ITS for traffic lights: what about speed pedelecs?

31 March 2020 - Published by CIE Communications

The BITS-project aims to increase speed and ease of use for cyclists, as can be seen on the Bicycle Pyramid. Implementing smart traffic lights plays a big role in that, as they can ensure that cyclists do not have to wait unnecessarily at a red light. The cities of Aarhus (DK) and Zwolle (NL), both BITS-partners, are working on pilot implementations. 

Per group of ITS systems, different applications are tested, matching the local needs and conditions. For instance, for smart traffic lights, one city might use radar technology, whereas another city might prefer using 'green wave' technology, e.g.: Bluetooth. By testing comparable, but different, ITS systems, an interesting pallet of ITS applications can be demonstrated.  

Smart traffic lights result not only in ease of use for cyclists, but also lead to changes in traffic rules with consequences to be considered. A clear example of those consequences was discussed in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Speed pedelecs, which can reach up to 45km/h on the road, are often not recognized by detection loops in the road surface. Therefore, they are not identified by the smart lights as bicycles, and often have to wait for a longer time than necessary in front of a red light. 

The knowledge platform CROW Fietsberaad recognizes the issue; "it is a matter of adjusting the detection loops that are sunk into the road," says an employee. However, this also poses a problem, because if the loop is adjusted too lightly, the traffic light could respond to too many movements. Alternatively, local authorities could allow speed pedelecs to also use the cycle path. This will be the case in Rotterdam from 1 April 2020, where speed pedelecs can get a permit to use the cycle path, but at a maximum speed of 30 km/h. Elsewhere, speed pedelecs will have to rely on more sensitive detection loops or cars to get the green light.

This example shows the importance of ITS-implementation pilots to create systems that run smoothly and take into account the potential changes in traffic rules.

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