For more transport chat, join our popular Facebook group, Londonist Roundel Ramblings.
Zero-emission buses have a problem. They don't make a sound.
You might think this is a good thing, especially if you have thin walls and live on a main road. And sure, for residents, the prospect of silent transport is appealing. But for other road users it can pose an issue, especially for those who are partially sighted.
They rely on the noise vehicles make, to know when it's safe to cross — which is why there it will be a regulatory requirement for all quiet vehicles to generate some sort of sound from September 2021.
TfL is using the 100 bus to trial their chosen artificial sound — one that's been developed with input from Guide Dogs for the Blind, London Travelwatch and other accessibility groups. It will play from speakers inside the bus in three situations:
- When a bus is stationary at a stop
- When a bus is reversing
- When a bus is moving at under 12mph (anything faster, and the bus will naturally generate enough noise)
The trial begins on the 100, which runs between St Paul's and Shadwell, in January 2020, before moving onto other routes including the C10 and P5 later in the year. The artificial sound will be played at a variety of volumes and feedback will be collected from all other road users to determine what works best for them.
Stephen Edwards, Director of Policy and Communications at Living Streets, said:
Improving local air quality in London is a vital priority and will improve life for everyone, particularly those walking. But as our buses become cleaner and quieter, it is important that pedestrian safety is not compromised.