A radar and infrared system is being installed on traffic lights on Cycle Superhighway 3 in London to improve cycle traffic flow in the city. The trial is on Cable Street, one of the busiest cycle routes in the city, and is designed to keep traffic signals at green a few seconds longer to enable more cyclists to cross busy junctions at peak times. If this works, it should improve the safety of the city’s roads.
Despite a series of tragic headlines over the last 12 months that may suggest the contrary, proportionally fewer cyclists are being killed or seriously injured on London’s roads than ever before, and cycling is becoming a major form of transport in the city. Transport for London (TfL) is therefore investing heavily in cycle schemes in part to get people out of their cars and off the overcrowded public transport system.
Though other road users are moaning volubly about the £4 billion investment in cycling over the coming years – mostly because of the traffic disruption this will cause – the Mayor of London Boris Johnston is pushing hard to make the city more cycle friendly.
Traffic light scheme
While TfL is building dedicated cycle routes through the city, a lot of the investment is in soft measures – technology designed to help cyclists on their commutes being one of them. One of the classic complaints of car drivers is hurried cyclists jumping red lights and putting themselves in danger. There have been a series of high profile crackdowns by the Met Police on cyclists taking illegal risks, and this seems to have reduced the amount of incidents on the city’s roads.
The idea behind the new scheme is to adjust traffic light timings to allow for spates and spikes in numbers of cyclists. Where the radar or infrared cameras spot a group of cyclists heading toward a green light, they would keep the lights at green for a few seconds longer to allow the group to pass.
This new scheme is being piloted at only a few locations. The idea is to see whether infrared or radar is the better system, and the better one will be integrated into London’s world leading traffic management system.
More than half of London’s major junctions already have a system called SCOOT that actively manages traffic flow in the Capital. This is claimed to have reduced congestion by 12%.
Technology seems to be the way ahead in improving cycle safety on roads throughout the UK. The major issue is that only London has the budget and political will to drive such changes to the way people use the road. Let’s face it, Manchester and Birmingham barely have £4 billion for their road budgets, let alone that sort of spare cash to put into cycle safety.
Though for cyclists in London this could make a real difference, this may well be a project that never leaves the city.