CITY council lorry drivers are to be given cycling lessons in an attempt to make them more aware of the dangers two-wheeled road users face.
A pilot will be launched next year with the roads team, which performs maintenance and repairs, being given training.
They will be given practical on-road bike training, which will see them taking to the roads on two wheels.
If the initiative is successful it will be rolled out to drivers larger vehicles, including refuse and recycling lorries, the following year.
The aim of the scheme is to make drivers more aware of the dangers cyclists face and help them to “empathise with cyclists”.
There have been two cycling deaths involving lorries in the Capital in the past three years.
The scheme is being launched on the model recently adopted by Islington Council in London.
It followed six deaths in a fortnight in London in November and a warning by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe that large lorries can be “killing machines” for those on two-wheels.
Councillor Jim Orr, the city’s deputy transport leader and a keen cyclist, said: “There were two cycling fatalities in Edinburgh due to lorries in 2011 and 2012, each one a tragedy, and these accounted for half of all cycling fatalities, even though lorries are a relatively small proportion of traffic.
“We feel in order to encourage people to cycle, and meet our own key target of 15 per cent of journeys to work by bike by 2020, that this council should show leadership with regard to our own lorry fleet.”
He added: “This would include practical on-street cycle training for drivers. The aim would be to encourage lorry drivers to empathise with cyclists as vulnerable road users, and understand how to share the road with them. If the pilot is successful, it is our intention that it will be rolled out across the whole fleet by the end of 2015. If so, we will be the first local authority in Scotland to have such standards.”
Training is intended to give personnel the perspective of being at the height of a cyclist and experience the feeling of being surrounded by high-sided vehicles, such as lorries, along with cars and buses on the busy Edinburgh roads.
Cycle safety campaigners Lynne and Ian McNicoll, who lost their son Andrew, 43, in a cycling incident with an HGV on Lanark Road nearly two years ago, welcomed the introduction of the new pilot.
The McNicolls have worked to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on city roads, and their charity, the Andrew Cyclist Charitable Trust, is now represented on the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Cycling.
In a statement they said: “This new proposal for a pilot on-street cycle training scheme for drivers of the council’s fleet builds on these earlier initiatives and is most welcome.”
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, welcomed the move but said that cyclists could also be given a better perspective of the challenges lorry drivers face.
He said: “Anything that cultivates the atmosphere of sharing the road has to be welcomed, but lorry drivers are not always the main problem. They tend to have undergone extra tuition and have extra licensing requirements.
“Often it’s cyclists and car drivers who don’t realise how little a lorry driver can see. So while it’s good that this initiative is being introduced, we also need to see cyclists up in the cab with lorry drivers.”
He added: “The Metropolitan Police in London has just won a safety award for placing a big lorry in central London and inviting cyclists in to show how limited their views can be.
“If Police Scotland and Edinburgh could do something similar that would do a great deal for road safety.”