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Edinburgh's bin lorries upgraded for cycle safety - city asks for cyclists' opinions

Driver alerted to cyclists and audio message warns of left-turning vehicles

All of Edinburgh’s rubbish lorries have been fitted with cycle safety equipment in a move to prevent deaths and injuries to vulnerable road users.

The council has upgraded its fleet with Cyclear technology, which includes an illuminated sign that lights up to alert anyone travelling towards a lorry when it is turning left, and a speaker announcing the manoeuvre for additional warning.

Many collisions occur when a cyclist becomes trapped between the kerb and a left-turning vehicle, so it is thought the additional warning should allow cyclists more time to keep back.

The system will also detect a cyclist travelling alongside the lorry even if it is in the driver’s blind spot -- and make an audio announcement in the cab.

Edinburgh council’s transport convener, councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “Cycle safety is of utmost importance to the council so it makes absolute sense to equip our own vehicles with technology that minimises risk for all road users.

“Promoting cycling as an accessible mode of transport is a key priority in Edinburgh, and developments like this are central to creating a safe and attractive atmosphere for new and experienced cyclists.”

Cyclear is already fitted in vehicles in City of London, Luton, Guildford, Midlothain councils and to Serco’s collection fleet in the London borough of Havering.

The council is now looking for feedback from cyclists who have encountered their refuse lorries fitted with Cyclear technology.

We recently reported the controversial decision to trial a different cycle safety system in Croydon.

A number of bin lorries in Croydon have been fitted with electronic alerts that tell the driver a cyclist is present - but only if they have fitted a corresponding device to their bike or helmet.

The scheme, Cycle Alert, is being trialled on four refuse lorries, but Croydon Cycle Campaign say HGV drivers will be lulled into a false sense of security, while it will be impossible to tag enough of the area’s cyclists.

Manufacturers of the £400 device are hoping to roll it out nationally after piloting, and cyclists in the area are being encouraged to pick up a free electronic tag from cycle shops in the borough, which will sound an alert in the lorry’s cab if they come within 2.5m.

An LED display shows the driver the position of the cyclist.

Danni Lapham of Cycle Alert told the Croydon Advertiser: "We believe the benefits for operators and for cyclists' safety will outweigh the costs."

The company has not yet decided whether or how much cyclists will have to pay for their equipment in the future.

Councillor Kathy Bee said: "The success of the scheme is dependent on the extent the technology is taken up and the way in which the scheme is promoted.

"It has also got to be really easy for people to get hold of the equipment."

But Kristian Gregory of the Cycling Campaign said: "We are seriously concerned about the effect Cycle Alert will have on road safety.

"We are concerned that tagging a high enough percentage of cyclists will not be viable, and that HGV drivers will be given a false sense of security by the device, when an untagged cyclist may be nearby."

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Danni Cycle Alert | 8 years ago

Heya, it's Danni (Cycle Alert). I don't really understand what is particularly controversial with Croydon's decision to use Cycle Alert as opposed to a Cyclear system. The system being used on the Edinburgh bin lorries is a left-hand audio alarm + proximity sensor package. Croydon's vehicles had already been installed with left-hand audio alarms (which we too stock) and so the need was for a proximity-type warning system only, to which it appealed to Cycle Alert. I think there is perhaps some misconception as to what a proximity sensor does as opposed to what Cycle Alert does; a proximity sensor is little more than an adapted parking sensor, bleeps at everything, gets generally ignored by the driver, dismissed as 'white noise'. There isn't a driver or a fleet operator who has advised me to the contrary; indeed there are some tech providers that have ceased stocking them altogether on account of their futility and I'm amazed that informed parties still recommend them. Still, each to their own, it's not my intention to criticise, I just wanna advise on what I've picked up about the industry. Cycle Alert doesn't give such false alerts, there are far fewer alerts but all of them are meaningful; surely that's better than a whole lot of nothing-alerts? Of course, Cycle Alert is still small and not everybody dons a tag right now, but heck you got to start somewhere and this is absolutely the right way to go in terms of replacing the current fashion for ineffectual proximity warning systems. It is not a 'silver bullet' solution, there's a lot of work to do in terms of better infrastructure and better cab design (it is worth noting though, that none of the low-cab designs I have seen have designed out the need for blind-spot reduction technology), but tech like Cycle Alert - and indeed left-hand audio alerts - can have a sizeable contribution to make.

For the sake of clarification, Cycle Alert is distributing cycle tags for free.

