London to trial eye-level traffic lights designed to save cyclists' lives

TfL plans to test lights; widespread use would require a change in the law

by Sarah Barth   September 13, 2012  

red traffic light.jpg

Transport for London is pushing for a trial of new eye-level traffic lights that they say will save the lives of cyclists in the capital.

The Dutch-style lights could be programmed to give cyclists a head start at busy junctions, similar to the Bow roundabout that was redesigned following multiple accidents.

Nine cyclists have died in London so far this year.

Managing director for surface transport Leon Daniels told the Evening Standard that consultation with the Department for Transport was required as use of the lights would require legislation.

“We’ve recently held early meetings with the Department for Transport to explore options for new traffic signals which we believe will make cycling safer," he said.

In a letter to Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the London Assembly, Mr Daniels added: “If approval of an on-street trial cannot be granted before 2014, TfL will look to carrying out off-street trials instead.”

Ms Pidgeon, who has been campaigning for cycle safety measures, said: “The Department for Transport must allow TfL to catch up with best international practice.”

The lights are used on the Continent, in countries including the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

It is believed that it could speed up the journeys of riders, making them less likely to put themselves in harm's way by running red lights.

Gerhard Weiss of the London Cycling Campaign said: “This would be a good idea but it must be led by demand. We wouldn’t want putting signals everywhere to be seen as a solution to the safe cycling problem. It’s not quite as simple as that.”

8 user comments

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A cycle only phase at many junctions in London would make things safer by alowing some time to get away from the junction before left turning traffic.

But on my commute the numbers of cyclists is so great they wouldn't all get through unless the cycle lane was wide and the ASL wasn't full of cars and motorbikes already.
Some Police enforcement would need to be stepped up or motorbikes would just use the cycle phase as well.

On the Cycle Superhighways 7 and 8 (which I use on my commute) there are already so many cycists as to make even the widest point on the lane (2m) look far too narrow.

posted by thereverent [354 posts]
13th September 2012 - 16:55


thereverent wrote:
A cycle only phase at many junctions in London would make things safer by alowing some time to get away from the junction before left turning traffic.

...unless, of course, the cars started moving when the cycle light went green instead of waiting for their own lights, which is very likely bearing in mind the lawlessness of most British drivers.

Seeing that drivers set off from pedestrian crossings as soon as the pedestrian light is red, whether anyone's crossing or not, I don't see this working in Britain.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
13th September 2012 - 18:31


It's only reliant on the first driver in the queue of cars obeying the law; this is quite likely in my view.

posted by jackh [117 posts]
13th September 2012 - 22:18


jackh wrote:
It's only reliant on the first driver in the queue of cars obeying the law; this is quite likely in my view.

You don't walk or cycle in London? Or do you have some delightful glasses with pink lenses?

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
13th September 2012 - 23:43


Introduce the new lights but add a camera. Use the revenue generated by fines for drivers jumping the lights to build more cycling infrastructure.

posted by Coleman [331 posts]
14th September 2012 - 10:50

1 Like

There is an advance stop light for cyclists in York near the train station at the busy junction of Station Road and Blossom Street where cyclists turning right out of Station Road are very vulnerable to motorists going straight ahead. I used to use it every weekday, but i now use a better, new quiter access to the station which has been built since, thank goodness. In theory cyclists ASL's are a good idea, but in practice, as implemented in York it is not much use. Firstly, the lights operating for cyclists (as opposed to just on "normal")were supposed to be triggered by dectectors buried in the road, detecting cyclists entering the junction box. They regularly fail to detect cyclists, so no ASL. Second, the differential between the ASL for cyclists and motorists was too short - not enough head start. Thirdly, as pointed out above, impatient motorists start moving when they see the cyclists' ASL. Frankly it was arguably better (but still indimiidating and dangerous) before since from where you were positioned as a cyclist you could see the other lights go red and anticipate yours going green (without jumping them), whereas motorists behind could not see the change of the other lights so easily. The junction is now still unatisfactorty despite the Council spending a lot of money on it (having rejected more radical proposals which would have provided a real benefit to pedestrians and cyclists). Hopefully others can learn from York's mistakes.

posted by Vercors [61 posts]
14th September 2012 - 18:38


most traffic lights in France seem to have eye level lights - think they are actually for car drivers as they tend not to have the ones across the junction.

These are a good idea but the ASL boxes in London fill up with vans. taxis, bikes and scooters; for this to work there will need to be enforcement. It has been done in Edinburgh but someone will have to explain the law to London Police before these are introduced (and organize a press campaign - so that if it is enforced effectively moaning lawbreakers do not start complaining that they are being treated as a "cash cow").


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posted by robbieC [62 posts]
15th September 2012 - 12:21


What about the riders who jump the lights? should they not get fined... I'm not being pedantic so hope you don't take it the wrong way.. I actually think its a good idea but would have to be a way to catch offending cyclists too. I see jumpers everyday on my cycle from Orpington to North London.

posted by legs11 [1 posts]
16th September 2012 - 18:47