Cycle Alerts system attempts to design out risk from large lorries, but concerns over its potential

On Thursday 5 July 2012 LCC attended a demonstration of Cycle Alert’s new HGV-cyclist sensor system which took place around London's Elephant & Castle.

The product is designed so HGV drivers detect the presence of nearby cyclists, using equipment mounted on the sides of their lorry and also on bicycles (see below).

A tiny transmitter (about the size of a milk bottle top) on the bike or helmet emits a signal that's picked up by the sensor on the HGV when it's in close proximity, warning the driver of the bike's presence via a screen or light system (see below), as well as an audible signal.

The device is designed to ensure HGV drivers are aware of cyclists around them, so they use extra caution to reduce the number of serious and fatal cyclist collisions involving large lorries that take place in London.

During the demonstration, the system worked well: when a bike fitted with the equipment came within sensor range (approx 3m) of an HGV, the driver was alerted to the cyclist's presence immediately.

The main problem with this device appears to be the logistics of installing devices on potentially millions of bikes in the capital and the UK.

It's not clear yet whether transmitters would be installed by manufacturers or consumers, and a cost of £25-30 per unit is likely to be a barrier to widespread use.

Unlike some competing sensor technologies, if a bicycle not fitted with a transmitter comes near the HGV, the system doesn't provide a warning.

As part of our long-running No More Lethal Lorries campaign, we've called for safer designs for lorries, including greater use of sensors, but expect these technologicial improvements to be put in place alongside other measures such as on-bike cyclist-awareness training for drivers to reduce the number of fatal collisions.

Article edited 9 July to add the cost and size details for individual transmitters.

Replies

  • By smsm1 at 1:49pm 6 July 2012

I cannot support the promotion of a system that requires a device to be installed on every single bicycle for it to work. It is simply not feasible that it'll actually happen. The competing systems that don't require that device on the bicycle are far better. It will be the one cyclist who doesn't have that device who will be the one who gets killed and the blame will be put on the cyclist for not having this kit, in the same way that if a cyclist doesn't have a helmet they will get the blame for not wearing a helmet. That's before you even look at the costs of installing it on all the bicycles in the world.

  • By liz545 at 2:33pm 6 July 2012

Is there not a risk that if the sensor only alerts drivers when it senses the device, rather than the actual presence of the bike, that a driver will assume that no alert means there are no bikes nearby, and not check their mirrors? Rather than relying on a device attached to bikes, I think it would be better to improve the mirrors and sensors installed on HGVs, as these will also show the driver when there are pedestrians near the vehicle. And until we can reduce the danger posed by HGVs through improved routes and segregation, I think the best safety precaution is just stay the hell away from HGVs. Don't under-take, stay well back, and if necessary, avoid the ASL.

  • By paul at 7:35pm 6 July 2012

As I understand it sensors that detect everything are overloaded with litter bins, trees etc. As there is a specific bicycle/lorry problem then a specific device iff it is not too expensive will work better.

Thanks for the article and thanks for current comments.   I will try and tackle some of the issues raised in the article and comments.  The cycle sensors will retail around £20-£25 and will most probably be able to clip on to a cycle, a helmet etc.  The cycle sensor will be about the size of a milk bottle lid and the truck unit will be around the size of large mobile phone (as pointed out in the article).  The cycle sensor works on a motion activated battery and will last around 12-18 months.   Will drivers take less care?  We have been testing this product with a number of drivers and trucks and the feedback we have had from hualage companies and drivers is extremely positive.  We have asked this question and if anything, it will increase driver's awareness towards cyclists.  A sound from the system speaks "cyclist" to the driver when a cycle is near.  Will everyone buy one?  Well, as the first comment states not everyone wears a helmet, it is a choice that may one day become law, who knows, but in the meantime we will be concentrating on the people it may just save!   Loads more info available on our facebook page and we will be running some coffee/beer events for people to drop in and have a chat.   Thanks again to LCC. 

Peter - Cycle Alert

  • By obree at 9:12am 9 July 2012

Having sat in a HGV cab again recently and understanding the need to constantly monitor a minimum of 7 views (3x2 sets of mirrors that still don't/cant cover every angle and the forward windscreen) its strikes me of the desperate need for such a device in addition to mirrors even in the well trained and regularly checked drivers. I can see that the driver would still use the mirrors as a priority and this device as a welcome support, understanding that not all cyclists (even with this device becoming very popular) would have one as all cyclists idiotically don't have lights and continue to wear dark clothes.

