FAQ – Fleet Operators, HGV Drivers and Cyclists
Cycle Alert tries to keep the FAQs on the following pages up-to-date, but if you need any further updates or would like to submit a question to the team, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As you are clearly an organisation interested in safer cycling, I would love to know what you think the main measures to prevent cyclist deaths should be – e.g. compulsory training for HGV drivers, a compulsory test for cyclists, registration plates for cyclists, banning HGVs from city centres?
Reducing fatalities, injuries and generally making the road a safer environment for all is our aim, which is the same as The Times Fit for Cycling, Roadpeace, the LCC and all the other campaign groups – we all strive for the same thing. Whilst there are a number of measures required to improve cycle safety (see the Times Manifesto), we believe that technology can have an immediate impact before longer-term measures can be put in place.
Here at Cycle Alert, our main message is that cyclist deaths are not inevitable and are preventable.
We believe technology such as ours should be mandatory. Boris Johnson has previously said that he would lobby for the mandatory use of cyclist detection equipment and review current HGV exemptions. It is tech developers and innovators that will make the most difference to road safety, and Cycle Alert believes that more money should be spent on researching and developing this type of 2nd Generation technology.
You will of course be aware that The Times Cities Fit for Cycling manifesto states at item number one – fit sensors to detect cyclists to lorries. The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London says ‘.., no lorry should be allowed in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists…’ It sees such equipment as including sensors on lorries to detect cyclists and Britain’s largest cycling organisation, the CTC, states its official view is that lorries should be fitted with sensors.
While government at both a national and localised level is being pro-active in its pursuit of better road design and safer cycling infrastructure, one cannot deny that the major overhaul of whole road systems – as is required in many danger spots – is a mammoth task likely to take many years to complete. The infrastructure debate will roll on for many years to come: we cannot afford to be ambivalent in actioning solutions now.
Continued rhetoric costs lives and immediate action is required; for us that means embracing technology and actually fitting it to vehicles. At the moment it seems like more cyclists must die before there is the political will to make the use of tech innovations compulsory. And that’s sad, it’s frustrating.
Indeed, the use of cycle specific sensory detection systems, such as the Cycle Alert system could easily be implemented and made mandatory for commercial vehicles in our cities. No-one can say for certain it would have saved the lives of those lost in this month’s recent tragedies, but it would have given them all a better chance than the rhetoric that is currently on offer.
We believe that the further legislative prerequisite can extend its reach over vehicles to fit side-guards and low skirts, the better, and we champion their use on large vehicles. Research has shown that HGVs without side-guards are involved in a disproportionately large number of fatal collisions with cyclists, especially considering the very small number of HGVs without them. .
All too often the response to solving the problem of driver blind-spots seems to be to fit more mirrors. More mirrors, more video-cameras, more visual stimulus for the driver which – for all its good intentions – can actually be to the driver’s detriment. Finding the equilibrium between fitting an HGV with an adequate number of mirrors to protect both the driver and the vulnerable road-user, and creating driver ‘overload’ is still a work-in-progress: we cannot afford a “trial-by-error” approach to safety, going forward. Whilst there is as yet no proven formula for the amount and location of mirrors to ensure maximum vehicle safety, additional safety measures such as increased cyclist education via “Exchanging Places” programs – which are run throughout the year with the Met Police and with which we support – must be put in place.
All safety devices are only useful up to a point. Paramount to improved cycle safety is the long-term resolutions of education, re-education, application and improved road infrastructure for all. But this is not to say that technology such as RFID does not have its place in providing immediate short-term assistance to the problem of large vehicles having to share the road with vulnerable road-users. Infact, The driver trainers we have spoken with have expressed to us that they see Cycle Alert as a tool they can use to promote greater awareness and education when teaching HGV drivers. They see it – just as we do – as a door-opening device for education that will make them more aware of cyclists.
Driver training such as Stobarts is very good, the FORS scheme is good – we would like to see all driving tests covering a larger section on driving with cyclists.
By the same token, Cycle Alert believes that Bikeablility should be part of the curriculum for all children.
In terms of how Cycle Alert levers this educational gateway, we run some of our own awareness schemes in association with West Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership. Long-term we hope to continue to heavily engage with the Met Exchanging Places programme, whilst we develop courses and programs that see drivers taking cycling lessons and vice versa in local community situations.
It is common ground that the principal barrier to greater cycling participation is Safety. The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London states ‘…fear of injury is the number one reason why Londoners do not cycle…’ Our own market research confirms this and as a famous cyclist mentioned to us raising the “perceived feeling of safety” is the number one goal to encourage more and better cycling within the UK. Through an educational product such as Cycle Alert we can not only reduce risk of injury, but we can raise that level of feeling safe, which will increase cycling for the good of all.
