On Tuesday, a 37-year-old cyclist died in the Hamburg district of Stellingen, after he was overtaken by a right-turning truck. Again and again truckers miss the right turn cyclists, in sad regularity that ends fatally. Only a month ago a female cyclist died in Berlin, ten months ago a young mother was fatally injured in Hamburg. Bicycling situations with trucks from the perspective of cyclists are familiar to many, we asked a truck driver what modern city traffic feels like. He wants to stay anonymous.
Grief and horror, sympathy with the relatives. That's what I feel when I hear that another cyclist has been killed in a fatal accident because of a right turn truck was caught, just like in Hamburg. My second thought goes to the truck driver involved: Boy, what happened? Did you do everything right? The side mirrors adjusted correctly, looked at turning several times to the left and right? And how are you doing now?
I think it's important to always look at both sides. That's something I often miss in the public debate about such a traffic accident: yes, probably the truck driver is to blame. He will carry this debt with him all his life. But to understand how it can even come to these dangerous scenes and how they could be avoided, you have to put sometimes in the driver.
For me, right turn is one of the most stressful situations on the road. Recently I was on a busy street in Hamburg again, at a light dawn. In front of me a crossroads. I drive slowly, the turn signal on the right is set, the road right next to me is free. I see if there are cars to the left of me, because such a truck shears when turning very far with the rear, so the distance should not be too small. Everything looks fine, I still think, instinctively but again and again to the right, although there is nothing – at least I see nothing. But then, the traffic light turns green, a cyclist shoots past me forward. Quick as a flash. I am paralyzed. Had I not waited so long, I might have knocked him over.
The bigger your vehicle, the more you have to put yourself in the perspective of other road users
That's something that comes very close to me, so I have to get together first. The cyclist was in the blind spot. From my driver's seat I could not see him, not even through the mirror. Especially in metropolitan areas, in big cities with a lot of cycling, I experience such scenes very often. Fortunately, I did not build an accident myself. But, of course, with every misfortune that goes through the media, you become more tense, even more cautious, the head-cinema then turns on immediately.
If a colleague has experienced an accident with us in which another road user has died, he will be looked after by a trained employee. There are also specialized trauma psychologists for truck drivers. Most importantly, the colleague is not alone when he gets back in the car for the first time.
The bigger your vehicle, the more you have to put yourself in the perspective of other road users, think for them. The cars, the cyclists, the pedestrians – you have to keep an eye on them all, that's just part of it. But there are also limits to a truck: A 40-tonner needs time when starting off, he has to make a long trip while turning, and above all, the driver can not even get out of the cab to see the blind spot.
The freight forwarder I work for was the first company in Hamburg to focus on turn-off assistants. Our fleet consists of 40 trucks, of which 17 have a turn-off assistant. We have retrofitted three trucks, the rest already had a firmly installed system from Mercedes Benz. We will now gradually retrofit all trucks, we are currently testing individual systems for it. Why did not that happen much earlier?