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Cyclists in Denmark can turn red lights green with special RFID tag

Bikes are automatically detected and give a green light in pilot scheme in Danish city

Cycling in Denmark could now be more efficient than ever pending a trial where bikes are fitted with RFID tags that allow cyclists to breeze through red lights without even slowing down as they approach by turning them green.

The tags, fitted to around 200 bicycles so far, turn red lights green when cyclists approach one intersection in Aarhus, Denmark.

If the trial is successful, more than 1,000 tags will be fitted and more intersections will run the scheme, Louise Overgaard, who works on the project, told Tech Insider.

"We need to decide on a political level to expand to other junctions," Overgaard said. "The most important thing is that cyclists feel there is a safe space for them."

The bike tags work with RFID barcodes, the same types of barcodes used in grocery store checkout lines.

Scanners at junctions detect the tag, halt oncoming traffic and let the biker go through on green.

The tags are part of a larger project from the European Commission, called "Radical," which works to develop city tech services, like apps that track CO2 emissions and offer safe bike routes.

Five cities across Europe currently participate: Aarhus, Denmark, Athens, Greece, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, Genoa, Italy, and Cantabria, Spain.

Overgaard says the other four European cities are interested in the tags, although there aren't any concrete plans yet.

"Every city could use it," she says.

In 2014 we reported how the state of Utah is installing detection systems that can actually detect cyclists. reported that the boxes send out a signal which can detect any sizeable object – not just those made of metal.

Matt Luker from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) said that modern bikes were rarely picked up by the old system.

"The old detection system we had relied on detecting metal. Bikes don't have a lot of metal these days so a cyclist can pull up to an intersection and never get a green light. They'd either have to get off and push a button or they would have to wait until a car pulled up to get a green light."

Luker said that this situation sometimes encouraged frustrated cyclists to do something that wasn’t safe.

To use the new system, cyclists must stop behind the stop line and as close as possible to the bike painted on the road, if there is one. This will typically be in the middle of the lane.

According to a UDOT video, the new system also means that cyclists will now be given adequate time to get across the junction safely. A similar system trialled in Pleasanton, California in 2011 gave cyclists 14 seconds to get across if they had been stopped at a red light versus just four seconds for a car.

Luker says the system has been very reliable in all weather conditions and is also adaptable should road layouts ever need to be changed.

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WolfieSmith | 8 years ago

There are a few crossroads in Liverpool where a little green bike lights up below the main lights and gives cyclists in the box at the front of a line of motorists a head start. 

Unfortunately it gives a head start of less than 2 seconds. Just enough time to clip in and push off before you're swamped by the motorists behind you - enraged at the idea of you filtering to the front AND having a light that allows you to set off before them! 

Lights, sensors, special lanes, hi vis? None of them will create more cyclists in the UK. Public information films asking drivers to share the road, slow down and respect their friends and families on bicycles would make a lot of difference. Unfortunately the government department that used to produce public information films was shut 4 years ago and it now seems un PC to advise the Great British Motorist on how they might drive less selfishly. 

mrfree | 8 years ago

Fantastic idea to encourage cycling. It would be good to set the sensor a fair bit in front of the traffic light to avoid stopping.

Shame people are turning this into a headline battle with roadcc

Tired of the tr... | 8 years ago

Can you please change the headline to something like "RFID tag gives cyclists a green light".

As it stands, the headline is spectacularly misleading and gives ammunition to those who go on about "all cyclists jump red lights". The device doesn't allow cyclists to "sail through red lights" but acts as a better version of the old induction loops to activate the green light.

@racyrich: Whether "sailing" is the right word depends on the setup. I'm also confused here. The article actually refers to two different systems, the European and the Utah one. Apparently in Utah you actually have to stop as close to the sensor as possible, and then I don't see why it's better than just have a button to push.

The European system, however, seems to detect moving cyclists and has the sensor well before the lights so that the lights change before the cyclist reaches the junction without having to stop.

As further improvments, the lights should also have a countdown timer that tells approaching cyclists when they switch to green, so that you can slow down or speed up as needed without having to stop. Such timers would be good anyway, as you never know if you actually triggered the system or not.

You could even measure their speed along a whole stretch of road and time the sequence accordingly. In Vienna I've seen a helpful speedometer on a cycle path that tells you at what speed you're going, and what speed you should go to reach the next set of lights just when they switch to green.


racyrich | 8 years ago

So they'll be sailing through a green light in actual fact. 

'Sailing' being a bit of an exageration as you stop first and wait for the lights to be activated. And if there are cyclists from both directions them nothing much has changed except you're not waiting for a car to trigger the lights.

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