Many trucks are already fitted with cameras or sensor systems, why will Cycle Alert be better?
The issue with existing systems is that none of them specifically recognise bicycles. They have sensors fitted only to the truck, and detect any items in the vicinity – railings and lampposts, for instance. This more regular pick up of information becomes ‘white noise’ to drivers, so when more vulnerable road users such as cyclists are picked up, they can be less likely to take notice.
Systems already on the market include proximity sensors and video options. The primary problem with these is that they aren’t cycle specific.
Other weaknesses include the fact that often proximity sensors are hard wired and are sensitive as they respond to metal in the vicinity, e.g. railings, the driver’s attention can be dulled by the ‘white noise’ of so much irrelevant feedback from the sensors. We were recently alarmed at reports from drivers that their sensors would go off during heavy rain.
Crucially, they are only activated when the left hand indicator is used, so are useless the rest of the time.
Much is made of the dangers of driving up the left-hand side of a large vehicle that it is often easy to forget that trucks are a danger to those cyclists on their right side at junctions too. Indeed, many people cavalierly advise to travel on the right-hand side of vehicles with the allusion that this is a fail-safe way to ride.
In fact, most sensory systems that are on the market completely bypass facilitating warnings to the driver about possible dangers on the right and front side of the vehicle altogether. Proximity sensors that are currently in circulation are usually only fitted to the left-hand wheel arch.
Cycle Alert provides a sensory system that is built to operate all the way around the vehicle. Indeed cyclist Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, whose inquest into her death was concluded along with that of cyclist Brian Dowling last month, was killed in front of the vehicle.
CCTV video is good for parking, tackling theft, giving evidence in insurance claims and accident reports, but aren’t really useful for identifying cyclists, as drivers are unlikely to be watching them all the time.
Cycle Alert is designed to work with cyclists by allowing them to use their tag to transmit their presence directly to the driver’s cab/dashboard. The system gives an auditory warning, as well as information on where the cyclist is in relation to the vehicle.
How many of 1-2 million bikes in London need to fit a tag before a lorry driver can be sure he’ll not put a cyclist in danger?
Our independent survery shows that 50% of the market is our critical mass figure – which is wholly achievable – and both drivers and cyclists would feel safer if they thought the respective party was 50% of the market. Our ambition is to have RFID technology fitted at manufacturer level on both cycles and HGVs, which we are already discussing with our manufacturers of vehicles and cycles alike.
Results of the survey we commissioned of 4000 people show that 87% of respondents said they would consider buying Cycle Alert and 91% said they would consider buying it for a friend.
Not every one will have one, people still choose not to wear a helmet and people will still cycle and drive irresponsibly, but our mission through Cycle Alert is to generate an increase in education for all road users (a shared goal) and thus greater safety.
Vehicles will always present a danger to cyclists by their very nature and we have never said our system will completely eradicate this danger.
What happens if drivers begin to rely on a system that only shows a minority of cyclists?
There is no evidence to suggest this and of all the driver trainers we have spoke to, they have all been in agreement that Cycle Alert will make them more aware of cyclists. Drivers still have mirrors and a number of other safety devices, and all drivers whose vehicles are equipped with Cycle Alert will know that not all cyclists on the road will have tags. It is part of the solution and will raise awareness of cyclists to drivers and improve education of drivers and cyclists alike. We are not saying this is the only system drivers will use but it is the only system that will detect a cyclist who has the Cycle Alert Tag.
Currently HGV drivers have a number of safety equipment devices at their disposal, but none that detects just cyclists. Cycle Alert compliments the other safety equipment a driver has available without overloading them with information. The way Cycle Alert communicates is quick and non-distracting enabling the driver to keep their eyes on the road and their mirrors. Cycle Alert in no way replaces mirrors, it compliments them.
Drivers and driver trainers are consistent in their opinion that a device that tells them ‘there is a cyclist’ will make them more aware of cyclists, not less. To suggest otherwise is unfair on HGV drivers who are on the whole very well trained professionals.
If a driver is alerted to a cyclist’s presence it is human nature to be more aware of other cyclists. The result; two less vulnerable cyclists, risk reduced, lives saved.
Even if the system notifies a driver to the presence of one cyclist, how will they know about any other bikes without tags in the immediate area?
We have never said this system replaces the current safety measures in place for drivers. Quite the opposite! If a cyclist doesn’t have a tag and the driver has been notified of one cyclist that does, the driver is already more aware of cyclists and ought to be looking in mirrors and following their training.
