Govt considers new plan to prevent cycling accidents

Govt considering innovative new cycling safety scheme 2739

The government is considering the implementation of a new safety initiative that has been designed to reduce the number of cycling accidents taking place on Britain's roads.

Under these plans, new traffic lights would be installed at junctions specifically for cyclists that would give them a head start over cars and other vehicles, the Daily Telegraph reports.

A similar system is already in operation in the Netherlands, where such lights have been put up at cyclists' eye level at junctions in order to enhance the level of safety for people who use their bicycles to get around.

The scheme is set to be initially trialled by Transport for London (TfL) and if the technology proves successful in the capital, it could then be rolled out across the country by the administration.

Why does road safety for cyclists need to be improved?

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance is determined to drive down the number of cycling accidents causing fatalities or serious injuries occurring on highways across the UK.

According to official data from the Department for Transport, some 84 cyclists have died in collisions with vehicles already this year, with many of those involved in such crashes being either on their way to work or on their way home.

Furthermore, this figure is growing regularly as government data shows that the number of cyclists being killed or injured in Britain has gone up in ten of the last 13 quarters.

What has the government done to enhance safety in recent times?

Earlier this year, the government announced its intention to extend a cycling safety scheme by pumping an addition £15 million into the initiaitve.

The coalition had previously committed some £15 million to the programme in London, which was designed with the intention of improving conditions for those on cycles at dangerous road junctions across the capital.

And, after this proved successful in terms of tackling accident blackspots in London, policymakers decided to match this financial commitment to local authorities outside the capital in order to help them spend more on safety.

Indeed, transport minister Norman Baker insisted the investment "will make our roads a safer place for everyone using them".

The government also took steps towards boosting cycling safety by introducing advanced stop lines at junctions, which enable people on cycles to wait in special marked zones ahead of other road users at traffic lights.

However, Mr Baker is now preparing to go further and has signalled his intention to do so to MPs by stating the nationwide introduction of cycle lights will be considered as part of a wider review into traffic sign regulations.

How would this scheme work?

TfL has already installed a set of priority lights at the Bow roundabout in East London, which became a cycling accident blackspot last year as two people lost their lives at this junction.

The lights permit cyclists to move off before other traffic turning left, as this is regarded as the most dangerous manoeuvre for such individuals.

Evidence published by the Daily Telegraph suggests that similar programmes elsewhere across the world have proven successful.

For example, one junction in California saw its cycling accident figure drop from 16 in the two years before the lights were introduced to zero in the two years afterwards.

How have officials reacted to this proposal?

Despite the fact there appears to be a general consensus among experts that measures need to be taken to enhance the level of road safety cyclists face in the UK, some officials have raised doubts about this particular scheme.

For instance, Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, explained that while trialling cycling traffic lights could be a "useful way forward".

However, he warned: "The presence of a green light at eye level for a car driver may lead drivers to think that the light applies to them as well as to the cyclist. In such circumstances, any safety benefit could easily be lost."

Posted by Emily Swanson ADNFCR-1500-ID-801450777-ADNFCR

17/09/2012 16:48