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‘Motorcycle detection system’ on roads by Easter

Published: 17 February 2009

Updated: 19 November 2014

A new surveillance system designed to track movements of motorcyclists on the roads will be operational by Easter, MCN can reveal.

The technology can tell motorcycles apart from other vehicles, measure their speeds and will be able to read number plates under plans. Data such as the routes taken by individual motorcyclists along with time and date will be collected and kept even if they have committed no offence.

The £100,000 project has prompted civil rights groups to express grave concerns about the potential for invasion of motorcyclists’ privacy.

Speed camera bossed behind the scheme have named it the ‘motorcycle data project’ and the equipment a ‘motorcycle detection system’. 

It will scrutinise movements of motorcyclists in particular and be switched on to coincide with the start of the riding season in April, they say. 

The new surveillance system has been installed on eight routes in Derbyshire by the region’s speed camera partnership, including the popular Cat & Fiddle run on the A54 and A537 near Buxton. 

Under-road sensors already in place will distinguish motorcycles from other vehicles by their weight and width. Speed will be measured by timing their progress between two sensors a short distance apart. The system has been designed to work alongside Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and video cameras.

A spokeswoman for the scheme said knowing where riders were from would allow road safety ads to target key areas, for example through local newspapers.

But Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for the civil rights group Liberty, said: “The road to massive-scale real-time surveillance is paved with good intentions. We understand the safety issues involved but it rings alarm bells that this information may be used for targeted advertising campaigns.

"We have no problem with ANPR being used to locate vehicles whose owners the police firmly suspect of having committed an offence but it shouldn't be used as a tool of mass surveillance.”

The Derby and Derbyshire Road Safety Partnership said the aim was to “gather intelligence” to “prevent motorcycle casualties” through measures such as speed warning signs, extra police patrols and safer roadside barriers.  

Partnership manager Robert Hill said he hoped to add ANPR cameras in order to work out “how these vehicles are travelling around”.

He said there were no plans to use the data for enforcement but admitted it could be used as evidence. “If the police are aware that it’s there then they would want to look at it and then obviously there are issues about whether they would want to use it as evidence,” he added.

Hill said the eight routes had been chosen to target motorcyclists. “The data will be collected on all vehicles equally on those routes. However in terms of the analysis of that data we’re going to pay particular attention to motorcycles,” he said.

“That’s why they’re on those routes. We haven’t got a traffic management issue on those routes with any other vehicles that we’re aware of.

"Why they’ve gone there is because we know there’s a casualty problem with motorcycles on those routes.

“There will be concerns about data collection but ultimately the data we are collecting on this project is around casualty reduction.”

The system has been installed on the:
• A5012 from Cromford to Ivonbrook Quarry
• A621 from Baslow to Owler Bar
• A57 Snake Pass from Glossop outskirts to Nether North Grain
• B5035 from Ashbourne outskirts to Wirksworth
• A515 from Ashbourne to Alsop-en-le-Dale
• A6 Matlock Bath from High Peak Junction to Artist’s Corner
• A54 and A537 Cat & Fiddle run from Buxton to Cat & Fiddle pub
• A5004 Long Hill from Buxton to Fernilee

Maps of all eight routes can be found in a ‘Bikers’ Guide’ printed by the council. Download it here.

MCN first revealed plans for the new surveillance technology last year when a notice appeared in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting technology firms to bid for a contract to provide ‘automatic motorcycle detection equipment and associated services’.

That notice made clear it should be possible for video cameras to be added. It said: ‘The Contract is for the supply of equipment and services in order to accurately detect motorcycles and to facilitate the automatic operation of Variable Message Signs (VMS), Video Data Capture (VDC) and a further potential option of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). A fundamental part of this project is the accurate detection of motorcyclists and the user defined triggering of VMS, VDC and ANPR.’

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