Transport for London (TfL) is trialling traffic light technology that can detect cyclists and give them more time at busy junctions.
The trials are taking place along Cable Street, east London, on Cycle Superhighway 3 and look at two different types of technology (one radar-based and one thermal-based) to detect the numbers of cyclists travelling along the route.
The Superhighway on Cable Street was chosen because of its similarity to the East West Cycle Superhighway, which is currently under construction and will run between Lancaster Gate and Tower Hill.
The thermal-based technology detects the heat of riders as they enter the detection zone and allows the traffic light timings to be adjusted to give more time when there are high numbers of cyclists.
TfL will test both types of technology with different junction designs to assess the possibility of introducing them across London (including the new East West Cycle Superhighway).
The aim of the trial is for TfL to understand how the technologies work, their pros and cons and how it can use the data produced by the technology to improve the capital’s cycle flow.
The trials will enter a second stage later this year, looking at how timings at traffic signals ccould reflect demand placed on them on a second-by-second basis.
London mayor Boris Johnson said: “Once again, London leads the way as we host world-first trials of technology that has the potential to bring significant benefits to cyclists. With record numbers taking to two wheels we are doing everything we can to make our roads more inviting places to be.”
Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for surface transport at TfL, said: “These hugely innovative trials are another major step forward to create roads designed for all types of users. By having traffic signals that are able to detect high numbers of cyclists waiting at junctions we can ensure they are given adequate time and safe passage through the junction.”
The new cycle detection trials follow the pedestrian split cycle offset optimisation technique (SCOOT) trials last year, which used detectors to calculate how many people were waiting to cross the road and extend their green time to reflect demand. These trials are now finished and TfL is assessing the findings before deciding the next steps to introduce this technology more widely.
TfL has also been given the go-ahead by the Department for Transport (DfT) to install low level cycle signals at traffic lights where they will deliver benefits.
This is the first time a highway authority in the UK has been given this approval and means that the technology, which is used widely in Europe to provide signals closer to cyclists’ eye-level, can be installed as part of the wider Cycle Superhighway works.
British Cycling’s campaigns manager Martin Key said: “It is great to see that low-level traffic lights can now be installed more widely across London. They have been used successfully across Europe and make it easier for cyclists to know when it is safe for them to go.”
Dermot Coughlan, operations director at Kelly Group, which runs 1,502 commercial vehicles, many of which operate in London, said: “I think any initiative that reduces the risk of harm to vulnerable road users should be welcomed. I would assume that other factors such as any increase in traffic congestion and reduced journey times would be taken into consideration.”
The trial will finish before the end of the year.