08 December 2009

LED Lane Lights for Cyclists and Motorists

The City of Copenhagen has implemented LED lights in four locations aimed at reducing the risk of right turn collisons between cars/trucks and cyclists.

Copenhagenize Consulting produced this info film for the City to use and figured I'd blog about it here.

The LED Lane Lights, as they're called, are located on the last stretch of bike lanes leading up to a busy intersection. They operate through sensors under the asphalt. When cyclists are registered, the lights start flashing and alerting turning vehicles to the prescence of cyclists.

One sensor is located under the asphalt on the separated cycle track right at the light, in order to register cyclists waiting for the light to change. When the lights turn green, the lane lights start flashing if cyclists are present.

There is also a sensor under the asphalt 25 metres farther back. If the lights are green and a cyclist comes riding at speed towards the intersection, the sensors are triggered here and the lane lights start flashing, allowing the cyclist to continue through the intersection.

The lights are visible in one direction. They are aimed at motorists - and truck drivers in particular - looking in their side mirror. Allowing them to flash the other way, visible to the cyclists, is considered to be a distraction for those on bicycles. We would really prefer for them to watch the traffic ahead, for obvious reasons.

When the lights are about to change, the LED lane lights stop flashing and, as the cyclists roll to a stop, the cars can turn.

It's worth mentioning that cars generally stop for cyclists here. Our motorists are cyclists, too, and the massive numbers of bicycles here in the world's cycling capital has trained everyone to take care.

Nevertheless, the City continues to work towards increasing our already impressive safety record for bicycles.


Kim said...

That is an interesting idea, how are the sensor triggered?

I have been on a group ride were a large group of cyclist got stuck at a red light because the lights were triggered by an magnetic induction loop and there weren't any steel framed bikes there. In the end the Police had to stop the traffic to let the cyclist through.

David Hembrow said...

It's a good idea, but there are much better ways to improve the safety of cyclists at junctions. The conflict between straight on cyclists and right turning motorists can be completely removed with a redesign of the junction.

Over here in NL we have separate timings at traffic lights for cyclists, thus eliminating the conflict. I can't think of anywhere locally where you ever find yourself cycling straight on when you're on the right of a motor vehicle turning right which also has a green light.

In the best cases, our traffic lights also prioritise cyclists by giving them greens more frequently than drivers. Something that can't be done if everyone's using the same traffic lights.

A couple of typical Dutch traffic light junctions with no conflict between drivers and cyclists at all are this one and this one.

anna said...

Interesting how this is done here. We had a similar thing once in Vienna: they put some lane lights on the road itself (at the bike crossing) to warn people in cars of crossing cyclists. It was for left turns though, and did not help so much. A few months (or years?) they were removed again because they claimed that it doesn't help but on the other hand makes car drivers more unaware in similar situations without such lights... I don't really know what the story was though. At that particular spot we had it, it did not make too much sense, I think, but it would have been very useful in other places.

Lou said...

Sounds like a bad idea to me. It seems like it will start training motorist to look for the flashing lights and for the cyclist to start believing that they will cause a flashing light. What happens in a malfunction? The motorist is trained to a non flashing light to mean it is good to go. The cyclist thinks the car will stop.

Zweiradler said...

I agree with Lou and anna. To me it seems more like a case of acting for the sake of acting than a real improvement.

intersection911 said...

These are cool! I would think the LEDs should continue into the street in order to show the path of cyclists. It could be the line not to cross when flashing.

But really, any treatment like this is a great step forward. Well done!

Melbourne Cyclist said...

I'm also torn as to whether the motorists would wind up trained to watch for the lights, but one thing's for sure - I love that there's a traffic light sensor for cyclists!

It's not uncommon here to get stuck at traffic lights on a bike because they're only set to detect cars - even the bicycle police here have said that they'll jump red lights, in the case where there's absolutely no traffic around, they have clear visibility, and the lights aren't changing because they're not registering the bike...

LK said...

It's really nice to see such respect.

William said...

@Lou, Intersection911 and Melbourne Cyclist.
I've just found a newspaper article regarding this intersection, and maybe I can address some of your concerns.

Presently it is only installed as a test - it'll be here for two years, after which effect will be reviewed.

The LED's do not continue out into the intersection, because then the motorist _would_ be trained to look for the lights. The only way to see the lights are in your rearview mirror, which is also where the cyclists appear.

It also serves another purpose - lorry drivers know that if the flashing lights are not visible in their mirrors, there might also be an invisible cyclist.

According to Steffen Rasmussen, the interviewee, this experiment is in place because five people died in this intersection in 2008, when lorries turned right.

David Hembrow said...

William: If safety is so important, then why don't cyclists get a separate phase of the lights as they would in the Netherlands ?

Dutch practice eliminates the conflict between cyclist going straight on and driver turning right.

On the other hand, this idea simply flashes lights at the drivers, and hopes that they do the right thing as a result.

Melbourne Cyclist: Sensors on cycle paths are absolutely standard here in NL, but they are usually also backed up by push buttons for the rare case when they do not work.

Kim: Induction devices don't require steel frames. A current can be induced in any conductive metal. My aluminium and fibreglass velomobile makes the Dutch detectors work.