THE BLOG

It's Time to Start a New Conversation About Cycle Safety

17/06/2014 15:41 | Updated 16 August 2014

This year looks set to be a good summer for cycling in the UK. For starters, the Tour de France is kicking off in Yorkshire in July, the first time it has done so in the UK since 2007. And there's every chance Chris Froome could hold on to his title, despite his difficulties this weekend in the Critérium du Dauphiné .

Not that cycling is just for the professionals. With today marking the start of Bike Week, we look forward to seeing more Britons getting on their bikes, with ever greater numbers recognising that it's a healthy, enjoyable and affordable way to travel.

In the last decade, the number of Londoners cycling to work has more than doubled. Overall, figures show that cycling now accounts for 2% of all journeys, with the figure far higher in larger cities such as London. People are increasingly drawn to cycling, but more can be done.

''We should be doing much more in our country to encourage cycling', the Prime Minister said last year, and who would disagree? Good for the environment, a great way of keeping fit, and cheaper than the train or bus. Cycling, a mode of transport that just a few decades ago was the resort of those who could not afford a car, is now desirable, trendy, and future-looking.

But with increasing numbers enjoying cycling, there has sadly been an with an increase in the number of accidents, including, tragically, fatal ones. Last month, Abdelkhalak Lahyani became the fifth person to die on London's roads this year, after colliding with an HGV in Elephant and Castle. Cyclist deaths rose 10% during 2012, with serious injuries up by 4%. There is unfortunately a particular problem around HGVs, with these vehicles making up four per cent of road traffic but being involved in 54 per cent of cycling fatalities.

These statistics play a significant role in preventing more people taking up cycling in the capital, with 80 per cent saying they are put off getting on a bike because of the need to share the road with buses and HGV vehicles. It is clear then that there are two key issues that need to be addressed in order to improve cycle safety. Something must be done to improve the visibility of cyclists around HGVs and more must be done to develop a mutual sense of respect and responsibility between all road users, including cyclists and HGV drivers.

These are the goals that are at the heart of Cycle Alert, a blind-spot spot safety technology that uses a bike tag, a vehicle sensor and a cab display unit to notify a driver when a cyclist is close. Notably, unlike other proximity sensors, Cycle Alert is able to distinguish between cyclists and other objects on or near the road, such as bollards and traffic lights.

We have recently trialled it in York in conjunction with the University of York, York City Council and Transdev buses, and the results have been enormously positive, particularly amongst drivers who felt the system was a huge help to them in improving the visibility of cyclists around their vehicle. In order to build on the success of the York trial, we are now running a London trial with Lend Lease as part of their activity around the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle roundabout. This is being accompanied by an international trial of the product with 3M in Singapore as part of Singapore cycle safety month.

We believe that these trials will help demonstrate the vital role that Cycle Alert can play in improving cycle safety and help encourage HGV drivers and cyclists to work together, taking responsibility for making the road a safer place. In doing so, my hope is that these trials will open the door for further education of road users.

I want Cycle Alert to be the start of a bigger conversation - one between all road users about respect, safe behaviour and how to minimise the risks associated with travelling in a busy city. If we can help achieve this, then we can empower ever greater numbers to take up cycling and enjoy this healthy, affordable and sustainable way to travel.

Find out more about Cycle Alert technology here