Through our product we aim to educate cyclists that they have no place in a blind spot in any event so we hope to potentially save lives and reduce injury through having a system that will alert a driver, educate them and cyclists alike. Indeed, the commercial industry likes our product as it places an element of responsibility on both parties.
If the alarm goes off at a three junctions in a row and is silent on the fourth, should a driver assume there are no bikes in the immediate vicinity?
If the light is on there is a cyclist there! We would never advise a driver that he should assume any such thing.
How does a driver know it is working?
The Cycle Alert tag has a green flashing light (not distracting) that indicates the unit is working and the battery is ok. Think smoke alarm. If the light turns to red then the battery is flat or the product is not working. Likewise the driver will be notified if the vehicle system is not detecting upon turning on the ignition, whereupon the cab unit will give an audio alert to advise of the sensors are all working.
The responsibility is of course on cyclist and driver alike to check their systems are working. This would become part of the drivers daily checks. Lorries will have signs indicating that their vehicles are fitted with Cycle Alert. A driver will know if the cyclist unit is working because the light will come on and he will be told there is a cyclist present.
Will cyclists with the device fitted assume that it’s safe to go up the left side of any lorry?
Why on earth would they think this?! Our message is very clear and follows all common advice about sensible cycling. We would most certainly never advise to do this or even imply that it safe to do so. Our goal is to educate.
We have had criticism in the past from a campaigns officer within the LCC during our product’s prototype phase, but as stated, this was during the first prototype phase and attitudes will no doubt have moved on; we would always welcome the opportunity to survey the members of LCC and get a fairer and more varied range of feedback.
Innovation is needed for safety to improve, Cycle Alert simply cannot be disregarded simply because one person has doubts about the product. In all our testing, trials, market research and general feedback from the varied cross-section of people we speak to the majority of feedback has been positive. That is not to say it is all positive, but as we all know cycle safety is a contentious issue and we welcome debate and discussion of how the these industries can keep working together to improve safety for cyclists on our roads. We cannot re-iterate enough, the fact that we are all working towards the same cause: making cycling safer.
There exist a few red herring points that are sometimes mentioned by naysayers, namely, everyone will have to have a tag for it to be effective, though this is not accepted as a plausible argument by the majority of people who would like to see the system more widely rolled out. Yes, critical mass needs to be reached, but by educating a large section of the cycling and driving public we can effect change and make transportation safer. Our product is an educational tool and we have so moved on from callow objections such as everyone must have it fitted.
This touches on another red herring point, namely that drivers could become too reliant on the system. Again, ask the actual drivers and examine what is happening in a cab and the answer is simple: it makes drivers more aware of cyclists (it educates). It is an educational tool and safety system that complements all the other regulatory safety systems in the cab. It is not a replacement. The more times the driver sees a cyclist on his Cycle Alert screen when perhaps he hasn’t seen them in the mirror, the more vigilant he will be, the more precaution he will take, the more he will learn.
All in all, the fact remains that we have a fantastic supporter base that consists of a cross-section of drivers, cyclists, road safety experts, technology experts and fleet operators who recognise the aptitude of the product and it is with this support that we continue to grow.
Is it on sale yet? Who embraces the idea?
We have a wide range of supporters from Eddie Stobart to the largest cycling retailers in the country, manufacturers of LGV and specialist industry sales. You can claim a Cycle Alert tag free online, or receive one free of charge when you visit one of the Met Police’s Exchanging Places events.
We recognise that buy in is essential if Cycle Alert is to have an impact on road safety. Cycle Alert is new and its fruition will undoubtedly lead to greater improvements and increased development in vehicle and cycle safety. Without such innovation there will be no improvement. Indeed, leaders in the construction industry responsible for raising standards in cycle safety call our product Second Generation technology, which is already pushing further development in safety processes.
I have heard that most trucks are already tted with cameras or systems, why will Cycle Alert be better?
The issue with existing systems is that none of them specifically recognise bicycles. They have sensors fitted only to the truck, and detect any items in the vicinity – railings for instance. This more regular pick up of information becomes ‘white noise’ to drivers, so when more vulnerable road users such as cyclists are picked up, they can be less likely to take notice.
Systems already on the market include proximity sensors and video options. The primary problem with these is that they aren’t cycle specific. Cycle Alert is designed to work with cyclists by allowing them to use their RFID tags to transmit their presence directly to the driver’s cab/dashboard.
How do we know if vehicles are fitted with Cycle Alert?
All vehicles that are fitted with Cycle Alert will be clearly fitted with Cycle Alert signage on the rear. However we always advise to cycle with vigilance and always act as if the driver of a vehicle has not seen you.
