Professional Driver Education Program Expands to Tow Truck Drivers

You asked; we listened. In last year’s Member Survey, driver education was one of the major issues our members wanted to see addressed for better bicycling in San Francisco.

That came as no surprise, since professional drivers spend more time on our streets than any other road-user, and therefore have a greater influence on the safety of our streets. Since 2014, the SF Bicycle Coalition has taught over 2,000 professional drivers – including taxi drivers, Recology truck drivers, and Genentech and Google shuttle bus drivers – how to share the roads safely with people on bicycles.

Last week, your SF Bicycle Coalition partnered with AutoReturn, San Francisco’s contracted towing management company, to expand our professional driver education program to nearly 50 of their tow truck drivers. AutoReturn solicited and funded the two hour-long sessions, which were led by our staff. Each class covered the basics of safe biking and driving, familiarity with bicycle street design, safe turns and safe loading practices. SF Bicycle Coalition staff presented to drivers from several tow truck companies that contract with AutoReturn and had engaging conversations with the drivers about the importance of sharing our streets safely.

Safe Right Turns for All Road Users

The most enlightening portion of the presentation for many drivers was the law surrounding right turns. In San Francisco, the number one cause of injuries to people biking is unsafe vehicle turning, so it’s imperative that both drivers and people biking 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.

The infographic shown to AutoReturn’s tow truck drivers, depicting how people biking should pass a right-turning truck – on the left side.

The infographic shown to AutoReturn’s tow truck drivers, depicting how people biking should pass a right-turning truck – on the left side.

Meanwhile, people biking should keep an eye out for the turn signal indicating a right-turning truck and should proactively take the lane on the left side of the vehicle. Trucks, especially while towing another vehicle, need to make wider turns than cars. AutoReturn drivers were instructed to stick their front axle into the bike lane, indicating their turn, before swinging back out to make the turn. People biking should not attempt to squeeze through the small amount of space between the truck and the curb.

As part of the Vision Zero initiative, we’re proud to work with Muni operators, taxi drivers, Recology truck operators, Genentech and Google shuttle bus drivers, and now AutoReturn truck drivers, but there are still many more professional drivers, including Transportation Network Companies (aka “ride share” companies), limo and tour bus operators, who need to understand how to share the streets with people biking.

Want to help spread the safety message? Here’s how you can help:

  1. Tell your company about our Driver Education program and encourage them to get involved.
  2. Share our driver education resources, including the Right Turn graphic and video for Muni operators.
  3. Become a member of the SF Bicycle Coalition and support our ongoing education programs.
Become a member and you'll improve your commute and get discounts at shops across the city.