You simply cant see everywhere as the driver, at £20-25 for us its a small price to pay, to ignore this kind of thing is as daft as owning one little red LED light pointing at the sky at night and believing your highlighted. Its a another, potentially fantastic tool, cycling must become 'smarter and' continue to advance.

Please keep us posted on developments.

I’m not convinced by this at all. This is a classic example of ignoring the bull in the china shop, or rather putting a bell around its neck in the hope that it might not trample you underfoot!

No sensor system is going to make me (a confident adult cyclist) feel any safer riding close to lorries and it certainly isn’t going to tempt my 11-year old son out onto London’s roads.

It’s helmets all over again. You can see the news report: “So-and-so was run over by a lorry, but he didn’t have a sensor fitted on his bike.” Why should I fit a sensor to my bike? Just build us the damn cycle lanes!

It’s deflecting attention away from the real problem (that lorries and bikes don’t mix on city streets).

If we go ahead with this then the HGV industry can say that they’ve done everything possible and we’ll still end up with dangerous roads for cyclists.

Any cycle campaigner worth their salt should oppose this outright for the dangerous and diversionary tactic that it is.

This post was edited by bigpete at 5:21pm 9 July 2012.

Thanks bigpete. 

You may be aware of The Times Cycle Safety Manifesto which lists 8 key points to make cities fit for cycling.  Number 1 on their list is that lorries should be required by law to fit sensors...

I think it is safe to say the Times Cycle Campaigners are '..worth their salt...'

Peter - Cycle Alert

 

  • By Nichola at 9:17am 10 July 2012

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  • By Nichola at 9:20am 10 July 2012

This content was deleted by Nichola at 9:20am 10 July 2012.

  • By Nichola at 9:29am 10 July 2012

I occasionally cycle in London and would like to cycle more, as it is a faster way to get around London, but avoid doing so as the busy London roads make me very nervous. I think a piece of technology that tells vehicles (especially HGV's) to look out for just me (the cyclist) is a great idea and it would definitely increase my confidence to cycle on London's roads, but without making me complacent. Plus at £20 - £25 it seems a small price to pay for my increased peace of mind!

At the recent Hackney Cycling Conference, Patrick Field of London School Of Cycling quoted a very good assessment for cycle safety measures, by asking two questions of them.

1) Does it address the root cause of the problem?

The root cause of the problem is cyclists sharing roads with lorries and more specifically, lorries turning left across the path of cyclists.  This solution does not change this so I would have to say that it does not address the root cause of the problem.

2) Will it encourage more people to cycle?

I'm trying hard to picture the person for which this is the straw the breaks the camels back and makes them finally decide to take on london's roads. However, I can't do it. Also, if you're savvy enough to be aware of the problem of left turning lorries you are probably already a cyclist and secondly you are a savvy enough cyclist to stay back from lorries anyway. Even if you did have this installed, you would have no way of knowing if the lorry has the other piece. On top of this, you still shouldn't go up the left of the lorry if you have the device and the lorry has the device, the driver could still ignore it or it could malfunction (even if the device failure rate is very small, it will still fail sometimes). 

Its also an extra expense for a mode of transport for which we are trying to push the savings costs of. I'd prefer safety interventions that come at no additional cost to the cyclist (e.g. proper lane design, blindspot mirrors). 

Sorry Peter, I commend your efforts but I don't think this is a good idea.

Thanks p0kerface

Just to pick up on a couple of your points.  Lorries will have a fitted plate to the rear (at least) that will say this vehicle is fitted with Cycle Alert.   I don't think we have ever encouraged going up any side of a lorry. 

With reference to malfunctioning, our product will have a small flashing green light (or similar) when the product is functioning and the battery is ok.  This will turn to permanent red if not working or battery is flat. 

It is not just left turning and not just lorries, buses and all HGVs turning in all directions are a problem and there is not just the one solution to these issues. 

 

 

Think liz545 raises a significant problem but I think this could be a good idea. It's not that different to cyclists being required to use lights.

Does the driver really know where the cyclist is, or is the bike simply in range of one of the sensors? In range might vary depending on the other metal boxes around the HGV. 

According to an LCC email today, this is an RFID. So presumably it can transmit the cyclists ID. This could be a Trojan horse to get cyclists to carry some form of (electronic) ID. That could lead to cyclists being automatically nicked for cycling through red lights and that's just the starting point.   I'd be happy with this if motorists were automatically nicked for all speeding offences especially in the new 20MPH zones. road.cc article,  CycleAlert.

This post was edited by john ackers at 12:14pm 23 April 2013.

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