The BBC London news this evening (27 January 2014), had a segment on the new eye level cycle lights being introduced at Bow Roundabout today. I think it’s great that they are starting to be used, however the design of the traffic lights at the junction needs an overhaul as it’s extremely dangerous.
The first part of the correspondent Tom Edwards talking about it, highlights the confusing nature of the lights, whereby an average person sees a green cycle light and believes that they can proceed through the junction, as is the case with most junctions in the UK, and doesn’t realise that they have to stop at the second traffic light a few metres later. This is a horrible design and needs to be changed urgently so that it is not confusing to the average user, before someone else is killed at this junction. If the design is not changed I fear there will be another death here as it’s too confusing for the average person. A random person should be able to easily understand the design of the junction and be able to safely navigate it, otherwise the designers have failed.
The current 4 second head start is split into two parts. It’s based on 2 seconds to let the cyclists set off and another 2 seconds between the motorists setting off and getting to the traffic line. If there is a lot of cyclists, there is still potential for a motorist to crush a cyclists if they are turning left.
Ideally a new design for the traffic lights is used, which makes it safe for cyclists and pedestrians. By holding motor vehicles while cyclists get a turn, and vice versa means that pedestrians will also get a chance to cross. It will add a very small delay to motor vehicles, however if the subjective safety of the junction is improved enough then the number of motor vehicles will reduce.
The separator between cyclists and motor vehicles needs to be extended to the final stop line before the roundabout thus increasing the safety for cyclists. Also the traffic lights should be able to be phased dynamically based on the traffic levels. For example if there are suddenly a lot of cyclists and not many cars, give the cyclists more time. If there happens to only be 1 cyclist, then it’s best to change for them with minimal waiting time, but you only need to stay green for a very short time so that they can clear the junction. It will require reliable detection of bicycles, which isn’t the norm in this country at the moment, however will make a huge difference.
Finally when there is heavy rain, giving cyclists and pedestrians more time is a great idea, as it means that they’ll get less wet, and be happier cycling. The people in motor vehicles will stay dry, thus can wait a little longer with no detriment.
BBC London News report:
ITV London News report: