An alarming story in yesterday's Guardian claims that "between 1999 and 2004 (the period for which figures are available), 85% of female cyclist fatalities in London involved a heavy goods vehicle (HGV)".
This news comes hot on the heels of two cycling fatalities in London this past week involving young, female cyclists.
The article does not claim to have any answers as to why women are the ones being killed in these accidents, other than to suggest that men ride more aggressively, so are less likely to get trapped on the inside of a HGV.
Personally, I'm not sure that riding aggressively is the answer. How about riding defensively instead?
I know that we cannot predict accidents, but you can help avoid them by not putting yourself in danger. Sidling up alongside a big vehicle, whether it be a truck, bus or van, in which the driver has limited visibility of what is sitting next to his left fender (or right fender if you are in the North America/Europe) isn't exactly wise, is it?
Fortunately, I have very little exposure to HGVs on my normal commuter route, but on the odd occasion when I have seen them on the road I have made a point of not sitting alongside them, because I know the driver is not going to have a clue I am there. It's better to either hang back and sit (a good distance) behind them, or get so far in front they cannot help but see you. If in any doubt, it's always wise to make EYE CONTACT with the driver.
In fact, I think this is the quickest, easiest solution for preventing accidents with either car drivers or HGV drivers: all it takes is a look and a nod, and you know that your presence on the road has been noted. While I'm sure it would definitely help if HGV drivers were more conscious about the presence of cyclists on the road, us cyclists have to take some responsibility for our actions too.
It might sound silly, but staring into the eyes of someone behind the wheel of a vehicle might just save your life. It's a pity that all those female cyclists killed in accidents involving HGVs in London didn't make a point of doing this.