Transport Minister Stephen Hammond has announced that new low-level traffic lights for cyclists have been authorised for use following safety trials.
More than 80% of cyclists favoured the use of low-level signals during the track-based trials of the system, which works by repeating the signal displayed on main traffic lights at the eye level of cyclists.
The clearance means that Transport for London (TfL) can now install the lights at Bow Roundabout – the first time the lights have been used in the UK.
Initially the system will be piloted at Bow but the Department for Transport (DfT) is working with TfL to extend it to a further 11 sites in London.
The lights will give cyclists improved, clearer signals to ensure they have the information they need at the junction. Research is currently underway that will give DfT the evidence to consider approving the use of these lights to provide an “early start” for cyclists.
Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL said:
“Low level cycle signals are common place in certain parts of Europe and we are keen to make them common place in London. These new signals, which will be a further improvement to the innovative traffic signals at Bow, will provide cyclists with a better eye-level view as to which stage the traffic signals are at.
Working closely with the Department for Transport, we will work to have these on-street during January 2014, and should the technology prove to be successful, further trials will be carried out across London throughout 2014.”
The reason why it is good to have separate lights for cyclists is that they can be used to give people on bikes a head start before the rest of the traffic.
The system that currently operates in the UK uses an ‘Advanced Stop Line‘ (ASL) which is also known as a ‘bike box’. The idea is that there is a designated area (usually painted red) at the head of the traffic queue into which bicycles can filter and then get ahead of motorised vehicles. The problem with this set up though is that the bike box is rarely respected and almost never enforced by traffic police. Motorists aren’t informed about the penalties of driving into this box under a red light, and so it is often ignored.