VMS: intelligent transport system (ITS) solution for cycling crisis?

A proliferation of horrific media reports of cyclist deaths in UK cities is ensuring that the issue of cyclist safety is one of the highest profile issues currently facing the country’s transport bosses.

Keen to help highways managers promote the safety of cyclists and indeed all road users, intelligent transport system (ITS) solutions provider Mobile Visual Information Systems (MVIS), is championing the potential of temporary variable message signs (VMS).

Temporary VMS can be rapidly deployed to highlight the location of accident hot-spots, warning cyclists and motorists of the need to navigate these areas with extra vigilance. Safety messages can be intermittently featured on temporary VMS, whatever their position and prime function, ensuring that road users everywhere are reminded to cycle and drive with caution. As the country’s network of cycling lanes expands, the temporary signs can also be used to help safely manage traffic around the subsequent roadworks.

MVIS believes that the VMS signs of greatest safety potential are five colour matrix signs, which feature red, green, blue and white in addition to standard amber, as the resulting displays are of particularly high impact and so facilitate rapid road user response.

The intelligent transport system (ITS) company is also an advocate of Chapter 8/MS4 style pictograms, as its experience suggests that conspicuous coloured images are interpreted with particular speed, including foreign road users who are not always able to understand text.

Said the operations director of MVIS, Steve Young, whose intelligent transport system (ITS) company rapidly deploys its five colour matrix signs via a nationwide network of 14 depots:  “Cycling is an increasingly popular mode of transport so  the issue of cyclist safety as well as that of motorists will not go away.

“As MPs and transport bosses across the country consider ways to fund and develop a safer road network, MVIS is promoting to the sector the immediate, flexible and cost-effective potential of the best temporary VMS.

“Not only can they be quickly deployed, but their high impact visuals are spotted by cyclists and motorists and responded to with speed.

“Yes it’s going to take a long time and a lot of money, not to mention a great deal of political will and high-level discussion, before the UK’s road network is as safe as those of some of its European counterparts, but temporary VMS can be used to great effect now to help improve safety in the short term.”

MVIS recently installed 10 VMS-Cs during A-One+’s northbound refurbishment of the A1 western bypass between Newcastle and Gateshead.  Featuring a display that was remotely switched from speed roundels to three colour pictograms in the event of standing traffic, A-one+ credits the VMS with ensuring zero standing-traffic related incidents during their six week installation. When the company undertook an identical project on the southbound carriageway in 2009, using fixed frame signs, there were several such incidents.

MVIS’ product portfolio includes a wide range of intelligent transport system (ITS) solutions in addition to VMS, including ANPR, CCTV and radar and clients include Transport for London, Balfour Beatty, the Metropolitan Police and numerous events organisations.