Transport for London (TfL) is trialling detection technology that would make crossing busy junctions safer for cyclists in the capital.
The technology, using radar and thermal detection to estimate the number of cyclists travelling along the city’s busy cycling routes, will be tested along Cable Street on Cycle Superhighway 3 before potentially being rolled out on a wider scale.
After assessing how many cyclists are about to cross a junction, traffic lights in the area would be able to automatically provide more time for them to cross safely.
The venture is a continuation of the SCOOT project, launched last year, which tested smart crossings capable of adjusting the amount of time available to pedestrians to cross the street based on the size of the waiting crowd.
“These hugely innovative trials are another major step forward to create roads designed for all types of road users,” said Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport at TfL. “By having traffic signals that are able to detect when there are high numbers of cyclists waiting at junctions, we can ensure they are given adequate time and safe passage through the junction, balancing the needs of everyone.”
TfL plans to expand the trials to three other locations to test the technology with different junction designs.
“Once again London leads the way as we host world-first trials of technology that has the potential to bring significant benefits to cyclists,” said the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. “With record numbers taking to two wheels we are doing everything we can to make our roads more inviting places to be.”
The safety of cyclists in London has long been a concern. Six cyclists have died in the capital already this year after collisions with lorries.
London now plans to start installing low-level traffic signals for cyclists - commonplace in continental Europe - which are also believed to decrease the risks at junctions.
TfL said it is working with local boroughs to identify locations across London where the new low-level signals could be introduced.
"It is great to see that low-level traffic lights can now be installed more widely across London,” said British Cycling's Campaigns Manager, Martin Key. “They have been used successfully across Europe and make it easier for cyclists to know when it is safe for them to ride through the junction.”
The trials, as well as the introduction of a new cycling infrastructure, are being delivered as part of TfL’s Road Modernisation Plan. With a budget of over £4bn for the next six years, the plan represents the biggest investment in London’s roads for a generation.
The earlier SCOOT project has already been extended to cover half of all junctions in London. In addition to the pedestrian smart crossing technology, it integrates a wide network of sensors buried in carriageways across London to detect real-time traffic conditions in order to optimise traffic light timings. The system has proven to reduce delays by up to 12 per cent and three quarters of junctions will be fitted with it by 2018. In central London, around 90 per cent have now been fitted with the technology and by 2018 virtually all junctions will have it.