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. Good4utah.com 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.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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