Trial shows signs of improving cycle safety

Ealing Council’s trial of an innovative new lorry alert system has reached the halfway mark and is already showing signs of improving cycle safety.
The data revealed a significant 8% improvement in driver behaviour, owing to a reduction in speed, better indication and maintaining safer distances between other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The trial also showed a 2% saving in fuel efficiency.

The Cycle Safety Shield System is the first of its kind that can detect cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles 360 degrees around the vehicle while filtering out other inanimate objects, such as bus stops and lamp posts, reducing unnecessary distractions which can be caused by other detection alarms. An alarm will only sound to the driver if a cyclist or pedestrian becomes too close to the vehicle.

The system also scans the road ahead for speed signs, road markings and other vehicles, so it can notify drivers if they are travelling above the speed limit or if they drift into another lane. It also ensures drivers keep a safe distance behind vehicles in front, and automatically dims the lorry’s high-beam lights if on-coming traffic is detected.

Ealing Council has fitted the system to a ten-plate grab lorry, which is operated by its highway contractor, Murrill Construction Limited.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, Ealing’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “It is fantastic that this data is already showing promising signs of improving cyclist and pedestrian safety. By listening and responding to the system alerts, the driver has been able to amend his driving behaviour, which means he is driving more safely, being more alert to potential dangers and saving on fuel costs

“The audible and visible indicator on the left side of the vehicle has also given pedestrians and cyclists a more obvious warning that the lorry is turning left. It has had a positive impact on pedestrian and cyclist awareness and behaviour, with people stepping back from the edge of the kerb and cyclists avoiding riding directly next to the vehicle. No one wants to be involved in an accident and if this system can prevent just one incident from happening it’s worth it.

“I hope this is the start of a revolutionary change to the way drivers interact with other road users and make our streets safer for all. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the second half of this trial, which are due to be released in the summer.”

Luke Brown, a driver for Murrill Construction Limited who is taking part in the system trial, said: “I find the system has already been a real benefit. I’m an experienced driver, but there is always room for improvement and this system has helped me adjust my driving.

“I’ve used another system in the past that beeped at inanimate objects, such as cones, barriers and parked cars, so it was constantly making noise. It became annoying very quickly and I found that I was trying to tune it out rather than listen and learn from it.”

Throughout the trial, the system detected around 1,500 pedestrians and cyclists per month but only alerted the driver around 100 times per month. All of these alerts resulted in the driver correcting his driving to avoid veering too close to the pedestrian or cyclist.

Ealing Council developed the technology in partnership with Safety Shields Systems and is running the trial using funding from Transport for London’s borough cycling programme.

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