London buses to have sensors in bid to cut cyclist and pedestrian deaths

London's buses are to be fitted with sensors in a road safety trial intended to reduce the number of collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

Starting in May, a dozen buses on a variety of inner and outer-London routes will be fitted with the latest kit, which alerts the driver to anyone coming too close to the vehicle.

The potentially life-saving devices will employ a version of the parking sensors used on cars, along with a new generation of CCTV monitors that pick out vulnerable road-users and filter out street furniture, to aid the bus driver. Transport for London says it is blazing a trail in bus sensor technology and has asked leading manufacturers to come forward with designs.

The safety of pedestrians will be a particular focus of the trial as they accounted for 69 out of the 134 deaths on London’s roads in 2012, compared with 14 cyclist deaths.

Among those expected to bid are specialists Cycle Eye in partnership with Bristol University.

Potentially, all 8,500 TfL-run buses could be fitted with the kit, although it is more likely to be tailored to particular routes in inner London.

Mike Weston, TfL’s director of London buses, said: “Clearly the aim is to reduce the number of collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists and we want to see how technology can help bus drivers who operate in a very busy environment.”

Mr Weston said previous trials had rejected early versions of CCTV because of the “white noise” it picked up, such as roadside railings and traffic lights. TfL explored fitting radar-emitting tags to bikes to alert bus drivers but this was dismissed as impractical.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Mayor is doing what is within his control and we welcome that. He is also supporting moves in Europe to improve safety features on HGVs.  We would call on the Government to back these reforms, which they currently oppose as being bad for business enterprise.”

Opponents of London Mayor Boris Johnson claim he has not done enough to address pedestrian safety, unlike previous incumbent Ken Livingstone.    

The Mayor today published his Pedestrian Safety Action Plan, which includes a pledge to reduce by 40 per cent the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads by 2020.

By 2016, TfL will double the number of pedestrian crossings operating a countdown system from about 200 to more than 400. 

Mr Johnson said: “We’ve made some great strides in improving road safety in recent years, and although things are moving in the right direction there is still much to be done.”