Cyclist detection trials begin in London

12th June 2015
Siobhan O'Gorman


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Transport for London (TfL) have announced a world first trial of a technology that will help give cyclists more time on green lights.

The trials, which are taking place along Cable Street on Cycle Superhighway 3, detect the numbers of cyclists travelling along a route. This enables the traffic signal timings to be adjusted to give more green time when there are high numbers of cyclists at key junctions during peak times.

The cycle trials are testing two types of new technology, one radar based and one thermal based, which detects the heat of riders as they enter the detection zone, to measure their effectiveness in detecting cyclists. TfL will carry out three additional trials along the cycle superhighway network to test both with different junction designs as they assess the possibility of introducing them across London.

By using the data from the detection technology, TfL plans to make the timings at the traffic signals reflect demand on a second-by-second basis, helping to provide immediate benefit to cycle flow at junctions.

Subject to the outcome of these further trials, TfL will look to expand the use of the technology as part of wider cycle infrastructure investment in the Capital as well as integrating it into London's traffic signalling system Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT). SCOOT already manages vehicular traffic flows across London on a second-by-second basis.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “With record numbers taking to two wheels we are doing everything we can to make our roads more inviting places to be. This is another great example of how TfL can harness the power of innovation to help make it easier for everyone to get around our city.”

“These hugely innovative trials are another major step forward to create roads designed for all types of road users. 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,” commented Garrett Emmerson, COO, Surface Transport, TfL.

More than half of all junctions in London now use 'SCOOT' technology, which uses sensors buried in carriageways across London to detect real-time traffic conditions and optimise traffic light timings to reduce delays. The system has proven to reduce delays by up to 12%, and three quarters of junctions will be fitted with it by 2018. In central London, around 90% have now been fitted with the technology and by 2018 virtually all junctions will have it.

Last year, TfL began trials of pedestrian SCOOT which used detectors to calculate how many people are 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 across London.

The announcement also comes as TfL receives blanket approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) to install low level cycle signals at traffic signals where they would deliver benefits. This is the first time a highway authority in the UK has been given this approval and means that the signals, which are common place in continental Europe, can be installed as part of the wider Cycle Superhighway works being carried out across London. TfL is also working with local boroughs to identify further locations across London where these new low level signals could be introduced on borough roads.

Martin Key, Campaigns Manager, British Cycling, 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 ride through the junction. Transport for London is again leading the way and these lights, plus other cycle friendly measures, should be available to use not only in the capital but across the whole country over the next couple of years.”

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