Smart Traffic Lights Can Distinguish Between Bikes And Cars

January 20, 2012

Most major cities face issues dealing with how to guarantee that cars and bikes can co-exist on the streets. According to the SFMTA, there are 8,713 weekday bicyclists in San Francisco, with an estimated 6% of all trips made in San Francisco by bike. Without question, biking is a big part of transportation in San Francisco. But San Francisco is not alone in trying to ensure bikes and cars can both safely share the road. Most major cities face issues dealing with how to guarantee that cars and bikes can co-exist on the streets. The need for better bike infrastructure is something we’ve covered before. Because of the simple fact that cars move faster than bikes, bicyclists are at a greater risk should a collision occur.

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In 2008, AB 1581 required California counties and cities to begin replacing traffic signals with ones that can detect cyclists and motorcyclists. To help reduce the number of dangerous and deadly crashes several California cities — such as Pleasanton, Redding and Monterey — have installed the Intersector — smart traffic signal technology that can distinguish between bikes and cars and time signals accordingly.

Better Technology Can Improve Transit Safety

The Intersector uses radar gun technology to tell the speed and length of approaching objects to detect if a bike or car is nearing the signal. The signal then adjusts the length of the green light signal so that bikes and cars have enough time to pass through an intersection. Cars get four seconds, while bikes get 14. If a bicyclist arrives when a light is already green, Intersector adds extra time to the green light. While the civic return on investment for the technology isn’t cheap, the Intersector costs $4,000 to $5,000 a signal, it could help reduce the amount of accidents in San Francisco. According to the Bay Citizen, in 2009 there were 556 bike accidents in San Francisco.

Watch a video of how the technology works here:

 

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