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Bicycle Safety

Side Guard Pilot Almost Complete — Next Up, the Other 95% of City Trucks

A recently-installed side guard is part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter
A recently-installed side guard, part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter
A recently-installed side guard is part of a 240-truck pilot program. By 2024, all city trucks must have side guards. Photo: Joby Jacob/Twitter

In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a pilot program to add side guards, which prevent people from being dragged beneath the rear wheels of large vehicles, to 240 trucks in the city fleet. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is managing the rollout, said today that it is two-thirds done with the project, and expects to have the job done by the end of the year. Still, there's a long way to go before all city-owned trucks have this lifesaving add-on.

Side guards have proven effective at reducing fatality rates. In the United Kingdom, cyclist fatalities dropped 61 percent and pedestrian deaths fell 20 percent in side-impact crashes after side guards were required nationwide starting in 1986.

So far, 160 vehicles from 20 city agencies have had side guards installed. The Department of Education was the first agency to have its whole truck fleet outfitted, DCAS reported in June [PDF]. Other agency trucks that have received side guards include Parks, Environmental Protection, NYPD, and the Department of Finance.

The city is working with U.S. DOT's Volpe Center, which issued a report last December recommending side guards on NYC-owned trucks, to evaluate the pilot program.

Although it will take almost a year to install side guards on 240 trucks, that's just a drop in the bucket. The city's 28,000-vehicle fleet includes approximately 4,500 trucks that are eligible for side guards. New York plans to equip all those trucks with side guards over the next eight years.

In June, the city passed a law requiring side guards on all large city trucks by 2024. The eight-year timeline allows the city to phase in side guards by requiring them on all new trucks as old vehicles are retired, which costs less than retrofitting existing trucks. DCAS recently received the first round of bids for new trucks that will include side guards as standard equipment, and says it expects those vehicles to be on the streets next year.

Of the 4,500 trucks in the city fleet that will be receiving side guards, approximately 2,700, or 60 percent, are Department of Sanitation vehicles. The law requiring side guards also covers the private carting industry, which handles most of New York City's solid waste. Approximately 5,500 trucks in that industry will also be required to have side guards by 2024.

Side guards are required in many European, Asian, and South American nations. Although the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a side guard mandate in the United States last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates truck design, has not passed a rule requiring them. Until that changes, most trucks on New York City streets, which are privately owned and not under city regulation, will continue to go without side guards.

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