Low-level traffic lights for cyclists are among a range of cycle safety features that have been approved for trial by the Department for Transport (DfT) – nearly a year and a half after Transport for London (TfL) revealed it was lobbying the government to hold a trial of them on the capital’s streets.
So far in 2013, a total of 14 cyclists have lost thri lives in London, six of them in November alone, but the measures detailed in yesterday's announcement aren't a reaction to those, instead reflecting behind-the-scenes, off-street trials that have been going on since early last year.
The DfT said that research is still being conducted into whether cyclists should also be given an ‘early start’ at traffic lights and that it “is driving forward regulatory changes to give TfL and other authorities the freedom to implement new and innovative junction designs to help cyclists.” The latter include a trial of a “turn left to turn right” cycle lane similar to those found in some countries on the continent.
Those early start traffic lights will now make their UK debut at Bow Roundabout in east London next month – but as we reported in September last year, TfL had been pushing DfT for permission to trial them in the capital for several months at that point.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, said at the time that if permission wasn’t granted before 2014, the organisation would instead trial them off-road.
TfL has been trialling a number of cycle safety features, including those low-level traffic lights, at the Transport Research Laboratory’s facility in Wokingham, Berkshire.
Those trials included cyclists taking part and giving feedback on propsed safety features; 80 per cent said they were in favour of low-level signals.
In yesterday’s announcement, the DfT and TfL have identified a further 11 locations where they plan to trial the lights, being:
According to the DfT, the two-stage right turn, which will be subject to an off-street trial next year, “saves cyclists from attempting to turn across several lanes of traffic. This ‘turn left to turn right’ idea allows bikes to turn left into a dedicated area in advance of the main traffic before completing the turn by going straight across the junction when the lights next change.”
Other features mentioned in yesterday’s announcement included an update on the back-street Quietways proposed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, with the DfT saying it “will work with TfL on the traffic signing needed to help implement these, starting in summer 2014,” and that “the government is also currently considering options for the enforcement of mandatory cycle lanes by local authorities.”
Transport minister Stephen Hammond said: “The government wants to see cycling made safer and we welcome innovative designs from local authorities.
“Over the last few years we’ve worked very closely with Transport for London to deliver better infrastructure for cyclists.
“Transport for London are working hard on proposals to make cycling safer and these low-level lights mean that cyclists will have dedicated traffic lights that give them the information they need.
“There is always more that we can do and there is a lot of research underway into further measures that we can look at.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “This is very good news for cyclists in London, and across the country.
Speaking about the low-level traffic light, he said: “Just one of a number of new safety measures we’ve been discussing with the government, this new piece of infrastructure forms a key element of our cycling vision for London.
“We look forward to continuing to work together on many more measures to help make cycling even safer, more attractive and convenient for Londoners.”
TfL’s Leon Daniels added: “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.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.