How can you guarantee the take up of Cycle Alert amongst both cyclists and drivers?
We recognise that buy-in is essential if Cycle Alert is to have an impact on road safety. Having already had buy-in from some of the biggest names in the industry – including Eddie Stobart, Keltbray, Vodafone, Transdev and Thompsons – we expect other visionary operators to follow suit.
We believe that our concept of getting both cyclists and LGV drivers to take ownership of their own road safety is innovative and will prove attractive.
If you are London based you will have no doubt noticed Crossrail being constructed. Crossrail is leading the way on road safety by insisting that LGV operators used by its contractors fit their vehicles with safety equipment to detect vulnerable road users. We are confident that other big schemes will follow, and that cyclists will buy in to the Cycle Alert system when they realise how many drivers are fitting this equipment. It’s a case of cooperation from both sides, and so far the support is there.
Where can I buy it?
Cycle Alert for cyclists is available free online from cyclealert.com and available from retailers nationally.
Your system requires take up by both fleet operators and cyclists?
The issue with existing systems is that none of them specifically recognise bicycles. They have sensors fitted only to the truck, and detect any items in the vicinity – railings for instance. This more regular pick up of information becomes ‘white noise’ to drivers, so when more vulnerable road users such as cyclists are picked up, they can be less likely to notice.
We recognise that buy-in is essential if Cycle Alert is to have an impact on road safety, and having had buy-in from some of the biggest names in the industry – including Eddie Stobart, Keltbray, Vodafone, and Transdev – we expect other visionary operators to follow suit. Our concept of getting both cyclists and drivers to take ownership of their own road safety is innovative and attractive to those in the commercial vehicle industry and cycling retailers alike.
Crossrail is leading the way on road safety, by insisting that operators used by its contractors fit their vehicles with safety equipment to detect vulnerable road users.
We are confident that other big schemes will follow, and that cyclists will buy in to Cycle Alert when they realise how many drivers are fitting this equipment. It’s a case of cooperation from both sides, and so far the support is there.
Systems already on the market include proximity sensors and video options. The primary problem with these is that they aren’t cycle specific. Other weaknesses include:
Proximity sensors – Hard wired
These respond to anything metal in the vicinity e.g. railings, lamp-posts, etc, and the driver’s attention can be dulled by the ‘white noise’ of so much irrelevant feedback from the sensors.
Activated when the left-hand indicator is used, so are useless the rest of the time.
More often than not, they are only situated on the left-hand wheel arch (normally), so wouldn’t pick up cyclists in other positions.
Water ingress is also a major problem. As the proximity sensor market has grown, the product price and quality have come down in what is very much a case of buy cheap, buy 3 or 4 times. It is worth noting that these were originally designed to go onto cars, not large vehicles that require a far more robust product.
Cycle Alert sensors are ultrasonically welded so ingress is impossible and their 10-year life-span means they will in most instances outlive the operational vehicle
Good for parking, tackling theft, giving evidence in insurance claims and accident reports, but aren’t really useful for identifying cyclists, as drivers are unlikely to be watching them all the time. Besides which, should drivers really be encouraged to watch a TV screen whilst driving?!
Cycle Alert gives a auditory warning, as well as information on where the cyclist is in relation to the vehicle.
Radar is being developed to detect all vulnerable road users. Currently, such technology is prohibitively expensive to purchase, to fit and to maintain. It is hard-wired and simply put, has far more false alarms and far more to go wrong.
Cycle Alert: it’s user-friendly, it’s available now, and has the added benefit of requiring the cyclist to undertake some responsibility too. In this way it provides us with an opportunity to communicate with both cyclist and driver and educate both towards a better position of mutual respect.
How much does Cycle Alert cost?
Cycle Alert tags are free for adopters in London and York, where we are currently operating. Our list price of a vehicle starts at £399, with fleet discounts being available.
Is this a realistic sum for a fleet operator given the poor margins that road hauliers make in a year and the relatively low cost of other electronic devices?
Consider this cost against the huge cost of an accident, both financially and emotionally.
There is also the likelihood that as this scheme gains momentum, (a) insurance premiums will be driven down and (b) it’ll be cheaper to comply with contractors’ regulations, for example Crossrail.
Do you expect discounted insurance premiums for trucks fitted with Cycle Alert?
Any fleet operator who can show their insurer that they have taken a pro-active approach to reducing their exposure to claims arising from one of their vehicles being involved in a collision with a cyclist, will be in a stronger position when negotiating their annual premium, than an operator who hasn’t.