It dispirited me a little that Croydon Cycling Campaign made the comments that they did in the original article. Only because, when we originally presented the technology to its members, no such reservations were bought up, on the contrary there was suggestion from one member that the tech could be implemented on vehicles building the new Westfield site. And while there might have been/be a 'serious concern' from Mr. Gregory, that concern hasn't been extended to an actual conversation with Cycle Alert to discuss those concerns, even though I have suggested we do so. I've basically been ignored. I'm someone who cycles at the end of the day, the discussion is as real and important to me as it is to the Cycling Campaign.

Placing Cycle Alert to one side, I'm glad that Edinburgh are installing cycle safety tech onto their vehicles and are recognising the need to make the on-road environment safer if more people are to cycle.

Poptart242 replied to Danni Cycle Alert | 8 years ago
Danni Cycle Alert wrote:

Heya, it's Danni (Cycle Alert). I don't really understand what is particularly controversial with Croydon's decision to use Cycle Alert as opposed to a Cyclear system.

...For the sake of clarification, Cycle Alert is distributing cycle tags for free.

Hi Danni.

I'd object because it's a little unreasonable to expect people to tag-up with your system. I live in Edinburgh, and if I ever end up cycling in Croydon you can bet I'll forget to go and pick up a tag.

If a cyclist without a tag is run over, it isn't unreasonable to think that somewhere along the line someone could indulge in a spot of victim-blaming.

Overall I don't want to detract from your company's efforts in keeping people safe. But I do think the system has a fairly massive flaw in the above.

giff77 | 8 years ago

Totally vbvb. Rather than train their driver properly the authorities would rather install alarms, cameras, mirrors and all that. All of which the driver will ignore as he knows the council expect him to complete a route in x minutes. As you say. Self drive can't come quick enough.

sfichele | 8 years ago

All of Sheffield's bin lorries [that I've seen] have low cabs with the large, surround windows .... anything is garbage

giff77 | 8 years ago

The next paragraph alludes to an audio warning to the driver that a cyclist is in his/her blind spot. Though if the fecker has already passed the cyist one would hope that they have seen said cyclist before performing a left hook regardless of the audio warning or not. All these warnings do is make the driver even lazier or should I say confused with all the beeps and buzzes. As the esteemed Mr Lowe points out we have an efficient system many years in the making which for reasons beyond my ken motorists fail to make use of.

Driving in my POV has deteriorated due to people's reliance on all the gizmos the modern car has installed these days. That and the shallow self entitlement of the roads motorists seem to so desperately cling on to.

harrybav replied to giff77 | 8 years ago
giff77 wrote:

one would hope that they have seen said cyclist before performing a left hook regardless of the audio warning or not.

Maths fun! Lorry 10m long, doing 20kmph, is going at 5.6metres per second, so takes less than 1 second to get half of lorry past cyclist to get to scary sideswipe position. Buzzer isn't going to help much for this scenario, not with cab noise, chit chat, normal reflexes, unless it's engaging some sort of instant steering override. Roll on, self-drive!

brooksby | 8 years ago

Many collisions occur when a cyclist becomes trapped between the kerb and a left-turning vehicle, so it is thought the additional warning should allow cyclists more time to keep back.

fair enough but what about if the truck has overtaken and turns left - nothing to do with the cyclist or their behaviour then... Does the system have something for the driver which says "there's a cyclist there - do not turn left, yet"?

harrybav | 8 years ago

Interesting move and welcome, though I suspect Edinburgh bin lorries' one bike death so far (100m from the bin lorry depot, left turn sideswipe right outside a primary school) was caused by the cab overtaking the bike then sideswiping, not bike running up side of slow-moving lorry. I'm for annual scary health and safety half day courses for these drivers, keep them thinking bike, indicators, mirrors etc..

A V Lowe | 8 years ago

Direct vision using the fast response safety system with 2.3bn years of development & testing is by far the most reliable and effective option.

Failing the direct vision option the ability to use intelligent digital CCTV to both recognise a pedestrian or a cyclist, and whether they are moving closer to the truck (or crossing a 'red-line' safety zone around the vehicle) would appear to be the most effective system around currently.

The other addition is a controller box connected to the electronic engine management systems mandated for all new trucks, which can limit engine revs, limit speeds in reverse, and with a GPS interface restrict speeds in geo-fenced areas. One Scottish Council is already using this to restrict their refuse truck speeds on a waste processing site to 15mph.

All available now - sadly Glasgow Council tells me that they select the new refuse trucks in a best value (ie cheapest deal possible) basis and most of the fleet is high cab 'dinosaur' standard rather then the low cab types which at present carry a premium because they are not yet a standard product with significant sales to bring the price down.

Private contractors who actually see the savings in staff injury claims, greater efficiency in operation, and the reduced risk of hitting people or things from the better vision, sensibly see the premium price more than recovered in other costs saved, unlike Glasgow Council....

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