The smart traffic light system that prioritises cyclists over motorists is to be tested in London, Southampton, Coventry, and Wolverhampton. Its purpose is to ensure that cyclists – rather than anyone in cars, vans, and lorries – are more likely to see a green light on approach to a junction. Why? To encourage more people to cycle by making it faster, safer, and more convenient than at present.
How smart traffic light system works
Now Wireless is the company behind the system and it explained how it operates. Imagine a cyclist is approaching a crossroad and wants to continue straight ahead. Via a camera on the traffic light that faces the cyclist and artificial intelligence software, the system recognises that a cyclist is approaching rather than a big vehicle. The system now gives the cyclist priority.
Red traffic lights therefore stop cars, vans, and lorries approaching from the cyclist’s left and right. These motorists cannot now move in front of the cyclist at a perpendicular angle. Furthermore, the system stops drivers ahead that directly face the cyclist who might (from their perspective) turn right. This prevents them cutting across the cyclist’s path as he/she pedals straight ahead.
Naturally, this smart traffic light system is more likely to keep cyclists safe if they follow the signals – but will they? 35% of cyclists revealed they ‘occasionally’ ignore a red light, a YouGov survey found. In contrast, The Institute of Advanced Motorists once said the figure is far higher (57%). Either way, Now Wireless appears to consider such behaviour an inevitable part of life.
Chief Executive Officer, Brian Jackson, said that the system 'deals with the reality’ that cyclists sometimes run through a red light. ‘It does so by making sure it is always green for them', he added. Mr Jackson further suggested the system helps local authorities emphasise that they support cyclists. He claimed:
'The system will allow councils to send a message, where appropriate, that cycling is being encouraged by giving riders priority. Our system can be calibrated to prioritise even a single cyclist approaching a junction’, he revealed.
Government keen to encourage cyclists
The Government has been encouraging people to cycle since coronavirus struck. Why? Because it is easier to social distance on bikes than public transport. The traffic light trial is therefore one of many initiatives. In London, for example, there are new cycle lanes and cars have been banned from some areas. Whether motorists tolerate such initiatives long term remains to be seen.