Transport for London shows off potential new cycling facilities being tested by the Transport Research Laboratory

LCC's campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd and a group of other transport experts were invited to visit Transport Research Laboratory, a company undertaking research into Dutch-style cycling facilities in the midst of a Berkshire forest on behalf of Transport for London.

Our Love London, Go Dutch campaign called for our politicians and civil servants to learn from the Dutch-style cycling facilities, so it was satisfying to visit a research facility in Berkshire to see these being tested.

The day started with mild amusement for those of us who took the train and cycled to Transport Research Laboratory in Berkshire: we arrived on time, while the Transport for London coach got caught in congestion on the motorway, arriving 40 minutes late.

First, we were shown a mock-up of a four-way junction with all possible combinations of high and low traffic lights, the low down ones showing a bike logo when lit. Several makes of the lights were being tested, installed at various heights and angles.

These cyclist-specific traffic lights (see photo above) allow a green light to cyclists while motor vehicles are held at red. This is an easy-to-see and easy-to-understand ‘early start’ solution. After a few seconds, all the lights go green but if the timing is done properly, bicycles should be well ahead. Going uphill or at a particularly wide junction, bicycles must be given more time to get clear of the motor traffic or a different solution used.

It's essential the Department for Transport agrees to allow here what has been proven to work in other European countries, in particular the Netherlands. These lights work with fully separated traffic or with no cycle lanes at all, and is far more cost-effective than the complex ‘early start’ jumble of lights installed at Bow Roundabout.

After seeeing the lights in operation, we were encouraged to ride all over a Dutch-style roundabout (see photo below) built in the middle of a carpark. Lorry trailers represented where buildings might be on a suburban street.

A roundabout as a 'place of safety'

This is a junction designed to slow everyone down, creating a place of safety. The Dutch understand that most injuries happen at junctions, and their design objective is to minimise casualties not maximise motor traffic flow.

At TRL they test different layouts and widths, moving the blocks around and re-painting the crossing lines. Our pictures show different markings to those seen in the press last month.

Car, lorries or bikes turn relatively sharply into separate routes. The magic is to design it so people on bikes and people on foot have priority over machines. It didn’t take long to get the hang of it, and we were delighted to find that we didn’t have to cycle where the cars go but had an uninterrupted path to where we could exit the roundabout.

The design requires motorists to be prepared to stop and give way as they leave a roundabout. There is no need to rush as people have priority here.

Our estimates are that Dutch roundabouts take up about the same amount of space as existing British roundabouts because our designs have two lanes for cars and nothing for bikes. A Dutch-style redesign means a more equitable use of space and a much safer junction.

Finally, we saw lorries fitted with devices that detect bikes carrying a beacon sending out radio frequencies. TRL is testing these to understand how effectively these systems work, and to see whether this is a reliable way of reducing road danger.

The solution sounds attractive, but we have doubts as to how effective it would be if only some bikes have sensors. We've published a list of questions that we say must be answered before these systems can be considered safe.