City of Utrecht experimenting with a way to relieve the experience of bike crowding

06 April 2022 - Published by CIE Communications

BITS partner Cycledata, together with the municipality of Utrecht, is piloting whether speed recommendations on busy cycling routes improves the experience of cyclists. Over the course of several months, cyclists and other vehicles on the moped/bike path on Biltstraat will get a speed recommendation via digital matrix signs. Utrecht would like to see people choose bike riding more often and be able to get around enjoyably and without stress.

Biltstraat is one of the key access routes to downtown Utrecht. The bike path here starts at the Berekuil and ends in the centre of Utrecht. It is a popular bike route for students and commuters alike so that the moped/bike path is very crowded and experienced by some users during peak hours as unpleasantly crowded. Not only does a large number of cyclists play a role in this but also the variety of vehicles travelling at different speeds. On Biltstraat, close to the Berekuil, there is an intersection where bike routes come together from many directions. On an average workday in September, around 20,000 bikes and other vehicles passed by here. The speeds are high, making turns is difficult with a lot of oncoming traffic that cyclists do not see until the last moment because there is a curve in the moped/bike path.

The municipality of Utrecht is conducting a test to see whether the experience of crowding on the bike path can be improved. Cyclists and other vehicles on the moped/bike path see a speed recommendation via digital matrix signs when approaching the intersection. With the Signum bike counter, Cycledata counts the number of vehicles and measures their speeds. The Signum is connected directly to the digital matrix signs, which display a message based on these measurements in real time. The messages can vary depending on the situation. If someone is riding at high speed in a busy moment, then a warning message appears on the matrix sign in text or emoticon. If someone is riding at a speed that suits the situation at that moment, for example at a less busy time, then a positive message in text or emoticon appears. The goal of the experiment is to determine whether these messages influence the speed of path users and/or whether the experience of crowding on the bike path decreases as a result. During this experiment, the municipality of Utrecht will be looking at what does and does not work. After the test with matrix signs, another test will follow later this year.

The municipality of Utrecht encourages cycling in the city. It is a clean method of transport that takes up little space in the growing city and is healthy as well. Utrecht, therefore, attaches great importance to creating attractive cycling routes and safe, optimal cycling infrastructure. ITS solution can play an important role in making cycling safer and more attractive. Therefore, this project perfectly fits in the scope of the BITS project, which is partly funded through the Interreg North Sea Region programme.