TRL conducting real life scenario tests on behalf of TfL ahead of possible roll out as early as next year

Dutch Roundabouts and eye-level signals on trial in UK

Transport for London has commissioned independent transport research group TRL to trial ‘Dutch roundabouts’ and eye-level signals, ahead of a ‘potential roll out as soon as 2014’.

At TRL’s large scale facility in Berkshire, press were yesterday given access to trials, which are set to continue through to July, as experts analyse the various junction designs, road markings and driver/cyclist interaction on each.

To view a gallery of BikeBiz’s photos from TRL’s facility and the demo roundabout trials, see here.

As you’ll see in the pictures, the junctions are thus far mimicking the Netherland’s own designs, but will soon be updated with UK road markings and appropriate ‘give way’ signage. Each of the four dummy junctions had a slightly different layout at entrance and exit points. TRL have been gathering data from each in the past six weeks and will continue analysis through summer.

Using a pool of members of the public and some TRL staff, the ‘real life’ tests are the first stage in the road to approval by the Department for Transport. Once the new regulations are in place the infrastructure changes could be rolled out nationwide fairly quickly. The dummy roundabout shown here apparently took two weeks to lay down. The design, we’re told, can be tweaked to work with roundabouts large and small.

The same applies to new eye-level road signals, also shown at the TRL facility. Designed to be easily retrofitable to modern traffic signals, the traffic light system would assist cyclists at junctions and, with any luck, make it clearer to light-dodgers that the same rules apply to cyclists.

Inside TRL’s main building, press were also shown a simulator vehicle with dashboard mounted cameras, which faces a screen with projected scenarios. The cameras have so far analysed around 100 members of the public and their reactions to the new junction designs, as well as tracking what details are genuinely missed by the driver.

Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, who arrived by bike, was among those touring TRL yesterday and he told the BBC: "We’ve got a cycling budget of £913m over ten years and it includes £100m to refit junctions. I’m really looking forward to seeing this [roundabout] on the road. I think it’s going to be fantastic for cyclists."

Press were also shown a system for alerting HGV drivers to the presence of cyclists. The system, also on trial, works on the 433 kHz radio frequency and via three sensors down the offside of a truck, picks up approaching cyclists who carry a small chip.

Discussions are on-going on how to distribute the chip to cyclists, though retail is likely to be one route. Price and availability is still to be discussed, though one representative of the firm behind the innovation – Cycle Safety Shield – told BikeBiz that he thought free distribution could be an option. Uptake of the concept by haulage firms is said to be strong with many embracing the technology, which was born on the construction site to eliminate accidents with excavators and workers.

It was also suggested that the transmitters could be fitted to the Barclays Hire Bikes in London should the thumbs up be given.

The proximity within which the device will be activated is to be decided, as the firm explains it doesn’t want drivers to begin ignoring the devices should it activate when a cyclist is, for example, on the pavement as opposed to in a danger zone. Those behind Cycle Safety Shield have been working closely with haulage firms who to date have tested the system and rejected the use of an in-cab buzzer, which understandably might be a distraction in areas where cycling is popular.

When a cyclists comes within a certain proximity of the truck, a dashboard mounted light system flicks on. A video stream of blind spots, also activated by the approaching cyclist, is another option being trialled.

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