York taxi firm Streamline Taxis has become “the first in the world” to fit the Cycle Alert system to its vehicles.
The system does not detect bicycles or people but detects powered RFID tags, which cost £7.99 (plus £2.50 delivery) each and are limited to two per customer.
The system has had some previous traction in the HGV operator market, but this is believed to be the first time it has been used on small vehicles with no visibility issues. It is somewhat at odds with certain recent moves, such as HSS Hire’s decision to remove cyclist warning stickers from small vehicles.
Cycle Alert said that “for the taxis, the parameters have actually been adjusted so audio will go off inside 1.5 metres”. (The HGV systems are set to 2.5m, a figure arrived at in conjunction with TRL.)
The move raises a number of concerns, around both the requirement for cyclists to pay to be detected (previously described as “protection money”) and the use of the system where there are no visibility issues. There is no clear reason why drivers of a standard car should need such a system, and the expectation of people to buy an £8 tag in order to be noticed, when they are already visible, is deeply worrying.
Cycle Alert assert that the system improves safety for cyclists who do not have the tag, saying that “if a driver is alerted to a cyclist’s presence it is human nature to be more aware of other cyclists”, and also claim that it will be irrelevant in liability claims. They state that they “aim to educate cyclists that they have no place in a blind spot”, although this of course overlooks the numerous ways in which a drive can place a supposed blind spot over a cyclist.
Cycle Alert have support from a number of freight operators and motoring organisations as well as Brake, who see it as part of “asking for mutual respect among road users”, and York Rouleurs cycle club, who say “taking our ‘tag’ out is as routine as putting on a helmet. In fact, many of us have then on our helmets“.