Smart traffic system helps Dutch cyclists navigate green lights

Now, no matter how you choose to get around town – car, bike, moped, or self-balancing electric unicycle – there’s one thing we can all agree on: getting stuck at a red light after the red light after. that the red light stinks. Highligths.

In the bustling Dutch city of Utrecht, a recent study showed that waiting at red lights is the main grievance of cyclists. Shared angst at red lights is not entirely surprising given that Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, lined with canals, has a large population of moving university students (and perhaps a little harassed). Utrecht is also expected to be home to the world’s largest bicycle parking area, a three-level affair with a capacity of 12,500 bikes that sits directly below the city’s main train station, which happens to be the busiest and largest of the Netherlands. (Utrecht has long served as a vital rail hub due to its location right in the center of the country.)

With so many bikes on the road (even for the Netherlands), local innovation studio Springlab set out to design a solution to prevent cyclists from seeing red. And it is rather ingenious.

Called Flo, the system is located along a busy cycle path flanking the Amsterdamsestraatweg, one of Utrecht’s main commercial arteries. Using radar to detect the speed of passing cyclists, the system will ultimately consist of a series of poles – kiosks, in fact – set up along the path, each located 120 meters (about 394 feet) before an upcoming traffic light. traffic. As cyclists approach a Flo unit, the large blue pole flashes an image of a creature that matches how fast they should go to avoid waiting at a red light.

If Flo shows a hare, cyclists must increase their speed to get through the coming traffic light. If it flashes a turtle, cyclists may slow down and slow down a bit, as maintaining their current speed or pedaling even faster can result in encountering a dreaded red light. If Flo shows a cow … well, an impending red light is inevitable, no matter how fast or slow it is. Flo’s only non-animal symbol, a reassuring thumbs-up, means passing cyclists can maintain their current speed without any adjustments – they’ll pass a green a-ok light.

So about this cow ….

“We chose animals because a hare and a turtle are universal symbols for high speed and slow pace,” Springlab’s Jan-Paul de Beer told CityLab. “A cow, however, is a new symbol, as we couldn’t find a playful and widely known symbol to wait on. We chose a cow because when you go on vacation to France, which all Dutch people do, you often find yourself waiting for cows to block the road.

Fair enough.

So far, there is only one Flo kiosk providing “personal speed tips” to cyclists along the Amsterdamsestraatweg, although de Beer tells CityLab more are in the works. In the coming months, Eindhoven, the fifth largest city in the Netherlands, is expected to test the technology. The Belgian city of Antwerp is also planning to try Flo in the near future.

“The number one frustration in the Netherlands is the traffic light,” says de Beer. “There are too many and we have to wait a very long time. It is impossible to stay in the flow when cycling in the city.

While Flo, described by Springlab as the “world’s first personal bicycle traffic light”, is unique in his role of advising passing cyclists how fast – or how fast – they should go to avoid sitting down. at red lights, this is certainly not the first Dutch technology that aims to reduce waiting time at red lights for bicycles.

At the end of 2015, transport officials in Rotterdam, a large city with over 360 miles of cycle lanes, installed the first of what are expected to be many “regenerators” – or rain catchers – at a very busy intersection. frequented downtown. When the sensors detect humidity, the wait time at the red light at the dedicated bicycle traffic lights in the intersection is reduced from three minutes to just 40 seconds. The idea here is to promote cycling in less than ideal weather by making those who are comfortably protected from the elements (read: people who drive cars) and commuters with bicycles wait a little longer.

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