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.