Who sets the tone for our streets? Certainly we all do, but professional drivers play a powerful role in shaping our streets and thus have an increased responsibility to understand all rules of the road. Four people were killed on bicycles in San Francisco last year, all hit by professional drivers of large vehicles.
Since your SF Bicycle Coalition would like to see the number of traffic-related deaths decrease to zero, we are expanding our bicycle-related education program to professional drivers of large vehicles. This month, we launched a partnership with Recology, a resource recovery company that manages San Francisco’s waste, to train their professional truck drivers on how to safely share the streets with people biking.
This partnership with Recology is an extension of our existing Professional Driver Training Program, through which we have already produced a training video with the SFMTA that has been shown to 1,100 Muni operators since 2013. We have also spent the past two years training approximately 2,400 taxi drivers in bicycle safety best practices. That number continues to grow.
Eric Tuvel, the Program Manager for the SF Bicycle Coalition who leads the bicycle safety trainings, joined a Recology truck driver for a ride-along. Riding inside a massive Recology truck gave him a different perspective. “It is difficult to see in those trucks,” he shared. “They have tools such as cameras and mirrors to navigate the road, but all large vehicles have limited sight-lines. It’s crucial that people operating trucks and those of us biking understand how to share the streets together.”
Tuvel also teaches thousands of people in the SF Bicycle Coalition’s free urban bicycling classes. One key rule we teach is how to make proper turns across a bike lane. In San Francisco, the number one cause of injuries to people biking is unsafe vehicle turning, so it’s imperative that both drivers and bicyclists know the law about safe turning. The law mandates that drivers “turn from as far right as practicable,” which means that a driver should merge into the bike lane so that they can turn from as close to the curb as possible. This is both the law and the safest practice.
Meanwhile, people biking who encounter parked or right-turning trucks should proactively take the lane on the left side of the vehicle. Because trucks need to make wider turns than cars, people biking should not attempt to squeeze through that little extra space between the truck and parked cars or the curb. Similarly, trucks should park in the bike lane when actively loading and unloading because it prevents a ‘tunnel effect’ in which a person biking would have no place to move out of the way of the loading truck, an opening car door or some other hazard.
As part of our Vision Zero initiative, the SF Bicycle Coalition is calling on Mayor Lee to mandate that all large vehicle operators with City contracts take courses in sharing the streets with people biking. We’re proud to be working with Muni operators, taxi drivers and Recology truck operators, but there are still many more professional drivers, including ride share, limo and tour bus operators who need to understand how to share the streets with people biking.
If you are interested in these trainings or know of a company that might be, please contact us. Even if you are not a professional driver, sign up for one of our free bicycle education classes and make sure you know the proper, legal and safe way to ride.