Transport for London’s (TfL) new Bus Safety Strategy is the latest piece in the jigsaw as the capital works towards its 2041 Vision Zero goal.
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By Craig Thomas
Transport for London has recently published its Bus Safety Strategy, which is part of the Mayor's Vision Zero goal to eliminate death and serious injury from the capital’s transport network, as well as enabling more active travel.
The strategy builds on TfL’s 2016 Bus Safety Programme, which the organisation says has led to the greatest reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured per journey, compared to other road-based modes of transport.
Its figures show that in 2022, fatalities involving London buses had fallen by 61% (compared to a 2005-09 baseline). Serious injuries have also decreased while there was a reduction across all modes of transport on London’s roads.
Updating London’s bus fleet with the latest active safety features is one of the major commitments that TfL make in the strategy. An additional 1,800 buses will be fitted with Intelligent Speed Assistance (which limits bus speeds within a geofenced area), leading to half of London buses being equipped with the technology by 2024, and the majority by 2030.
Another feature, Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB), will be a requirement for all new buses from 2024. The technology uses sensors to warn the driver of the close proximity of other road users, automatically braking if necessary. It will require some changes for use on buses, because of the greater possibility of false positives and the potential risks for unrestrained passengers.
Blind spots have led to fatalities among vulnerable road users on London’s streets, so TfL is in the process of rolling out digital mirrors or Camera Monitor Systems (CMS). Extended blind-spot mirrors have been required by TfL on new vehicles since 2019, but CMS have also been installed on new buses since 2021.
As London’s bus fleet is increasingly powered by electricity or hydrogen, TfL is also developing a unique sound for buses, designed to alert pedestrians and cyclists in the absence of engine noise. It is working with a musician to create a sound that will only be used by buses, so Londoners get to recognise it.
Pedal-application error – where a driver presses the accelerator instead of the brake – is reportedly rare on London buses, but TfL has committed to commissioning research into measures to avoid and mitigate any potential risks from the phenomenon.
After research into the contributory factors of driver fatigue, TfL will be trialling fatigue detection technologies on up to 450 buses over a 12-18-month period.
As bus occupants account for 17% of fatalities and serious injuries involving buses, TfL is implementing a ‘strategic data-led approach’ to examine changes that will reduce passenger injuries. It is also rolling out a series of interior features, such as bevelled edges on the stairs, non-slip flooring and foam protection bars, to increase passenger safety.
TfL is also working closely with the London Fire Brigade and other agencies to identify new measures to tackle risks posed by bus fires.
Taken in their entirety, these measures should make a real contribution to systematically making bus transport safer for everyone on London’s roads.
CIHT is the host of the Bus Centre of Excellence – find out more about their work, join them as a member and register for updates.
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