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UK firm plans trials of RFID-based cycle safety system

London company Cycle Alert has developed an eponymous technology aimed at reducing injuries and fatalities to cyclists.

Cycle Alert consists of three components, namely a sensor fitted to a bicycle, a sensor fitted to a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) or bus, and a dashboard receiver. In use, the three components communicate to notify a driver when a cyclist is in close proximity.

Company co-founder Peter Le Masurier told The Engineer that the active RFID system has a range of up to 100m, depending on street furniture and environment.

‘We have set the detection zone around a vehicle to 2.5m,’ he said via email. ‘A warning light on the cab unit illuminates to notify the driver there is a cyclist somewhere in range and then when a cyclist enters the zone the alert goes off on the cab unit and announces “cyclist” together with a light display to indicate where in relation to the vehicle the cyclist is present.’  

He added that the cycle tag uses a small watch battery that is motion activated and will last around 18 months with standard commuting.  The vehicle sensors are powered by a lithium battery, with the cab unit hard wired into the vehicle’s electronics.  

‘There is an activation sequence where the vehicle may be swapping trailers or the driver wants to check all is working,’ Le Masurier said.

Side sensors are screwed onto the vehicle, with a bus installation taking around 30 minutes and HGVs taking approximately 45 minutes. 

In terms of financial cost, Le Masurier said HGV packs start at £400. ‘The cycle unit will be offered for free for a while and subsidised through various schemes, but will eventually retail [for] circa £19.99.’

Additionally, the company has also developed Operative Alert, a sister product designed to be used on construction sites that have been set to a detection zone of 10m.  Le Masurier added that zones can be changed for specific projects.    

On April 24, 2014, Transport for London announced it is funding a project that will independently test blind spot safety technology that can be fitted to HGVs to help reduce the risk of collisions with HGVs, pedestrians and cyclists.

In a statement, TfL said it aims to reduce by 40 per cent the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads by 2020.  

The new safety initiative, building on TfL’s work into Construction Logistics and Cyclists’ Safety, will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory.  The project will evaluate the effectiveness of the full range of blind spot safety technology in spotting pedestrians and cyclists and includes camera monitoring systems, optical and radar detection systems and other sensors fitted to HGVs.

Le Masurier said Cycle Alert has commissioned market research by Grant Thornton, which concluded technology advances such as Cycle Alert are likely to get good support from the industry.

He said: ‘My own experience so far persuades me that there is a huge willingness from operators to look at this type of technology.  The likes of Eddie Stobart, Keltbray, Murphys, Transdev buses, Lend Lease to name a few are all early supporters.  

‘Reaching critical mass is our mission.  We have already established live trials in York with York City Council, Transdev Buses and the University of York.   Since December this has grown as more fleet operators want to become involved and more cycling retailers want to stock the product.   The University has distributed 500 tags to students and the local bus company has fitted to buses.  One of York’s largest employers and a large fleet operator is now coming on board. ‘

Trials of Cycle Alert across London are planned from May 2014. 

Readers' comments (18)

  • Really really bad idea. The onus on safety needs to be on the driver, not the cyclist.
    What happens when someone who hasn't got an RFID fitted is in a danger area and the driver is relying on the system?
    The driver can just blame the victim.

    Should pedestrians be fitted with RFIDs to avoid traffic? If not, why not?

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  • We asked Peter Le Masurier, co-founder of Cycle Alert to look at the comments posted since the article was published. This is his response:

    ‘Most of these comments focus (unknowingly) on a single theme, namely education. Cycle Alert is a door opening device for education. The fact a cyclist has to buy into this system means they are taking some responsibility for their actions and allows us to communicate with them and educate them towards safer road use, ditto drivers. Cycle Alert would never say use our product and then cycle down the inside of a vehicle. On the contrary, we can advise and educate road users towards a safer environment for all and increase mutual respect between road users. Innovation allows us to do this, doing nothing saves no one.

    ‘The comments that ask what about the cyclists who don’t have it are asking the wrong question. The right question is what about the cyclists who do have it, that one cyclist that perhaps get’s missed. The technology makes non-tagged cyclists no more vulnerable than they are at present, but does have the capacity to make those with a tag safer. By educating a proportion of cyclists we also make the environment safer for other cyclists and road users in general.

    ‘It is always encouraging to hear so many cyclists and drivers saying they are safe and have no need for such a device. Sadly, the statistics for fatalities and serious injuries do not support the opinion of the commentators.’

  • Hilarous potential for mischeif with this idea.
    Personally I think I'll be getting as many of these RFIDs as I can find, and surreptiously glueing them to the side of HGVs.

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  • As a cyclist, just stay away from HGV. There is nothing to be gained from overtaking or undertaking a hgv besides the curb. Either wait or take the pavement. At night, in rain, fog, dusk, dawn, smog, blizzard, always use enough light and still assume drivers don't pay attention.

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  • Cyclists should take far more responsibility for their own safety.
    An HGV is very hard to miss seeing, unlike a cyclist who should stop trying to pass everything on the kerbside and should wait his/her turn
    I would refuse to take any blame if I. unfortunately hit a cyclist with no proper lighting or reflective clothing cutting across my path illegally (stupidly?)
    And I've seen plenty of them...

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  • Easy to say 'stay away from HGVs' but they don't stay away from you.

    Waiting at lights and one comes up behind you ?

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  • Seems like a one sided solution (potentially) it puts the onus to avoid any irresponsible cyclist on the driver who has to have more equipment and time to monitor it. Along with everything else.

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  • Excellent idea. As a cyclist and driver, I cannot see a down side.
    Cars could have similar fitted as standard which would bring the cost down.

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  • As a cyclist, motorcyclist and car driver I keep clear of HGVs - only this morning for the umpteenth time a lorry charged onto the roundabout I was negotiating right in front of me causing me to brake hard - luckily I was half expecting it. Lorry drivers don't seem to think that they have to give way to traffic on roundabouts.

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  • @ ananymous number 1.

    You have got it completely wrong. The onus is on both.

    If a lunatic cyclist is overtaking on the left it is hardly surprising that they get hit by a lorry

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  • This relies on 100% take-up and 100% functionality- which is not practicable. You only have to consider the number of HGVs with disconnected Tachographs to see how many drivers disregard the safety of all other road users so they would disregard this as well..

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