Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bus driver training applicable elsewhere?

Yesterday I was reading a piece in The Times written by Matthew Parris, a writer I quite admire for his political commentary and dry whit, so I was surprised (although I am sure I shouldn’t be) to find that he had written about London Bus Driver Training. Not a small piece either, but a full page minus the obligatory cut price airline advert for the credit crunch age.

Matthew had not only boarded a bus for a day to see how the real drivers do it (pretty sure most of us do this every day) but also gone to Willesden to partake in a session on the Simulator operated by Transport for London. He emerged with what can only be described as a sense of wonder that bus drivers can manage the real thing after mounting the kerb, pinning a cyclist and generally forgetting to indicate.

I was thinking about this last night as I have ridden my bicycle in London a fair few times over the past 10 years and unfortunately been knocked off twice, once with reasonable injuries such as a dislocated shoulder, chipped bone and an altogether far too close shave down one side of my face! However none of the incidents I have been involved in were caused by busses and yet there is a large forum out there that blames bus drivers for many of the accidents involving cyclists in London and reading this piece I wondered if there was any truth in it given the difficulty that Matthew found controlling such a vehicle.

Oddly enough it turns out that busses are certainly not the main cause of fatal accidents involving cyclists in London, or perhaps this isn’t so surprising when you think that Transport for London has invested so much in the training of their drivers. They account for only 3% of these accidents according to studies performed by Camden Health Authority. Much larger that this is the stats for heavy goods vehicles. These account for over 58% of the fatal accidents in inner London according to the same study. Bendy busses don’t really even figure although given the fact that a double decker is so hard to drive I guess it can only be time until one of these figure in some form of side swipe injury.

Could it be therefore that HGV drivers could benefit from the same training that Bus Drivers in London get? Would a simulator help?

I am certainly not stating that all HGV drivers are rubbish or that they are ignorant of other traffic on the roads, neither am I saying that sometimes the cyclist is their own worst enemy, anyone stopping at the lights outside the old bailey at 8am will see tens of cyclists at a time sometimes jumping the lights or swerving to avoid a car or taxi that has right of way. All I am saying is that perhaps professional drivers could as they spend far more time operating a deadly machine than the rest of us benefit from some additional training such as those that are licensed to drive the public in the big red taxis in London? It might not of prevented my accidents in London but then again it might of, and who knows it might swing those stats about a bit.

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