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London campaigners welcome tech that lets cyclists turn lights green

But Stop Killing Cyclists says 'Idaho Stop' would be cheaper and just as effective...

Cycling campaigners in London say new technology being trialled in Denmark that would change lights to green to allow them to ride through could work in London – although one has said that at simpler solution would be to adopt the so-called ‘Idaho Stop’ law.

As we reported earlier this month on road.cc, the Danish city of Aarhus is testing the new technology, which is based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags already used in sectors such as logistics and retail.

> Danish cyclists ride green wave with help of RFID tech

The tags, attached to the bike’s front wheel, communicate with traffic signals ahead and change them to green unless motor vehicles are already going through the junction, thereby speeding up a cyclist’s commute.

David Murray of national cyclists’ charity CTC told the London Evening Standard: “Any initiative that helps the capital flow more freely has to be a good thing, and even better when it makes cycling look even more attractive as a means of getting about.

“Technology like this has been in use for some time for motor vehicles, so CTC is encouraged to see it moving into supporting the millions of people riding bikes every week.

“It may also discourage red light jumping and therefore make our roads safer.”

London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk added: “To make cycling work for far more people, it has to be convenient – and not feel like you’re always being held at lights while cars get to go.

“So trialling ideas like smart lights controlled by RFID tags and ‘green waves’ that are used on the continent makes great sense.

He added: “For London to become a truly cycling city, which we desperately need with a booming population and very constrained road space, we also still need lots more protected space for cycling too – that has to be the first priority.”

David Murray, of the national cycling charity (CTC), added: “Any initiative that helps the capital flow more freely has to be a good thing, and even better when it makes cycling look even more attractive as a means of getting about.

“Technology like this has been in use for some time for motor vehicles, so CTC is encouraged to see it moving into supporting the millions of people riding bikes every week.

“It may also discourage red light jumping and therefore make our roads safer”.

However, Donnachadh McCarthy, co-founder of the campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists said there was an easier solution.

“Whilst well intentioned, this is a very expensive and slow way of using technology to introduce what effectively is called the Idaho Law,” he said.

“This law at very low expense would require cyclists in London to treat red-lights as 'yield right of way' signs, allowing them to turn left when there is no traffic or pedestrians.

“This would benefit drivers also as it would reduce cycling congestion at junctions.”

Signs permitting cyclists to turn right or go straight on at red traffic signals, assuming the road is clear, are being rolled out at junctions in Paris.

This week, San Francisco’s board of supervisors voted 6-5 to adopt similar legislation – but the city’s mayor says he will veto it, as he is entitled to do on a vote that fails to reach a minimum 8-3 ‘supermajority’.

Mayor Ed Lee said in September: ““The so-called ‘Idaho Stop’, while expedient for some bicyclists, directly endangers pedestrians and other cyclists, and I cannot allow it to become law.

“Trading away safety for convenience is not a policy I can allow this city to endorse.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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6 comments

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Alan Southern | 8 years ago
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A few years ago West Berlin allowed cars to do a right turn against a red light.  This did not apply in East Berlin.  Following unification the authorities decided to allow the right turn in East Berlin despite strong opposition from East Berliners.  If a similar scheme was in the UK I would oppose it and I would oppose any similar scheme for cyclists (this appears to be the Idaho scheme).  It is bad enough with some of my cycling friends here in Cardiff when they encounter pedestians on shared paths and other cyclists I see on pedestian only paths.  Do you think an Idaho scheme would stop those idiots cycling straight across against a red light?  How much time would any cyclist save by turning left at a red light?  And if the scheme came into operation I imagine there will be many pedestrians in collisions with cyclists because if they have a green light why should they also have to look for cyclists who want to pass by, or through!, them because they could do a left turn on a red light?  The idea should be consigned to the bin.

Avatar
Al__S | 8 years ago
1 like

I dislike any "intervention" that needs bikes to have special tags or the such like to work. Especially bad for visitors! THough at least this isn't as wrong-headed as proximity/blindspot detection systems for lorries that rely on cyclists using tags

Avatar
mpdouglas | 8 years ago
4 likes

Who comes up with this nonsense?!

Has no-one realised that every mini cab, uber driver etc etc will simply get hold of the required RFID tag and attach it to the front of their car. They might even steal our bikes to get one (or buy them from the same place we do).

And how does it work when there are tens of cyclists approaching from multiple directions, as there frequently are in London?

This might work in some back wood where cycle volumes are low, but the idea that it is a solution for London is beyond madness.

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ron611087 | 8 years ago
1 like

The Idaho stop law in effect means treating a junction on its merits whether it has traffic lights or not. IMO this is the safest method. RFID technology adds unnecessary complexity and carries the risk that the cyclist will put his/her faith in the lights rather than ensuring the intersection is safe to proceed through.

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JonD replied to ron611087 | 8 years ago
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ron611087 wrote:

RFID technology adds unnecessary complexity and carries the risk that the cyclist will put his/her faith in the lights rather than ensuring the intersection is safe to proceed through.

That's no different to normal operation.
All the rfid tag is doing is changing the timing of the lights, the cyclist and other road users still have to take notice of the state of the lights as they would at any other time.
Regardless, it's always advisable to check each way when cycling/driving through a junction.

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ron611087 replied to JonD | 8 years ago
1 like
JonD wrote:

That's no different to normal operation.

I don't disagree, and I'm not against the RFID solution, I just think that the Idaho Stop law is simpler and requires no technology to be implemented.

The Idaho Stop Law however means allowing cyclists to jump red lights so it will never surmount the political prejudice and opposition it will face. IMO it's dead in the water here. If RFID tags can make it passed public prejudice, then bring it on.

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