banning cyclists from using certain roads is not the answer, but instead explains it’s all about minimising risk.

"It’s about risk reduction, and cyclists want trucks to provide that risk reduction through providing a metre and a half, but what we ask is what are they doing to reduce the risk?" Hannifey says.

"If you’re just going for a ride, or if you’re in a club, try to choose a route if you can that will reduce risks."

Hannifey explains that it isn’t always possible to provide the necessary safe distances on some roads.

"It’s well and good in a car to leave 1.5m, because a car coming the other way has room to give you. If you’re in a truck, if there is a car or truck coming the other way, there’s no space.

"If a cyclist is struggling getting up a hill and he’s just got over the top, all you need is a dip in the road or a crest and at 100km/h you might only have 100 metres to pull up.

"If you come over that crest or around a corner and find a bike there, I don’t know how you’re supposed to stop 68 tonnes of b-double in that situation.

"I don’t think some cyclists realise they’re providing that kind of risk."

Hannifey believes the way forward is working with cyclists to ensure safe routes are established and an understanding of trucks is achieved.

"I want to work with cyclists not against them, which I think is the key here, because we need to keep everyone safe."

Bicycling Queensland CEO Anne Savage says every road user plays a part in staying safe on our roads, and looking out for each other is key following the widespread online debate.

"Trucks have slower stopping times and less visibility than most other vehicles which is why it’s important for bike riders to practice extra caution when riding on the roads," Savage says.

"Truck drivers should look out for cyclists — and cyclists should look out for trucks.

"Everyone has a part to play in staying safe on our roads."

Ron Finemore Transport operations planner and former truckie Anthony Falconetti has cycled for 30 years, alternating between the cab or a truck and the saddle of a bike.

He says a lack of understanding is at the core of these issues, and respect for each other is imperative to improving safety outcomes.

"Some of the cyclists don’t understand what it’s like for a truck driver, and it goes the other way too, a lot of drivers don’t know what it’s like as a cyclist," Falconetti says.

"It starts with courtesy… trucks can’t pull up on a dime, and they often can’t see the cyclist."

National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) CEO Warren Clark expresses concerns about the media being quick to blame truck drivers for road incidents.

"The latest statistics show that most of the time it is not the truck driver’s fault." Clark says.

Clark highlights the need for education but maintains that road safety is a two way street.

"Sharing the road means it’s a two way street - cyclists need to understand that trucks have significant blind spots, trucks cannot stop as quickly or manoeuvre out of the way as easily as cars.

"Some of the road authorities across Australia have developed powerful videos to help other road users drive more considerately around heavy vehicles.

"These type of resources need to be promoted more heavily on television and radio so the message really hits home."  

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