“What do you think you should do?” – Peter, Police Officer with Exchanging Places
Safely behind the wheel and behind the bars
No Room for Error
Riding through the ‘Bush’, my cycling eyes clock onto a lorry slap bang in the middle of the green. Covered in Met-Police colours, surrounded by officers in cycling gear and talking with people, it can only be one thing – the Exchanging Places program.
Designed to give cyclists, or anyone interested in experiencing the challenges facing Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers, it provides access to a stationary big-rig and a couple of experienced PC’s to guide you through the program.
Exchanging Places in action
Looking out for each other
According to the latest data supplied by Vision Zero London, at the time of writing, there have been 48 reported fatalities in London alone. Police Sargeant, Simon Castle, in the video above explains that this can be avoidable, provided we look out for each other – taking simple steps whilst on the road.
In the driver’s seat
I am introduced to Peter, the instructing police officer for this session, and he helps me climb into the cab. It’s not easy. The steps are high, and I am immediately struck by how elevated we both are seated. Helping us simulate the presence of a cyclist, is a fellow officer on the ground level with his bicycle. As Peter instructs me to go through the motions of driving – indicate, turn the wheel, check my the mirrors, the cycling officer outside manouevers around the rig. It is frightening to see how quickly he disappears from view. One moment he’s there, the next he’s gone. Simulation or not, I immediately since the dread that he may have gone under my wheels.
From the blind-spot, Peter’s colleague reveals himself to be safe and sound. I like to think I am a safe cyclist, but I have certainly learned something today.
Like a well seasoned teacher/trainer, Peter asks me to think of the solutions, rather than provide me with the answers. We discuss positioning, visibility and communication. I am reminded of a community officer doing his job at a set of lights on Oxford Street – he politely asked me to stay behind the white line in order to give way to the throngs of pedestrians. The thing is, that particular road narrows, so cyclists are squashed up against large vehicles. I ask Peter what I should do, and quite rightly, he throws the question back at me, “What do you think you should do?” I tell Peter that I would go position myself beyond the white line, and risk the wrath of pedestrians, so that the HGV driver can see me. “Bingo!” is Peter’s response. “And if another officer asks you why you did that, tell them that Peter from Exchanging Places told you so.”
Popular – another cyclist goes through the training
With free cycle security, people flock to the Bush
Making the rounds
The logistics industry is making an attempt to spread the word, with the likes of FleetNews, Cross Rail and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) giving the program a platform to raise awareness.
Hands on – Police Officers giving practical advice
The Exchanging Places program is a real eye-opener to the challenges and attitudes of sharing the roads. With experienced police officers who have seen it all, it is a well thought through interactive program that puts cyclists in the driver’s seat of a HGV. Unfortunately, there is no direct link to the program to help people access it’s resources and book a place.
Come on. Let’s get this sorted.
:: If you are looking for resources for road safety in your community, a good place to start is with ‘Brake‘ – the road safety charity.