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UK city launches ‘smart junctions’ that prioritize cyclists and pedestrians

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Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has announced the rollout of 20 ‘smart junctions’ across the city. They use sensors to detect the type of road user at junctions and allow different modes of transport to be given priority.

Developed in collaboration with AI firm Vivacity Labs, the scheme aims to accommodate and promote the use of active travel modes such as cycling and walking, which have become an increased priority for UK cities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project first went live earlier this year, but is now being scaled up to cover 20 junctions in Manchester by the end of 2021.

Speaking after its launch, the UK’s Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “Smart traffic technology is just one of the many ground-breaking areas the government is funding to pioneer new ways for artificial intelligence and 5G to transform our lives for the better. We’re backing this initiative in (Greater) Manchester to improve the city’s transport, reduce journey times, and cut pollution.”

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The rollout comes as part of a three-year Innovate UK co-funded program to use AI to optimize traffic networks, and the project secured additional investment to expand throughout the trial region via the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport’s 5G Create fund, announced in July 2020.

“Since the pandemic, commuter trends and traffic hotspots have changed completely, and cities need AI to help protect people no matter what mode of transport they take,” said Mark Nicholson, CEO of Vivacity Labs. “Our vision is to help cities implement critical policies addressing safety, air quality, sustainable travel, and congestion, at a hyper-local level.”

In October, the ‘smart junction’ was named winner of the Innovative Use of Technology award at the 2020 Intelligent Transport Systems, ITS (UK) Awards.

Bee Network

The ‘smart junction’ is the latest innovation adopted by TfGM, which wants to transform active travel through its Bee Network, a 2,896-kilometre joined-up walking and cycling matrix connecting communities across the city-region.

In October the network received an additional £11.8 million (US$15.6 million) from the Mayor’s Challenge Fund to progress five cycling and walking schemes in Manchester, Salford, and Stockport.

On completion, the Bee Network will be the UK’s largest connected cycling and walking network and aims to provide “a genuine alternative” to driving.

In July, TfGM launched the UK‘s first CYCLOPS (Cycle Optimised Protected Signals) junction, designed to separate pedestrians and cyclists from traffic, reducing the possibility of collisions or conflict.

The junction, which fully segregates cyclists from general traffic, sees bicycles approach from four ‘arms’, converging onto a cycle track which completely encircles the junction, allowing bikes to make a right turn while being protected from traffic, and to complete the maneuver in one movement (dependent on signal timings).

This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

 



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Published November 18, 2020 — 10:58 UTC