We have been speaking with insurers and whilst they are normally reactive rather than proactive to market, fewer accidents as a result of safety equipment fitted means less claims, cheaper premiums, or at least no increase in premiums.
Wouldn’t you be better off campaigning for Cycle Alert to be a mandatory truck fitment – say in the LEZ (low emission zone)?
We believe it is better to encourage cyclists and fleet operators to adopt Cycle Alert voluntarily, based on the clear road-safety and accident prevention benefits of the system to both parties.
Does the installation of Cycle Alert impact on the vehicle warranty?
We don’t think so. There is no incursion into the electrical system, other than a power feed to the dashboard unit and the individual sensors require two tiny holes each in the mudguards. We are not drilling into chassis or into the integrity of the vehicle.
What will be the tipping point to success for Cycle Alert? How many fleet operators, trucks and/or cyclists will have to be equipped for you to claim it’s a real necessity?
Saving the life of one cyclist for us is the sign that the technology was a necessity.
How long does it take to fit Cycle Alert to a truck?
It takes approximately 30 minutes to fit a bus/coach and 40 minutes to fit a truck.
I run my own workshops as part of my road haulage operation. Can I fit Cycle Alert myself?
Yes. Only one wire in the cab that connects to 12 or 24 volt supply is required. All other fittings are simple screws.
How exactly does Cycle Alert warn an LGV or PSV driver that a cyclist is in close proximity to their vehicle?
It warns the driver with both audio and visual signals. The word ‘cyclist’ is audible and a series of lights on the cab unit demonstrate where in relation to the vehicle the bike is.
Can Cycle Alert be fitted to any truck or passenger service vehicle?
Yes and can be fitted inside glass.
Can Cycle Alert be easily removed from one vehicle and re-fitted to another – for example if I want to sell a vehicle with Cycle Alert already fitted to it?
Can the Cycle Alert display screen be fitted anywhere in the cab of a truck, coach or bus?
Yes, but obviously it needs to be positioned so the driver can easily see the visual signals.
I run a fleet of panel vans. Can you fit Cycle Alert to light commercial vehicles?
Can the driver turn it off?
No, the cab unit automatically switches on when the ignition is turned on.
Can it detect motorcyclists?
Not yet, but this is something we are currently working on and are trialing. Modified tags that are built for motorcyclists, will continue to work in tandem with the Cycle Alert unit you already have in place ie there will be no need to make modifications to the cab-unit/sensors on your vehicle.
What happens if drivers begin to rely on a system that only shows a minority of cyclists?
There is no evidence to suggest this. Indeed, out trial research to date shows that Cycle Alert has made drivers more aware of cyclists. Indeed, our trial research to date shows that Cycle Alert has made drivers more aware of cyclists.
Currently drivers have a number of safety equipment devices at their disposal, but none that detects just cyclists. Cycle Alert compliments the other safety equipment a driver has available without overloading them with information. The way Cycle Alert communicates is quick and non-distracting enabling the driver to keep their eyes on the road and their mirrors. Cycle Alert in no way replaces mirrors (in the way that some video system attempt – and fail – to do), it compliments them.
Drivers and driver trainers are consistent in their opinion that a device that tells them ‘there is a cyclist’ will make them more aware of cyclists, not less. To suggest otherwise is unfair on LGV drivers who are on the whole very well trained professionals.
If a driver is alerted to a cyclist’s presence it is human nature to be more aware of other cyclists. The result; two less vulnerable cyclists, risk reduced, lives saved.
I receive concern from cyclists that Cycle Alert might somewhere along the line put the onus on cyclists. i.e. Truck is fitted with Cycle Alert, the cyclist isn’t, therefore it’s the cyclist’s fault if they’re involved in a collision with said truck.
Liability for a collision is based upon establishing a negligent act or fault. The negligence is established based upon what caused the accident/collision. The fitting or otherwise of Cycle Alert is of no relevance. Put simply, a collision between a truck and cyclist would come down to human error and liability could not be avoided by reference to an item of equipment.
I think the same argument could be used with regard to a truck using an audible warning alarm; “my vehicle warned the cyclist I was turning left, it’s cyclist’s fault if involved in a collision”.
Again, an assessment of the evidence would establish “causation”. If a lorry is indicating left and a cyclist filters up the nearside, they are placing themselves in a position of danger. If there is an audible warning that alerts the cyclist to the left turn and the cyclist ignores the indication and audible warning, then the cyclist may well be the author of his own misfortune. The lorry driver cannot turn left unless he is satisfied it is clear to do so. Liability in such cases is often split but each case must be assessed on its own merits.
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