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:
- 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).
- Modifying HGVs would be very costly to the road haulage industry and is therefore resisted.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: