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How will fining lorries save cyclists’ lives – is there a better way?

At Clearview Traffic, we came across an article highlighting an announcement by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London of a 12-week consultation aimed at improving cyclist safety in London.

A suggested solution has been to fine lorries and HGVs coming into London which don’t have safety rails fitted to the sides to protect cyclists, by preventing them from being able to be swept underneath the vehicle.

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This highlights the issue around cyclist safety, and the dangers for cyclists in and around the blindspots affecting HGV drivers especially at road junctions: an issue we’ve discussed in our blog before.

Is fining lorries really the answer?

Is fining and enforcement the best way forward? Surely, consulting with industry to resolve the issue would be a more proactive approach?

Furthermore, is there clear evidence to show these side rails save lives? A cyclist would still be at risk from crushing and fatal injuries when HGVs are making, for example, a left turn.

Could companies instead be incentivised within the vehicle taxation system, with reduced rates offered to those vehicles adopting side rails, similar to incentives given to car owners to purchase greener cars emitting less CO2?

How does this solve the problem of accidents, fatal or not?

Alongside encouraging greater adoption of side rails, why not make cyclists more visible to drivers and give them fair recognition and equal rights to use the road space?

With 75% of these accidents occurring at junctions, this is the main area where a robust and simple technological solution could dramatically impact on the number of lives saved and injuries reduced.

Technology already exists to identify cyclists on the road and enabling them to be given their own green phasing at traffic signals – for example, expensive infrared and alternative camera-based platforms have been deployed with some effect abroad.

Initial reports suggest that this technology is not viable to deploy on a wider scale, partly due to cost, but also issues around obscuring other vehicles and reliability in hot weather climates, as well as locations where varying light conditions might impact detection capabilities.

Other technologies exist that require a symbiotic relationship between cyclist and HGV, whereby a sensor is attached to the cyclist, their helmet or the bike. This wireless sensor talks to wireless sensors on the HGV, alerting the driver to the presence of a cyclist. There is, however, no universal system of communication and no compatibility between systems, so drivers and cyclists are in the dark regarding which system to purchase and use on the roads.

Automotive manufacturers are also working on intelligent sensing capabilities in the race to launch autonomous vehicles within the next decade, but this doesn’t address the problem existing right here, right now on road networks.

Another option?

Our view is that the most effective and cost-attractive solutions come from in-ground sensors: our M100BR product is fully compatible and can be retro-fitted into existing M100 traffic signal installations.

Used on dedicated cycle lane approaches and on advanced stop lines, the M100BR detects the presence of bicycles and relays the information to the traffic signal controller, which then phases separate signals or gives longer phases, enabling cyclists to cross safely at road junctions.

Giving cyclists the right of way via the co-ordination of traffic signals not only gives them a head start against HGVs, but also makes them feel acknowledged and less likely to risk injury by attempting to jump red lights.

To find out more about our road traffic monitoring and cyclist safety products, please feel free to get in touch here.

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