‘Cyclist detection system’ installed on O’Connor at Waverley

Safer Roads Ottawa and the Ottawa Police have partnered with a Stittsville tech start-up, called SmartCone Technologies, to install a new “cyclist detection system” on O’Connor Street at Waverley.

The prototype technology is aimed at making the bi-direction bike lane safer for cyclists, by alerting motorists that a cyclist is approaching the intersection.

Rob Wilkinson, Coordinator with Safer Roads Ottawa, tells CFRA’s News and Views with Rob Snow how the system works.

“We’re using thermal cameras that are pole-mounted on the hydro poles on the north and south side of the intersection,” he says. “What we’re doing is detecting cyclists as they approach the intersection. The cameras communicate with a computer and the computer communicates with a series of nine lights on either side of the intersection as well as a light above the ‘yield to cyclists’ sign at Waverley.”

The idea is that the extra warning lights will give drivers another warning sign that a bicycle is approaching, before they turn to cross the bike lane.

There have been some collisions at that intersection since the bike lanes opened including one just hours after the City officially opened the lanes. The primary issue has been between cyclists and drivers turning left onto Waverley.

Wilkinson says drivers have told him they sometimes don’t see an approaching cyclist until they start to turn, because of the bi-directional nature of the lanes.

“When they looked to make their turn, they didn’t see anybody. They did their additional check and all of a sudden there was a cyclist next to them,” he says. “This is going to give them that extra level of awareness.”

Wilkinson says they lights will be up for 30 days, at which point they’ll collect and analyze the data.

He says he’s aware of the possibility of the lights potentially being another distraction for drivers. That will all be part of the analysis after the 30 day test is over.

“That’ll certainly be something we take into consideration,” Wilkinson says. “We’re well aware and sensitive to the idea of overloading drivers. We felt, in this particular location though, there was a good amount of signs, but not too much, and that putting these nine lights in will heighten the awareness of the driver.”

Wilkinson says the ultimate message – to all road users – is to be “hypervigilant” when you’re making turns or going through the intersection.

“Really pay attention, check those blind spots repeatedly, and then go through at an appropriate speed,” he says. “That goes for both sides. We want cyclists to always be aware people may not have seen them and to ride defensively.”