Q-Free bicycle warning signs show promise in Glasgow

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Q-Free has announced a four-year agreement with the City of Glasgow, Scotland, to supply and install cycle detection equipment and associated services. The agreement includes interactive and customized electronic bicycle-activated warning signs. These highly visible, flashing signs warn drivers that cyclists are approaching a junction or travelling in the cycleway ahead where visibility of the cyclists may be compromised due to street furniture or building lines.

The current agreement to supply additional cycle monitoring equipment and cycle activated signage followed a successful competitive tender process.

Q-Free is leading a transportation industry charge for cycle safety. Its HI-TRAC CMU bicycle and pedestrian monitoring system is well respected for its highly accurate count and detection information. The solution also aligns with the company’s commitment to protecting the environment, featuring unobtrusive controller boxes that can be powered by a single solar panel.

Safety and accessibility

“A key aim for Glasgow City Council’s strategic cycling plan is to create a vibrant city where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all,” says Christine Francis, Glasgow City Council’s head of technical services. “Safety is seen as the main barrier to people cycling more frequently, so improving cyclist safety is a cornerstone of our efforts to promote a shift to more sustainable forms of transportation.”

According to Francis, it was in support of this strategy and their search for innovative solutions to common design issues, that Glasgow City Council began working with Q-Free in 2016. “We worked closely with the Scottish team at Q-Free on an integrated system that gives priority to cyclists at signalized crossings,” she says. “The success of this solution led to further partnership working and idea sharing.”

“Glasgow City Council was the first local authority in the UK to install cycle-activated electronic signage on the road network,” Francis adds. “We have since installed these at a further 16 locations around the city to help improve safety for cyclists.”

The resulting innovative lighted warning system improves cycle and pedestrian safety and helps address Glasgow’s dynamic mobility requirements. Using the HI-TRAC CMU bicycle detection solution as the starting point, the system uses in-road piezo-electric sensors) in both directions from a junction. When the sensors detect a cyclist, they immediately trigger flashing lights on triangular warning signs alerting drivers in all directions to their approach.

The accuracy of cycle detection of the Q-Free equipment was recognized by Glasgow City Council and led to the replacement of Glasgow’s suite of induction loops style cycle counters with Q-Free technology.

Promising results

Initial findings from an early installation at a junction with known issues of vehicle/cycle conflicts showed promise. Incidences of vehicle/cycle conflict reduced from 17% to 8% while the number of vehicles failing to yield to oncoming cyclists reduced from 35% to 22%.

Initially, 16 systems, which could feature as many as three signs and accompanying sensors, are being strategically deployed at different sites throughout the city. The sites were selected based on historical data and the potential to prevent incursions between bikes and other vehicles. As a sign of the solution’s adaptability, systems have even deployed at pedestrian underpasses to warn cyclists to slow down and be cautious of people on foot. The new systems are considerably more driver and traffic engineer friendly as the controller boxes feature low-voltage technology and are fitted to drop-down poles for easy maintenance access.

Timely installation

The installation could not be timelier, or more urgent. A report by the Glasgow Indicators Project, a collaboration between local partners including Glasgow’s City Council, indicates a 111% increase in bicycle trips into and out of the city between 2009 and 2018 representing an average increase of 12% per year.

“Glasgow has truly embraced alternative mobility,” says Colin Reekie, Q-Free UK’s head of business development. “Bicycling has become such a part of the community, as the city center becomes an increasingly attractive place to live, work, and play, and we couldn’t be more excited to help the region protect their most vulnerable road users.”

“We know many communities are risk averse, and in many ways, Glasgow has taken the risk out of the equation,” adds Morten Andersson, Q-Free’s senior executive vice president of traffic management. “We’re confident this solution will make a difference in the lives of Glaswegians and protect cyclists in countless other communities around the globe.”

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Lauren is acting associate editor for Traffic Technology International and freelance journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum two busy little girls. She is always in demand!