Transport for London (TfL) has revealed that it is working with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to improve the safety of cyclists by trialling infrastructure not currently used in the UK, including Dutch-style roundabouts. TRL is calling on cyclists and other road users to help it test the various innovations it is currently studying at its facility in Wokingham, Berkshire.
The TRL has built a full-scale roundabout there, modelled on examples in the Netherlands, which it says will enable it and TfL to determine its suitability for roads in London, with a view to introducing it on a trial basis in the capital as early as next year, together with other safety features it is working on.
According to TRL,
Typical Dutch style roundabouts have a tighter geometry which reduces vehicles speeds and improves visibility. Some also have an orbital cycle lane which allows cyclists to travel around the roundabout separately to other traffic.
TRL says that tests on the layout currently under way at its site to assess its suitability for British roads, which would require approval from the Department for Transport (DfT),
include driver compliance with give-way markings, analysis of traffic capacity, and comprehension of layouts and markings.
In particular, TRL will be looking to understand the interactions between cyclists and drivers as they enter, traverse and exit the roundabout. The trial will provide TfL with better knowledge and understanding and will help to determine if such a layout is fundamental to turning right. It will also enable a comparison to be made between this layout and that of a signalized junction.
Other trials taking place at Wokingham address features such as segregated cycle lanes, low and high level cycle signals, ways of turning right at junctions, RFID tags that would enable suitable equipped lorries to detect the presence of a bicycle, and bus stop islands, which TfL plans to introduce on forthcoming Barclays Cycle Superhighways.
TfL, together with Mayor of London Boris Johnson, have come under heavy criticism in the past from cycle campaigners over prioritising traffic flow at the expense of the safety of bike rider, and last year the London Cycling Campaign unveiled its Go Dutch campaign ahead of the mayoral elections.
One blogger who has been highly critical of TfL in the past, Danny Williams of the Cyclists in the City blog, described the roundabout as “a huge step forward” in a post addressing the various developments under scrutiny at TRL, although he cautioned that “The pace of change on London's streets is still incredibly frustrating.”
TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, said: “TfL has an incredible history of being at the forefront of delivering innovation, through the New Bus for London, Pedestrian Countdown and 'Trixi' Mirrors to name but a few examples.
“These highly ambitious new trials will help lead to safer streets for cyclists and further cement London's position as a truly world class cycling city.”
As part of its trials of the infrastructure, TRL says “hundreds of cyclists and drivers of different types of vehicles will be observed travelling through different designs and configurations of junctions and road layouts to see whether the changes would help improve road safety for all road users,” and it has issued an appeal for participants willing to take part. It says:
TRL is looking for a range of participants, including those with disabilities, for this trial. In particular, we need cyclists, (both those who cycle for leisure purposes and those who regularly cycle as part of their commute), at all confidence levels; drivers (including HGV drivers) and pedestrians.
Anyone interested in taking part who is aged 18 or over is asked to complete a form that can be downloaded from the TRL website. Participation in TRL’s research should take up no more than half a day, with compensation for the time involved and refreshments being provided.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commented: “I want London to lead the way in improving conditions for cyclists and the work being carried out at the Transport Research Laboratory shows what can be done if you think outside of the box.
“Making our Capital safer for those on two wheels is a real priority and I am eager to see what exciting innovations come out of these trials.”
TRL adds that future trials will include assessing the suitability of road markings used on the Continent to be introduced in the UK, and discussing issues including stricter enforcement of cycle lanes and advanced stop lines with the government in a bid to improve the safety of cyclists.
Transport Minister Norman Baker, whose responsibilities include cycling, commented: “We are always interested in innovative ideas to improve safety for cyclists and that is why we are working closely with TfL and others to develop, test and now trial low level cycle signals.
“Cycling is a safe activity and we are determined to make it safer, we have provided an additional £15m to fund improvements to cycle infrastructure in the Capital as well as making it easier for councils to put in place 20 mph zones and install cycle safety mirrors.
“I look forward to seeing how these latest experimental designs perform in the trials,” he concluded.
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