road at a bike/truck safety
-Audio slideshow below-
(Photos © J. Maus)
The Portland Water Bureau gave cyclists plenty to think about at their bike/truck safety event yesterday.
The event gave the community a chance to experience what it’s like to sit in the cab of a 12-foot high dump truck that weighs up to 56,000 lbs. fully loaded. After snacking on free fruit and filling their bottles with water straight from a nearby fire hydrant, cyclists climbed up into the cab for a game of, “How many bikes can you see?”.
Water Bureau staff, with help from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), had placed ten bicycles around the truck to try and mimic roadway conditions. David Shaff, director of the Water Bureau, watched as one cyclist after another made their guess.
“I see four bikes,” said one person. “There are five,” said another. Cyclist Lillian Karabaic hiked up into the cab, checked the mirrors, and exclaimed,
“This is terrifying, I would not want to be in this position at all.”
The point was clear. From inside the cab of a truck, there are many blind spots.
In addition to taking a seat in the cab, cyclists got a first-look at a new bike/truck safety video produced by the Water Bureau. I’m usually skeptical of educational videos as they are often cheesy and pedantic. But this one worked. Much of the footage was taken from inside the truck’s cab on crowded bikeways I’m very familiar with, but they looked completely different from a trucker’s perspective. It was eye-opening and nerve-racking just to watch the truck’s rear and side mirrors as bikes darted in and out of view — I couldn’t imagine the stress of actually operating that vehicle.
The video emphasized watching out for a truck’s right-hook “danger zone” and made the point that keeping safe is a joint responsibility (one major point was to wear highly visible/reflective clothing). (No online version of the video exists, but I’m working with the Water Bureau to get a copy and will post it ASAP.) Water Bureau spokesman Tim Hall says they’re still tweaking the video and hop to make two, 30-second PSAs to air on local TV.
North Portland resident Travis Wittwer brought his three young boys to the event. Travis said since the boys are now riding on their own, he’s taking them to as many bike events as possible. His eight year-old Kael was eager to share what he learned; “When I went into the truck, I only saw three bikes by looking in the mirror…and when you’re stopped you have to make sure the truck can see you.” (Hear more from Kael in the audio slideshow above.)
Water Bureau maintenance engineer Peter Nierengarten was one of the people who spearheaded the bike/truck safety campaign and he said they would like to do another event like this in Southeast Portland as well a separate effort to create awareness about safety in construction zones.