Monday 13 April 2009

A tale of three traffic lights

Heading back into Assen yesterday from the North I realised I'd not yet mentioned the efficiency of cycling in this location. There are three sets of traffic lights here within a few hundred metres, but they're (mostly) not for cyclists...

We're riding on a cycle path which is four metres ( 13 feet ) wide and separated from the road by a 3 m ( 10 feet ) green area. This set of traffic lights is for drivers who wish to use the motorway, which goes over the cycle path on a bridge just behind the camera. No need for cyclists to stop here.

This second set does have a light for cyclists, but it defaults to green for bikes. Drivers who wait in the right turn lane here or who are leaving the industrial estate on the right can trigger a green light for themselves and for the cycle light to turn red. Otherwise it will be green for bikes. I featured this before, with a video. Cyclists can also make a left turn here.

Now the third set. This again doesn't interfere with cyclists at all. No need to slow down or stop here on a bike. Neither cyclists nor drivers can make a left turn here, but drivers may have to stop to let other motor vehicles coming from the left merge. The scooter like vehicle on the cycle path is a three wheeled electric buggy which transports the rider in her wheelchair. People with all sorts of disabilities make much use of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. Next to that person on the right of the cycle path is a cycle only access to the industrial estate.

A video showing the three sets of traffic lights from the point of view of a cyclist:

The speed limit on this busy road is 50 km/h (30 mph). Cyclists are not expected to share the road with cars even at these relatively low speeds.


spiderleggreen said...

This is the way things need to be moving. Smart lights. All those cars sitting around polluting at stop lights while nobody is going across the green. With bikes given preference, of course. I had heard a few years ago about our city implementing some sort of system like that, but haven't seen anything change. Now that Bush is gone, maybe we should be putting some stimulus towards it.

Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

UK traffic engineers are becoming increasingly fond of 'Toucan crossings' - like a traditional push-button crossing for pedestrians, but 'two can cross', meaning that they also have a set of lights for bikes.

I was helping out at a feasibility study for a new residential area last month, and voiced my [less than complimentary] opinion of these, giving your examples for how it should be done. I suggested that for the road we were discussing (infrequent traffic, but occasional HGVs), a better arrangement might be default green for the pedestrian / cyclist route, with an in-road sensor for motor vehicles.

Needless to say, this was a touch too radical for the UK.


anna said...

I love how your traffic lights work! In Vienna it's just the other way around on the biggest bike paths. While car drivers have less traffic lights and green waves, cyclists on the segregated bike paths have to cross more lights and always arrive at traffic lights that just turn from green to red. Cycling that way is horribly slow and especially in the hilly parts of the city extremely inefficient.

townmouse said...

Is it too much to hope that the motorists have to get out of their cars to press the button to trigger the light? Ah, maybe, even in the Netherlands!

Nice priorities though