More honest cyclist warning stickers for motor vehicles

A tweet from @aseasyasriding reminded me about the problem of those stickers which seem to have proliferated on the back of HGVs (and now other commercial vehicles in the past few years) which are all some variation of a warning to cyclists not to pass the vehicle on the inside. Obviously I hate these things, but I will admit to having something of a dark admiration for the idea behind them. These stickers likely originate from discussions inside the road haulage industry and I suspect that the decision to issue them as taken as follows:

  1. Use of HGVs whose design is heavily optimised for motorway use in towns and cities without significant modification means that even a momentary failure of competence or compassion from a driver can lead to fatal consequences for other road users (particularly cyclists).
  2. Modifying HGVs would be very costly to the road haulage industry and is therefore resisted.
  3. Even if the industry were receptive to the idea of modifying HGVs, the period of time between the public learning of their intention to modify HGV designs and the last unmodified HGV coming out of service would be a liability nightmare for the industry.
  4. Certain parts of the road haulage industry use pay structures (such as pay-per-load) which put drivers’ pay at odds with the safety of other road users.
  5. The death toll associated with the road haulage industry gives it a bad image.

And so the now-ubiquitous warning stickers were created for HGVs (which have since spread to other commercial vehicles such as buses, vans and even taxis). These stickers ingeniously and insidiously turn a road haulage industry problem into a problem of cyclist behaviour in the minds of many of those who see them. Slowly but surely in the public imagination, the problem of a HGV driver overtaking a cyclist to turn left becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of the immense blind spots of HGVs becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of HGV drivers not signalling their intention to turn becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of risk-taking by drivers who are paid by the load becomes a problem of cyclist behaviour.

In response to the (admittedly highly-sucessful) attempt at reality distortion represented by the original stickers, I thought I would present some alternatives which are perhaps a bit more honest:




One for skip lorries and others who are paid by the load:


And a few more ready for when these things inevitably start making the jump from commercial vehicles to private cars:



And finally, the subtext of the original signs:



11 thoughts on “More honest cyclist warning stickers for motor vehicles

  1. Sadly these sticker variants are appearing more and more, I laughed to myself when seeing one on a company car carrying the firms branding, only to find out that they were put on all company vehicles!
    There are however an amount of cyclists out there who are ignorant of vehicle blind spots, the cutting in of trailers turning and the outward swing of trailers. I was a bus passenger recently who was horrified to see a student ride inside a bus at a stop and then squeeze between it as it was moving away into its pinch point with a parked car to the point of swearing out loud on the bus at him…..not recommended.
    My biggest fear is an HGV attempting to overtake me to turn left where there are railings and no bale out area if all starts to go pear shaped.
    Personally my own way of riding is to always stay behind or well in front of lorries and buses, if you have to pass then make sure you have eye contact in the mirrors or in the cab to the driver.

    • <> – Except that thinking you have eye contact still isn’t the same as them actually seeing you.

      It’s like implied consent when you need to have *explicit consent* in order to proceed.

      Eben Weiss (BikesnobNYC) recently did a piece on some road safety campaign in the US, which encouraged children to wave at drivers when they weanted to cross at a crosswalk, and only to cross if the driver waved back.

    • “if you have to pass then make sure you have eye contact in the mirrors or in the cab to the driver.” – sorry, that quote was supposed to appear.

    • I have no objection to basic self-preservation and I think the vast majority of us who cycle and stick with it for any length of time have got that down pretty well. However, it is inevitable that the mistakes made by operators of vehicles which are wider, longer, travelling at much higher speeds than people on bicycles and driven by people with a much more restricted field of view and not able to hear anything from their surroundings whilst being largely protected from the consequences of many types of crash will be much more likely to cause problems than the cyclists themselves.

  2. I would be interested in knowing if there really is a causal link between these stickers and victim-blaming.

    At a consultation recently, a self-titled ‘driver’ was objecting to segregated cycle lanes because it made things more confusing, and “whilst deaths are terrible, cyclists run red lights, etc etc”. I pointed out that the majority of deaths in our city were HGVs turning left over cyclists and crushing them. Her response? “What were they doing on the left of the lorry?”
    Because being to the left of a lorry is an action deserving of the death penalty, something we don’t even have for murder. And cycle lanes aren’t painted up the left-hand side. And no lorry driver ever overtakes.

    Do those stickers contribute? Or is it just that people have to blame cyclists in increasingly irrational ways, because otherwise something in the status quo needs changing?And the stickers are a symptom of that.

    (And on the other hand: when I started cycling, I assumed the cycle lanes were good places to be. I didn’t know about HGV blind spots, and the major causes of death. So those stickers point out the conflict between the paint on the road, and the reality of the vehicles, and get some of us to find out why they don’t match, and stay out of the danger zone. It’s not a solution by any means, because the danger is still there. But it’s not entirely pointless.)

  3. Brilliant idea. As a cyclist who commutes in London everyday, I couldn’t agree more about the victim blaming message behind these stickers. Seeing them plastered over every vehicle adds to the frustration of the lunatic behaviour of so many motorists. I shall try and think of your alternatives instead to calm me down 🙂

  4. The other day I was riding through town and came up behind a HGV with the usual ‘blind spot – cyclists stay back/don’t pass on the inside’ stickers on its left hand side.

    As I passed it on the right (heavy traffic!), I realised that the HGV was left hand drive.

    And yet the stickers were still on the left – you’d think they would have put them on the *right*… (and commissioned some ‘don’t pass on the outside’ stickers, too).

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