Bikescout – the answer to SMIDSY?

Fulton Hogan BikeScout warning system on Hutt Rd cyclepath
Bikescout LED countering SMIDSY at Caltex

A risk that people on bikes encounter every day is SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You). SMIDSY is particularly prevalent on the Hutt Road shared path, usually in the form of a tradie charging out of Placemakers, concentrating their next job rather than the oncoming bike.

Fulton Hogan are keen to address the SMIDSY problem. What’s that, you say? Aren’t Fulton Hogan the people who drive large scale machinery around the countryside with little regard for anything smaller than a 4WD ute? Well, as it happens, they’re quite keen on people on bikes. Managing Director Nick Miller rolled up to CAN Do 2017 (which Fulton Hogan helped to sponsor) and told us about some of the cycling projects they’re involved in, such as the Onehunga Foreshore Bridge, which includes a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. They’re experimenting with fitting a 360 degree camera and side rails to their trucks to help prevent the risk of cyclists going under the vehicle.

To address the SMIDSY problem, Fulton Hogan have teamed up with a Dutch company, Heijmans, who have developed Bikescout, a radar system that detects bicycles and vehicles, and activates LED indicators in the road surface to alert drivers. It’s being trialled on one of the exits from the Caltex station on Hutt Road, so I went along to have a look. At first sight, there isn’t a lot to see.

Fulton Hogan BikeScout warning system on Hutt Rd cyclepath
Radar and LED’s

There’s a tall pole with a couple of small radar detectors on top, and across the entrance, a row of LED lights in solid metal housings, looking like crabs with glowing eyes. But the lights seem to flash brightly and consistently whenever a bike (or a pedestrian) came along the path. In the short time available, I wasn’t sure how far driver behaviour was affected, but I presume that’s part of the evaluation of the trial. The lights would be even more effective in low light conditions, which is when they’re needed. I did wonder whether SMIDSY might become “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You because I was looking at the flashing lights”, but if the lights are arranged properly, the message should be clear.

If the trial is successful, the system might be used in many SMIDSY-prone locations. A possible application might be in Wellington’s notoriously narrow Seatoun and Karori tunnels, where Bike Scout could activate lights to indicate the presence of bikes and the fact that they will be occupying the lane.

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